At nightfall on November 26, armed terrorists came ashore in Mumbai, having left the Pakistani port city of Karachi by boat.
They attacked several high profile targets throughout the city, including two luxury hotels – the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi-Trident – along with the main railway terminal, a Jewish cultural center, a café frequented by westerners, a movie theater and two hospitals.
Six Americans were among the 26 foreigners reported killed.
This was not a first for the city of Mumbai. In March 1993, several car bombs were set off at important landmarks across the city, including the stock exchange, killing around 250 people. In July 2006, another series of blasts ripped through Mumbai's commuter train network killing more than 200 people.
However, even having "been here before," the attacks that transpired on November 26th were not just more of the same; the 2008 attacks featured stark differences from the past and mark an important step in the evolution of urban terrorism in India.
Terrorists for the first time employed frontal assault techniques and sophisticated technology, including global positioning system handsets, satellite phones, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service to stay in touch with their handlers in Pakistan.
Those handlers – watching events in real time on television – orchestrated the attacks from several thousand miles away. Before November 26th, terrorists used bombs triggered by timers to wage jihad on Indian cities, with the notable exception of an attack by five armed men on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.
"The Mumbai attacks last November were unprecedented in terms of scale and intensity," Brahma Chellaney, a top strategic expert at a leading think tank in New Delhi, said in an interview with the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
"The terrorists were careful to choose those [targets] that would create rage across India." They "took on the rich and the wealthy in India by targeting those two luxury hotels, and by taking on a Jewish center in Mumbai, they took on some foreigners who were present in that Jewish Center in addition to those who were present in the two hotels."
"Even a year later now on the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, India hasn't recovered from those attacks," Chellaney added.