SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda leader killed in an air strike near Baquba in central Iraq on June 8, 2006, was, incidentally, one of the many front ranking Al Qaeda operatives who had, at one time, sheltered in South Waziristan on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Zarqawi and some of his associates reportedly moved to Shakai in South Waziristan and stayed in the house of two Spirkai Wazir tribesmen, Edda Khan and Dawar Khan. It was during this sojourn in Shakai that Zarqawi established links with the Taliban ‘commander’ Nek Muhammad, who was killed on June 17, 2004. Zarqawi reportedly left Pakistan via Balochistan in 2002 and reached Iraq via Iran.
In 2003, approximately 80,000 Pakistani troops were deployed to neutralise the Al Qaeda- Taliban combine in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). But three years after Pakistani soldiers first entered FATA, there is very little to cheer about for Islamabad.
Pakistan’s ‘lawless frontier’ is now clearly in the grip of Islamist extremist forces, which have mounted the most serious challenge so far against Islamabad. The resistance has spiked this year, and according to one estimate approximately 400 people, including 60 Security Force (SF) personnel, have died so far. Between January 2005 and June 10, 2006, there were at least 394 incidents (Data: South Asia Terrorism Portal) in which approximately 806 people died and 494 were wounded (given the erratic reportage and Islamabad’s understated accounts, the actual numbers could be much higher). The sheer volume of incidents of violence in Waziristan has been high with 156 already recorded in year 2006 alone. Geographically, the violence that was earlier confined to South Waziristan has now spread to North Waziristan, with an increasing spillover into the adjacent North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as well.
A look at the current security and socio-political matrix of the region suggests that the state has suffered a significant retreat. Islamist extremist forces, evidently, provide a semblance of what is denied by the legitimate state structure. There has been a stream of reports indicating that clerics were replacing chieftains in all committees in South Waziristan. The Taliban has reportedly opened recruiting offices in the Wana, Makeen and Barwend areas of South Waziristan. The state’s retreat has also meant that the Taliban now also assumes a role in the political administration in certain areas of Waziristan.
The social sphere has for long been the focus of radical Islam in Pakistan. The Taliban was a state of mind even before it became a regime in Afghanistan. In a mirrored evolution, moral policing and social edicts are now an accepted reality in Waziristan: shopkeepers are debarred from trading in music or films in any manner, barbers have been ordered not to shave beards, and women have been told not to go to the market or other public places. Cleric Asmatullah Shaheen announced in the Jandol area of South Waziristan in April 2006 that people were not to shave. Further, in Barmal village, Mufti Fazal-ur-Rehman Fazli circulated a pamphlet claiming that Jews and Christians were encouraging Muslims to take anti-polio drops in a conspiracy to make them infertile. Radical clerics command men to grow beards and veil their women, cameras are banned, and people are being forced to stop watching television or listening to music. Reacting to reports of television sets being set ablaze at Malakand in the NWFP, President Musharraf nonchalantly noted, "This is a Talibanized mindset. It has spread. It has to be stopped. Now we are in a different ball game.”
Unsurprisingly, security force personnel, administrators loyal to Islamabad, pro-government tribal leaders and journalists, have become obvious targets of rising violence. Baidar, a Wazir tribesman, told Reuters on May 30, 2006, "Almost all malakan (pro-government tribal elders) have left Waziristan." Echoing the fears of ordinary tribesmen in arguably the most underdeveloped area of Pakistan, Baidar said, "The real worry is for businessmen and educated people because they fear being targeted or killed by the Taliban on suspicion of being informers for the Government or America.”
State retreat has rendered the tribal elder vulnerable. The Malakan wield immense influence in the region and also play a crucial part in the state’s strategy in curbing the mounting power of the Islamist extremists. In the Taliban onslaught, approximately 150 pro-government elders and politicians have been killed over the past nine months in Waziristan. More importantly, it is an indication of the tribal system of political administration being dismantled, both by the presence of the Army and by terrorist violence orchestrated by groups and individuals linked to the Taliban/Al Qaeda. Noted Pakistani analyst Rahimullah Yousufzai observes, “Before the Army came, things were very quiet in Waziristan… Whole villages have now been displaced. After any bombing, the whole village leaves because they know the Army will come and search and detain people. Schools are closed; there are no jobs. That's how village after village has turned against the Army. And they side with the militants…”
Taliban-linked operatives have reportedly opened offices and set up check-posts at the main marketplace in Wana, collecting toll from vehicles. They have also set up a court to conduct summary trials. Bringing back memories of the gruesome Taliban executions in Afghanistan, a man ‘convicted’ of killing his son was shot dead in front of a crowd of 150 people in late March 2006. Earlier in December 2006, at least seven alleged bandits at Miranshah in North Waziristan were killed and their mutilated corpses hung from an electric pole. A DVD of the macabre incident was widely circulated subsequently. The state, meanwhile, preferred to overlook these incidents and did nothing to stop these public executions. Nor has anything been done to encumber the movement of the ‘local Taliban’ who continue to consolidate their presence, encouraged by the state’s inaction.
That there is a considerable amount of coercion involved in the Taliban strategy is now clear. An offender can escape being executed by the Taliban by registering for the jihad in Afghanistan at the militant’s recruiting office in South Waziristan. Anyone who opposes the Taliban faces considerable risk, and the safest course is to “register with them and stay silent.” In North Waziristan, the Taliban reportedly have an unsettling manner of issuing an ultimatum. To a targeted man, they send a needle with a long thread and Rupees 1,000 in cash and a message that they will kill him in 24 hours. The money is meant for the target’s family to obtain burial cloth and the needle/thread for stitching it.
Crucially, there is no single leader who is driving this resurrection within Pakistan. Instead, there are a number of ‘commanders’ who claim control of select areas in FATA and some militiamen who are essentially local leaders. While the extent of co-ordination between them is still unclear, what is known is that they all owe allegiance to the Taliban and venerate its fugitive chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and the Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden.
One such leader is Haji Mohammad Omar, whose supporters are known to wander around Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan, with rocket launchers mounted on the back of their pick-up trucks. A veteran of the Afghan campaign in the 1980s, Haji Omar, incidentally, was granted an amnesty and also paid off by the Government in 2004 in exchange of an assurance that he would not incite militancy in the region. Indeed, the Islamist extremists’ capacity to strengthen their position has been largely engineered by the very militants who were handed out large amounts of monies by the Government. Along with Haji Omar, Abdullah Mehsud, another Taliban ‘commander’, had also cut a deal with the Army. Baitullah Mehsud, Sadiq Noor and Abdul Khaliq are among the other leaders.
The Taliban in North Waziristan have now also threatened to launch suicide attacks, a hitherto unknown ‘weapon’ in the region, if tribal people were searched at security check-posts. On June 2, two suicide attackers detonated an explosives-laden car near a military convoy on a road linking Miranshah in North Waziristan and Bannu in the NWFP, killing four soldiers and injuring seven others.
The more immediate danger for Islamabad is in the geographical extension of ‘Talibanisation’. President Musharraf has himself admitted that the Taliban influence was spreading from tribal areas to neighbouring settled areas. For instance, at Tank in the NWFP, armed men linked to the Taliban ‘patrol’ the streets at night on motorcycles. Edicts similar to those issued in Waziristan are reportedly also being issued at Tank and Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP. According to one April 2006 report, “In Swat District, some pro-Taliban clerics set television sets on fire. In Peshawar, clerics have threatened to take action against those cable operators who show western television channels and FM radio transmitters set up in mosques are used to propagate their own radical version of Islam.” It is also in such ‘settled areas’ of the NWFP that some Taliban operatives are reportedly taking refuge after escaping the Army crackdown in FATA.
According to sources, the border town of Chaman in Balochistan also serves as the nucleus of Taliban activities, with many operatives crossing over into Afghanistan during end March and early April 2006 to prepare for the “spring offensive” and the poppy harvest. Colonel Chris Vernon, British chief of staff for southern Afghanistan, has further disclosed that the Taliban leadership is coordinating attacks from Quetta, capital of Balochistan province.
Despite occasional successes, Pakistani troops, with a fair measure of assistance from the U.S. military across the border in Afghanistan, have largely been unable to move out of their fortified positions to carry out area domination exercises, with the result that a large expanse of territory continues to remain under the influence of the Taliban-backed terrorists. In many places, the security forces have been pulled out and the offices of the political administration have also been moved to safer locations or abandoned totally. While a military retreat looks implausible at the moment, a tactical withdrawal into defensible concentrations may be forced.
Disorder in FATA is also, undoubtedly, linked to developments in Afghanistan. Fatalities across the border in the current year have been high, with a Newsline June 2006 report claiming “more than 400 Afghans and 34 coalition soldiers have been killed in the unprecedented offensive by Taliban insurgents.” Approximately 1,500 persons, including 84 American troops, died during 2005. The Taliban, who are now more organised and better equipped, control as many as 20 Districts in the Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Helmand provinces, where NATO forces have replaced US troops. Mullah Dadullah, reportedly the ‘chief commander’ of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, and whose presence has been observed in the past at Chaman in Pakistan, claims to have 12,000 cadres. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the Combined Force commander in Afghanistan, disclosed at a news briefing on May 10, 2006 that, in eastern Afghanistan, the security is “much better than it was a year ago.” However, he added, in southern Afghanistan, there have been increases in incidents of violence over the spring compared to last year’s baseline. In the south, there are several districts in northern Kandahar, northern Helmand and Uruzgan where the Taliban influence is noticeably stronger than it was in 2005.
In addition to a growing support base, the Taliban has also changed its operational strategy in Afghanistan and achieved a fair measure of ‘success’. Along with hit-and-run attacks, they now frequently engage the coalition forces and Afghan Army in direct encounters and carry out frontal assaults on “occupation forces”. They also carry out suicide bombings on a regular basis. There are reportedly more than 600 ‘volunteers’ being trained for suicide missions. The Taliban, according to Gen. Eikenberry’s briefing, has shifted to the increasing use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs, reportedly the number-one killer of American forces in Iraq. There are reports on the transfer of IED tactics and techniques from Iraq to Afghanistan) and suicide bombers. They also carry out an “intimidation campaign against moderate religious and tribal leaders… [are] burning down schools and coercing in certain instances and districts the closure of schools.”
Though the combined operational effectiveness of Afghan-US Forces has been relatively good, it is the competing foreign policy agendas that are the biggest obstacle in dealing with the Taliban and the Pakistan-Afghanistan quagmire. Pakistan’s ambivalence and strategic ambitions have impeded effective action, and provided abiding safe haven and an expanding sphere of dominance to the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine in its border areas, and, despite the country’s own rising difficulties, there does not appear to be a sufficient determination to make the necessary changes in policy and strategic objectives that must precede effective action against the Taliban. The Taliban consolidation and violence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border can, consequently, be expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future.
Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), time bombs and grenades were used with lethal willfulness to carry out close to twenty explosions between June 8 and 10, 2006, in Northeast India’s most populous State, Assam, leaving six civilians dead and more than 70 wounded, several of them security force personnel. The targets: Guwahati, the principal city and centre of power (six dead in four separate attacks in this city), the police and the paramilitary, and, of course, railway tracks and the wide web of crude oil and natural gas pipelines that runs through the eastern oil producing districts of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. The result: general panic, disruption in oil and gas operations, including crude supply to the Digboi Refinery, the world’s oldest refinery (set up in 1889), a narrow miss for the Rajdhani Express train from Delhi, and mixed reactions among watchers of Assam’s fragile peace process.
Assam’s Director General of Police Deepak Narayan Dutt and his intelligence chief Khagen Sharma (Inspector General, Special Branch) are convinced that none but the United Liberation Front for Asom (ULFA) — fighting for an independent homeland since its inception on April 7, 1979 — is responsible of the string of bomb and grenade strikes across central, northern, western and eastern parts of Assam. “We had information about the ULFA’s decision to strike across the state for three days beginning June 9. The modus operandi of these stealthy attacks like planting a bomb at a vegetable market (in Guwahati where five people died on June 9) points to the ULFA’s involvement,” Dutt told this writer on June 11.
What has foxed everyone, however, is the timing of the violence. The first four bombs went off in the evening of June 8 in the Districts of Nagaon, Darrang and Dhubri, a full 24-hours after New Delhi announced the date of the next round of peace talks between the Government of India and the ULFA-appointed People’s Consultative Group (PCG). On June 7, Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal had informed ULFA’s peace facilitator and head of the PCG, Indira Goswami, that the next round of PCG-Government talks has been fixed for June 22 in New Delhi to be chaired by Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Before this announcement, both the ULFA as well as the PCG had been vocal in criticising New Delhi for the ‘undue delay’ in holding the third round of talks. Accusations flew thick and fast that the Government was not sincere in pushing peace with the ULFA. The first round of PCG-Government talks had been held on October 26, 2005 (also attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) and the second on February 7, 2006.
It is indeed puzzling that the ULFA appears, on the one hand, to be in a hurry to talk peace with New Delhi and, on the other, is unconcerned about the potential fallout of using such purposeless violence as a weapon, targeting ordinary civilians. In the past, the ULFA has succeeded in forcing the Government to respond after stepping up violence. The last such instance was the string of bombings on January 22, 2006, ahead of Republic Day (January 26), which hastened New Delhi’s announcement of February 7 as the date for the second round of PCG-Government talks. Even this time round, it appears that the ULFA may have decided to demonstrate its strike potential and to send out a specific message — that its decision not to disrupt the State elections in April 2006 should not be taken as a sign of weakness and that New Delhi should put the peace process on priority.
But this does not explain the violence after the date for the third round of talks had already been announced. Authoritative sources have told this writer that the ULFA is not really interested in a formal ceasefire until the peace process takes a definite shape. The group may argue that if the security forces can arrest its cadres (Mrinal Hazarika, ‘commander’ of the ULFA’s dreaded Myanmar-based 28th Battallion, also known as the ‘Kashmir Camp’ was arrested by West Bengal Police on May 18, 2006, from Siliguri) and even engage them in shootouts while the peace process is on, it can also carry on with its armed offensive, albeit on a ‘low scale.’ Some individuals and groups known to be well informed about the thinking within the ULFA have pointed out that the rebel group has been carefully looking into the fate of other insurgent organizations, such as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) that had to wait for months after entering into a formal truce before it got a call for talks from New Delhi.
The civilian deaths have, however, always put the ULFA on the defensive. Assam’s Police chief and other security officials claim that this is why the ULFA has come out with a statement denying its involvement in the latest spate of bombings. ULFA’s exiled ‘chief of staff’ Paresh Baruah, who is the group’s ‘military commander’, in a statement e-mailed to journalists on June 10, 2006, declared, “Certain vested interests within the Assam Police are behind these bomb attacks in order to blame us and disrupt the peace process before the next round of talks between the PCG and the Indian Government… We express our heartfelt condolences to those killed,”. Significantly, however, the PCG has not taken this stand (at least in statements attributed to PCG leaders in the media) and has ‘condemned’ the death of five people at the vegetable market blast in Guwahati. “For the sake of permanent peace and the success of the ongoing peace process, the PCG appeals to all concerned to restrain themselves from such acts,” PCG spokesman Arup Borbora was quoted as saying.
Some security officials insist that top ULFA leaders, including Paresh Baruah, who are widely believed to be operating out of Bangladesh, are ‘in the grip’ of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Bangladesh’s main intelligence agency. These agencies, Indian officials suspect, would not easily allow the ULFA to escape their control and talk peace with New Delhi. This possibility has, however, been denied by those in touch with the ULFA. Indira Goswami told this writer from New Delhi, “During a telephone conversation with me some months back, Paresh Baruah had categorically said that he or his group was not under anyone’s grip and that he was willing to come over to Assam or anywhere else to talk peace with the Government of India provided the modalities are acceptable.”
Amid the all-pervading uncertainty, the focus is certainly on the coming round of talks on June 22. The PCG, on the ULFA’s behalf, has sought the release of five detained rebel leaders, all members of the ULFA executive committee: Vice chairman Pradip Gogoi, publicity secretary Mithinga Daimari, cultural secretary Pranati Deka, Adviser Bhimkanta Buragohain and Ramu Mech. All of them may soon walk out of the high-security Guwahati Central Jail because the Assam Government, in response to a query from New Delhi, has already recommended their release ‘for the sake of peace.’ At least for now, everybody would like to forget the events in 1992 that had led to an ULFA delegation headed by its general secretary Anup Chetia being flown to New Delhi for a meeting with then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. The meeting had led to a suspension of the ongoing military offensive against the group, but the ULFA team failed to take the peace move forward as a result of lack of unanimity within the outfit.
The PCG leaders would like the June 22 meet to be the last meeting between its members and the Government. “After this, we would like the ULFA and the Government to talk directly. We hope the modalities would be finalised at the next meeting,” Dilip Patgiri, a PCG member told this writer. At the June 22 meeting the PCG will press for the following: the release of five detained ULFA leaders; information on the fate of 14 ULFA members ‘missing’ after the Bhutanese military assault inside the Kingdom in 2003; the involvement of National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan in the peace process till the end of the negotiations; that the modalities for possible direct talks between the ULFA and the Government of India be worked out. After that, the PCG would like to leave it to the ULFA and the Government to work out details of a possible truce ahead of any direct talks through exchange of communications. The latest bout of carnage in Assam, however, suggests that the ceasefire in this case may prove easier to speak of than maintain.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 05 - 11, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Six persons killed in ULFA engineered bomb blasts in Assam: At least five persons, including a 10-year-old boy and a woman, were killed and 16 persons wounded in a powerful explosion triggered by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) at Machkowa vegetable market in the Guwahati city of Kamrup District on June 9, 2006. Separately, three persons were wounded while suspected militants lobbed a grenade at their house at Rupai in the Tinsukia District. Two more blasts were triggered in Guwahati city on June 10-night killing one person and injuring 19 others. In another incident, the police recovered a bomb kept concealed in a tiffin box device and fitted with a timer, in front of the office of the Kamrup Superintendent of Police near the Don Bosco School. The outfit detonated blasts targeting oil and gas pipelines at Naharkatia, Digboi and Chabua. ULFA’s commander-in-Chief Paresh Barua called up media houses in Guwahati to own up responsibility for the blasts on oil and gas pipelines. However, he denied the outfit’s hand in the six bomb blasts in which civilians were killed or injured.The Hindu, June 11 & 10, 2006.
Orissa proscribes CPI-Maoist: The Orissa Government, on June 9, 2006, proscribed the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and seven pro-Maoist organisations following a decision taken at a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Chief Secretary Subas Pani informed that the proscribed front organisations are Daman Pratirodh Manch, Revolutionary Democratic Front, Chasi Mulia Samiti, Kui Lawanga Sangh, Jana Natya Mandali, Krantikari Kisan Samiti and Bal Sangam. He said these were helping the Maoists to propagate their ideology and interfering in administration and maintenance of law and order.
The Government also approved a rehabilitation policy for the surrendered Maoists. According to the policy, a District-level committee would screen such cadres and recommend a package. Payment of up to Rupees 10,000 on acceptance of surrender, Rupees 20,000 on surrender of arms and ammunition, allotment of land, house building grants up to Rupees 25,000 and Rupees 15,000 for marriage would be provided. The package would also include bank loans up to Rupees 200,000, payment of subsidy up to Rupees 50,000 and free medical treatment in Government hospitals. Those surrendering will also get the reward money on their head. The Hindu, June 10, 2006.
19 Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh: On June 8, 2006, nineteen cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) were killed and five arrested in two separate encounters in the north and south of Chhattisgarh. Ten Maoists were killed and five, including two women cadres, were arrested at the Dewapalli area of Dantewada District. Police also foiled a Maoist attempt to abduct about 40 villagers from Dewapalli. Four landmines along with other explosive material were also recovered from the incident site. In another incident in the Chando Police Station area of Balrampur Police District, on information of the movement of a large group of armed Maoists, police cordoned off an area near Jalbotha village and asked them to surrender. The subsequent encounter led to the killing of nine Maoists. Security forces recovered five weapons, including one self-loading rifle and two .303 rifles.The Times of India, June 9, 2006.
Jihadi leaders roaming free in Pakistan, says Foreign Secretary:Noting that Pakistan is not trying to control Jihadi leaders’ roaming free on its soil, India has said that confidence between the two countries cannot be built in such circumstances. India’s concerns cannot be appeased as long as the Jihadi leaders are roaming free in Pakistan and issuing statements and openly making claims for different acts, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran was quoted as telling a group of Pakistani journalists currently on a goodwill visit to India. "The Pakistani Government is not trying to control them, so how can confidence come in these circumstances?" he reportedly asked. Daily Excelsior, June 8, 2006.
National Commission of Women confirms January 2006 rape of 25 women by UNLF and KCP in Manipur: The National Commission for Women (NCW) confirmed on June 2, 2006, the rape of 25 women by cadres of the outlawed United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) at Parbung and Lungthulien in the Churachandpur District of Manipur in January 2006. The Commission has asked both the Centre and the Manipur Government to provide a comprehensive rehabilitation package for the victims and continue deployment of Security Forces in the area.
Commission member Malini Bhattacharya, a former Member of Parliament, submitted the NCW report to Governor S.S. Sidhu and Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on June 2. A team led by her prepared the report after visiting Lungthulien and Parbing villages, where the alleged mass rape occurred, in May 2006. Bhattacharya informed that the girls were still in a "traumatised and terrorised state", which called for immediate medical attention and counseling. She reported that 18-armed militants raped 15 girls aged between 15 and 27 years on the night of January 16, 2006 at Lungthulien, forcing the villagers to flee to neighbouring Mizoram the next morning. Ten other girls were raped at Parbung before the Lungthulien incident. Nagaland Post, June 6, 2006.
32 terrorists killed during aerial raid in North Waziristan:Pakistan Army helicopters bombed a terrorist hideout at a village in North Waziristan in a pre-dawn raid on June 10, 2006, killing up to 32 terrorists. The air strike occurred at around 3:30am in the Darbalooki village and four helicopters were used in the attack. A press release from the Inter-Services Public Relations said the strike was in response to a series of attacks on military convoys in the past few days, and the terrorists had been using the compound as a base for the attacks. 22 Arabs, three Uzbeks and seven local tribal militants linked to the Al Qaeda and the Taliban were among those killed in the attack. Daily Times, June 12, 2006.
Balochistan Assembly passes resolution demanding Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline royalty: Members of the treasury and opposition benches in the Balochistan Assembly on June 9, 2006, unanimously passed a resolution, seeking royalty for the province in the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. The house unanimously approved Leader of the Opposition Kachkol Baloch’s adjournment motion as a resolution that the Government must provide Balochistan its share of royalty in the proposed 2,600-kilometre IPI gas pipeline project.
Baloch, who initiated the two-hour debate on the IPI project in the session, said since the proposed $7 billion pipeline would be laid down on the territory of the Balochistan, the province was justified in demanding its due share of royalty. “The people of Balochistan, irrespective of their political and lingual differences, are convinced that the benefits of the project must firstly reach the indigenous people of the province. The successive Governments in the past deprived Balochistan of its due share in Federal resources. Now it is time the injustices with the provinces are halted,” he said. “The pipeline will enter Pakistan at Jawani in Mekran while coming from the Iranian Balochistan province. Article 172 of the Constitution agrees to the right of due share to the place from where the project will pass. Getting royalty from the IPI project is the legal, constitutional and ethical right of the Baloch people,” he added. Daily Times, June 10, 2006.
Norway to reconsider its role as facilitator in peace process: The Norwegian Government on June 9, 2006, said it would reconsider its role as a facilitator in the Sri Lankan peace process after failing in an attempt to arrange a meeting between the Government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Issuing a statement, it said that it had "taken the unprecedented step of writing to the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tiger rebels asking them about their commitment to the peace bid". The statement added, “The responses by the parties... will determine which steps will next have to be taken by the Norwegian Government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, in close partnership with other actors in the international community.” It further added, “The grave situation in Sri Lanka, with escalating violence in breach of the ceasefire agreement, is intolerable for the civilian population and a cause of great concern to the international community. … The full responsibility for halting violence and giving the peace process a new start rests with the parties.” Daily News, June 10, 2006.
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