SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
On December 19, 2006, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police picked up three youth from Manipur near a bus stop in the Red Fort area, in possession of two kilograms of RDX, a hand grenade and two detonators. Police claimed that the arrested persons, Salman Khurshid Kori aged 23, Abdur Rehman aged 24 and Mohammad Akbar Hussain aged 20, were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants, who were allegedly planning to carry out bomb blasts at crowded market places in the Capital. While arrests of LeT militants in the national capital are certainly not a rarity, this particular incident did have an element of novelty. Joint Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Karnal Singh disclosed that this was the first time that the LeT was found to have links in Manipur.
Sketchy details of events that led to the arrest and the preliminary interrogation reports of the arrested militants provides an insight into the critical web of Islamist consolidation in India’s Northeast, with the active promotion of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Bangladeshi facilitators, including the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Pakistan’s client terrorist group, the LeT. The arrests reportedly followed a lead provided by two Bangladeshi nationals, Mohammad Alamgir Hussain and Abdur Razzaq Jiwon, who were arrested in October 2006 in Delhi with plastic explosives. They had mentioned that they were in Delhi to deliver the consignment of explosives to three militants who were to come to Delhi to carry out the blasts during the festival season.
On the day of his arrest, Salman Khurshid Kori, told the Police that he was initiated into terrorism by a senior LeT operative, Salim Salar, who was killed on March 7, 2006, in an encounter with the Uttar Pradesh police near Lucknow. Salar was believed to have been involved in the Varanasi blasts, which took place few hours earlier on the same day. Kori had met Salar in 2001 and was sent to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) for training. He underwent advanced training in handling of explosives and ammunition and did a 40-day martial arts course. In 2004, along with 10 other militants, he infiltrated into India and joined the terrorists at Poonch in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). He was subsequently asked to recruit cadres from Manipur for the LeT. Kori also revealed to the police that, at the instance of his handlers, he was mediating between the Manipur-based Islamist outfit, the People's United Liberation Front (PULF) and LeT modules operating from neighbouring Bangladesh. In May 2006, Kori, along with some PULF leaders, had visited Bangladesh to firm up the nexus.
Investigations into the arrests are currently at a preliminary stage, and consequently provide little in terms of broader conclusions regarding the inclusion of the Northeast, largely marked by mostly localized militancy, into the deeper strategies of Pakistan-sponsored Islamist militancy. Nevertheless, the arrests are a pointer to a future scenario that could evolve within the strife-riven Northeast. For long, skepticism and denial had marked debates suggesting Islamist consolidation in the Northeast, which shares 1,880 kilometres of international border with Bangladesh [West Bengal shares another 2,216.70 kilometre border with Bangladesh]. Given the lack of consensus on the assessment of the threat from this direction, policies to tame home-grown Islamist outfits, such as the PULF in Manipur and Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) in Assam, ranged from the rudimentary to the most ad hoc. It was, consequently, only a matter of time before the long arm of Islamist terrorism caught up with the region.
The Islamist, LeT and international angle adds a new dimension to the militancy in the beleaguered Manipur State, which is currently the third most violent theatre of conflict in the country, behind Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh. Amidst projections of an improving security situation, Manipur, which accounts for just 6.3 per cent of the population, and 8.52 per cent of the land mass of the Northeastern region, accounted for 44 per cent of all militancy-related fatalities in the region in 2006 (data till December 18). According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), compared to 554 militancy-related incidents in 2005, only 418 incidents were reported in year 2006, October 31. According to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, civilian fatalities dipped from 138 in 2005 to 103 in the current year (till December 18) and that of the security forces (SF) from 50 in 2005 to 37 in 2006 (till December 18). Despite these indices of improvement, Manipur accounted for 46 per cent of all civilian fatalities and 39 per cent of SF fatalities in the Northeast in 2006. Fatalities among militants (which declined from 143 in 2005 to 136 in 2006) were 45 percent of all militant fatalities in the region.
Militancy related fatalities in Manipur: 2005-2006
*Data till December 18, 2006
Source: Institute for Conflict Management
Unfortunately, as has been repeatedly emphasized on SAIR, Manipur’s predicament runs deeper than what is reflected in data on fatalities. The activities of about 10,000 cadres of 15 militant outfits, of varying sizes and character, combine well with an endemic collapse of the administrative machinery, taking Manipur to the threshold of a failed ‘state’ within the Indian Union. Each of Manipur’s nine Districts has been affected by unending militant violence, severely impacting on the very limited local capacities of governance, justice administration, and the provision of minimal security to citizens.
The helplessness of the administration has been repeatedly illustrated in clear terms by the incumbent Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Speaking at a public meeting in Thoubal District on April 23, 2006, for instance, Singh confessed: "All development projects have been stalled for interference by militant outfits (sic). The construction of a flyover in Imphal (the State capital) is delayed because the militant outfits are demanding a certain percentage of the project fund. The construction of the Assembly complex has also been similarly stalled." The Chief Minister stated further: "Militants are extorting money from each and every one, including barbers, small-time traders and low-ranking Government employees. This has become unbearable for the people. Militant groups have sprung up as cooperative societies in Manipur." In an environment of rampant extortion, compounded by widespread corruption, developmental activities have languished. Basic infrastructure facilities like roads, communications, health care and education, all show visible signs of decline. At another public function in Imphal on June 2, 2006, the Chief Minister noted, "No outside firms take interest in working in the State due to huge extortion demands. Underground groups, irrespective of whether they belong to the Hills or Valley, have been demanding their percentage from any development project taken up in the State".
Official sources indicated that there were more than ninety cases of explosion or attempted bombings at different places in the State in 2006. The significant attacks and prominent targets in recent months included:
Militant power, evident in the numerous ‘decrees’ issued during the previous years, was further consolidated through new diktats in 2006. On August 7, 2006, the KYKL banned, for ten years, all open debates and meetings on the controversies relating to Meitei script, contending that such arguments would derail the move to replace the existing Bengali script with the Meitei script. On September 5, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), PREPAK and KYKL jointly imposed a complete ban on the import, manufacture, sale and consumption of all kinds of narcotic drugs and intoxicating substances in Manipur with effect from September 15.
Several areas of Manipur remained, for long, under the tactical control of the militants. The Indian Army, through a series of major operations since October 2004, was able to purge at least six of Manipur’s sub-divisions, Thanlon, Parbung, Shinghat and Henglep in Churachandpur District, Jiribam in Imphal East and Chakpikarong in Chandel District, of militant presence. These six sub-divisions had been under effective militant control for the nine years preceding. However, New Somtal, spread over an area of 1,000 square kilometres and located in the southeastern corner of Chandel District along the Myanmar border, continued under significant militant control. Operations by the Indian Army to take New Somtal commenced in February 2006, but were quickly abandoned. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 57 Mountain Division, Major General E.J. Kochekkan, speaking on September 19, 2006, pointed out the inaccessibility of New Somtal as the main hindrance. The area’s proximity to Myanmar provides the militants an easy escape route, and the absence of a framework for a coordinated effort between the Indian Army and its Myanmarese counterpart has created obvious difficulties.
In the second week of December 2006, the Indian Army’s 10 J&K Light Infantry Battalion launched ‘Operation Khengjoi’, targeting the New Somtal area. The operation was reportedly launched after Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh provided a brief to the Prime Minister on the security situation in the State, during the latter’s tour of Manipur on December 2. Contradicting the Army’s claims of heavy successes in purging vast areas of militants’ presence, Chief Minister Singh had, in fact, pointed out that a great deal still remained to be done, particularly in terms of clearing large tracts of the State along areas like Tipaimukh, Barak and Loktak. He claimed, further, that "There is still a 5-10 kilometre stretch along the Mynamar border [in the Somtal area] where the militants are in control".
At the time of writing this report, the Army had moved into the Khengjoi range in interior Chandel District, where several villages had been cleared of militant presence. Operations, continuing both during day and night, are both tedious and hazardous, with vast stretches of the area mined by the militants. Villagers from the hamlets of Saimol and Sehao reported to the Army that they had been warned by the militants not to venture into the forest areas, as these were heavily mined.
The State Administration’s general paralysis is, however, inexplicable from a purely security perspective. Apart from the heavy deployment of Army and Para-military Forces in the State, Manipur actually boasts of a dramatically higher police-population ratio, at 535 per 100,000 population, than the national average at 122. The State has a comparatively top heavy structure – the ratio of Police officials from Director General to Assistant Sub-Inspector level to that of Head constables and constables is 1.9 compared to the national average of 1.7. The Police remain peripheral to the counter-insurgency effort, largely confined to the role of passive spectator
Human rights’ votaries in the State have taken pains to point to the absence of peace in spite of the long years of SF presence in Manipur, arguing that both the Forces as well as ‘draconian’ legislations like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA] that enable them to act, should be withdrawn from Manipur. In the absence of a breakthrough with regard to the problem of militancy, however, the continuation of heavy SF presence appears to be the only available option. Speaking on December 2, 2006, in Imphal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clarified that peace had to return to Manipur first, before any changes in laws or withdrawal of forces could be considered, though he promised a more ‘humane’ approach. Such plain speaking, while it found support from the Chief Minister, who said that the AFSPA was required in insurgency-affected areas like Manipur and other Northeastern States as well as in Jammu and Kashmir, did little to assuage the long-standing demand for the withdrawal of the Act. Again, on December 5, 2006, Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony ruled out the repeal of the Act and said that only necessary amendments can be made to make the Act ‘humane’. Similarly, speaking on December 16, 2006, GOC-in-C Eastern Command Lt. Gen. Arvind Sharma stated, "The Act is an absolute imperative because without legal support the forces will find it difficult to work in the troubled areas."
Apunba Lup, an apex body of 32 organisations, which has been spearheading the agitation for the withdrawal of AFSPA, alleged that the Prime Minister's assurance was an "empty and meaningless statement". However, conservative opinions emerging from New Delhi appear to have found their echo in the apprehensions expressed by ethnic minorities like the Hmars and other Hill tribes, with the sole exception of the Nagas and a section of the Kukis. There has been a constant demand for the retention of the AFSPA by the Hmar population, living in Districts such as Churachandpur, for whom the existence of the Act and a significant SF presence and operations against the extremists, act as a shield against militant atrocities by Valley-based militants. Regrettably, such opinion has failed to find a place in the State’s mainstream discourse on the AFSPA.
No one, other than the most delusional optimist, could believe that Manipur can return to normalcy in the near future. While most dominant militant groups, have steadfastly refused to entertain countless pleas from the State and Union Government for peace, groups like the UNLF have tried to justify their refusal with demands for a ‘plebiscite’ under the auspices of the United Nations. The much hyped six month-long agreement on suspension of operations with eight Kuki and Zomi outfits lapsed in January 2006 and its extension does not appear to be under consideration at New Delhi. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah’s (NSCN-IM) not-so-subtle operations in the Hill Districts continue as the Meitei-dominated Valley battles with its own share of problems. The addition of an Islamist dimension and the extension of terrorist networks from or through Manipur to the rest of the country can only deepen both Imphal’s and New Delhi’s worries.
Bhutan did not witness any significant terrorist activity during the year 2006, and is the only South Asian nation to have almost entirely escaped the shadow of terror. The decision it took in December 2003 to evict militant outfits from Bhutanese soil, including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) operating in the neighbouring Indian State of Assam, and the North Bengal-based Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), continues to pay rich dividends for the mountain kingdom, although there are some indications that the ULFA may be resurfacing in the country.
Since its ouster, apprehension that ULFA might try to secure its bases in Bhutan again have persisted. The January 12, 2006 incident in which ULFA militants attacked a Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) patrol near Gerwa village in the southern Samdrup Jongkhar District, killing a RBA guide, confirmed such apprehensions. Nine months earlier, in April 2005, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had indicated that ULFA might have re-entered Bhutan. Intelligence reports in the month of August 2006 reinforce such fears, indicating that at least four new ULFA training camps were found along the India-Bhutan border in the Nalbari District of Assam. Another report indicated that ULFA senior cadre Hira Sarania may have been put in charge of camps in the Samdrup Jongkhar District of Bhutan. On October 24, a senior police official posted in a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC)-administered District disclosed that ULFA militants were spotted in areas just across the border with Bhutan: "I will not say that they have established major camps in the jungles of Bhutan as yet, but their presence there has certainly been noticed."
Speaking on November 1, 2006, S. K. Sarkar, Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) of West Bengal, stated that ULFA and the KLO were establishing camps in Bhutan and Nepal and were being helped by the Maoists of Nepal. Sarkar’s statement was further confirmed by Assam police chief D.N. Dutt on November 2, when he indicated that ULFA was "using certain stretches of Bhutan for taking shelter." Further, the Special Branch of the Assam Police, on November 19, indicated that ULFA’s "7th Battalion" had established camps at Kawaimari near Deothang.
There has, however, been no official confirmation of ULFA’s presence from Bhutan. Jigme Tenzin, third secretary in the press division of the Bhutanese embassy in New Delhi, stated on November 2: "I would like to state for the record that since the removal of all 13 camps of the ULFA from Bhutan during the military operations conducted by the royal Bhutan army in 2003, there has been no presence of the ULFA or any other group inside Bhutan." Relations with India are primary in Bhutan’s foreign policy and, on November 25, Tsering Wangda, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Home (Internal) and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan gave an assurance that it would not allow any insurgent group fighting against New Delhi's rule to operate from its soil. Wangda added, "Naturally, we will not allow, repeat, not allow any Indian insurgent to have camps inside Bhutan."
The unresolved issue of refugees of Nepalese origin (Ngolops) remains a problem for Bhutan. Over 105,000 Bhutanese refugees reside in seven camps in the eastern Districts of Nepal since the ethnic exodus that followed the implementation of Bhutan’s Citizenship Act of 1985 and the subsequent nation-wide Census of 1988. The Bhutan Government has tended to resist all repatriation because most of the refugees are of Nepali origin, and this is seen as creating a 'demographic imbalance' in some areas of the thinly-populated country, as well as a threat to the Monarchy. While growing international pressure has forced Bhutan to accept the idea of repatriation of some refugees, non-Bhutanese and Bhutanese with criminal and subversive records will certainly be excluded, accounting for a sizeable and potentially volatile chunk of the refugee population. Bhutan also fears that the repatriated groups may be 'infected' by the Nepalese Maoists, who have already tasted preliminary victory in their campaign to overthrow the monarchy in Nepal, and there are natural apprehensions that any significant repatriation from Nepal would include a significant representation of radical sympathizers who would bring the 'peoples' war' to Bhutan. Bhutanese Home Secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, stated on September 23, 2006, that the growing nexus between people in the camps in eastern Nepal, the Maoists and Indian Left Wing Extremists would have far-reaching impact on the region’s security. Wangchuk noted: "It is a confirmed fact that there is today a growing nexus between Maoists and the people in the camps in eastern Nepal … We also have information confirming radical elements from the camps in Nepal having received armed training from the Maoists."
Close cooperation on counter-terrorism between India and Bhutan continued. On August 11, 2006, Bhutanese Army Chief, Major General Batoo Tshering, and his Indian counterpart, General J. J. Singh, along with senior Indian and Bhutanese Commanders, held high level meetings in New Delhi to review the situation along the international border against the backdrop of reports that the ULFA was attempting to reactivate its training camps there. On September 27, media reports indicated that the Indian Government had decided to intensify surveillance along the 699-kilometre India-Bhutan border to prevent any possible movement across of ULFA, NDFB and KLO militants. Most significantly, on December 12, both India and Bhutan finalized the demarcation of their 699-kilometres border, 45 years after the process of settling the boundary began. India's ambassador to Bhutan, Sudhir Vyas, and the Kingdom's secretary for international boundaries, Dasho Pema Wangchuk, signed the border agreement.
The most significant event for Bhutan in 2006, however, was political. Druk Gyalpo (King) Jigme Singye Wangchuck, South Asia’s longest serving ruler, abdicated his throne and handed over his responsibilities as Monarch and Head of State to Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who became the fifth King to rule Bhutan. The transition was formally announced on December 14, 2006, the 24th day of the 10th Bhutanese month. The King had earlier pledged to relinquish the throne when the Kingdom switched over to a Parliamentary form of Government in 2008.
Notwithstanding the visible tranquility that Bhutanese are used to, the new King has challenges ahead. Indian Intelligence sources indicate that at least four training camps are currently run along the India-Bhutan border, where ULFA cadres are receiving training from cadres of the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This includes the training of suicide cadres, a point that is a matter of grave concern not only to the Assam Government, but to Bhutan as well. An incipient Maoist movement, closely linked to Indian and Nepali Maoists, is also a source of future dangers, and these will augment as the Maoists in Nepal consolidate their hold on Government. Great vigilance will, consequently, be necessary, if Bhutan is to continue to escape the epidemic of instability and violence that afflicts all its South Asian neighbours.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 18- 24 , 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Nine accused in Barisal bomb blast case acquitted: The Barisal Divisional Speedy Trial Tribunal, on December 20, acquitted all of the nine accused in one of the 12 cases lodged in connection with series bomb blasts at 18 places of Barisal city on August 17, 2005. This was the first judgment of a case related with the August 17 series bomb blasts in Barisal. The acquitted persons were identified as Ziaur Rahman Zia, director of Al Ikram Ikram Samaj Kalyan Sangstha, Golam Morshed Chowdhury Reza, Jalal Ahmed, Hafez Saiful Islam, Abu Yusuf Majumdar, Abu Solaiman Sujan, director, officials and staff of the organisation, and their 'associates' Md Maruf, Jasimuddin and Zahid Babu. Zia, Yusuf and Babu have been absconding since the trial began. The six others, who are behind bars, were not released from jail as all of the nine are also accused in 11 other cases lodged in connection with the August 17 blasts. Daily Star, December 21, 2006.
Five persons killed in CPI- Maoist triggered landmine blast in Chhattisgarh: Five persons, including two security force (SF) personnel, were killed and four others were injured when Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI- Maoist) insurgents triggered two powerful landmine blasts in the Dantewada district on December 21. "Two special police officers and two villagers were killed on the spot when Maoists targeted their tractor and triggered a landmine blast at Polampalli, about 550 km from the state capital," said Dantewada’s superintendent of police Om Prakash Pal. The incident occurred when SFs, after transporting rations to Polampalli police outpost, were bringing in two sick villagers to Dornapal for treatment. When more SFs were rushing to the spot immediately after the attack, Maoists triggered another landmine blast. Asian Age, December 22, 2006.
Nine SIMI cadres charge sheeted for their involvement in Malegaon serial blasts: The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police, on December 21, filed the charge sheet in September 8 Malegaon serial blasts case. The charge sheet stated that nine Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) cadres had hatched and executed the conspiracy with the help of two Pakistani nationals in the textile town to "infuriate the entire Muslim community and trigger communal riots’’. Thirty-one persons died and 312 were injured in four blasts. The report added that the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following the filing of the charge sheet by the ATS. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R. R. Patil, said, "The case has been transferred to the CBI as the people of Malegaon wanted it. The ATS has filed a chargesheet based on its investigations." Indian Express, December 22, 2006.
No direct intervention in Sri Lanka, says External Affairs Minister: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee ruled out any direct Indian intervention in Sri Lanka to resolve the ethnic crisis in the island nation. He told reporters on December 22, "We have no intention of directly intervening in Sri Lanka." Rejecting the concept of Tamil Eelam (separate homeland) advocated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), he said that India's position was very clear - a solution had to be found within the territorial integrity and constitutional framework while meeting the legitimate aspirations of Tamils. Indian Express, December 23, 2006.
Pakistani national convicted for financing Khalistan Commando Force in the United States: On December 20, the United States federal jury convicted Khalid Awan, a Pakistani national living in New York for links with the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF). Awan is said to have provided money and financial services to the KCF. The attorney's office in New York and the FBI began investigation in 2003 after an inmate at a detention centre in Brooklyn where Awan was incarcerated for credit card fraud told authorities that Awan had boasted his relationship with Paramjit Singh Panjwar, the leader of the KCF. Awan will be sentenced on March 7, 2007, and faces a maximum of 45 years in prison. The conviction was announced by US Attorney Roslyn Mauskopf of the eastern district of New York and Assistant Director in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in New York Mark Mershon. "The war on terror is a global battle. We will not permit individuals in our jurisdictions to finance terrorist groups responsible for murder and violence in any part of the world," Mauskopf said. PTI, December 21, 2006.
United States urged to take unilateral military action in Waziristan, indicates media report: An editorial titled ‘Al Qaeda’s last sanctuary’ published by Washington Post on December 21, reported, "Action must be taken against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Pakistan before spring, when another major offensive against US and NATO forces can be expected unless the enemy bases and supply lines are disrupted." The report urged President Musharraf to stop allying himself with "Pakistan’s own Muslim fundamentalists" and rehabilitate the secular democratic political parties that he has "repressed" since his 1999 coup. "He could also abolish the colonial governing system in the tribal areas, under which secular political parties are banned and mullahs empowered, and allow representative government. By tolerating the general’s empty promises and excuses, the Bush administration is putting its mission in Afghanistan and homeland security into unacceptable jeopardy," the report stated. Daily Times, December 22, 2006.
Alienating religious leaders will fuel radicalism, says Maulana Fazlur Rehman: Maulana Fazlur Rehman, secretary general of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), has warned President Pervez Musharraf that he will need the help of religious parties for peace in the Pakistan-Afghan border region, and so should avoid alienating religious leaders. "We have been helping create agreements throughout the tribal areas and what do we get in return? Musharraf calls us dangerous," Maulana Fazl said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. "With his poisonous propaganda against the religious parties, General Musharraf is trying to widen the gap between the religious circles and the liberals in the country," the Maulana claimed. The MMA leader also said peace in Afghanistan would require talks with the Taliban. "There can only be peace if foreign forces leave Afghanistan and the Afghan government holds talks with the Taliban…They are the sons of the soil," he stated. He also denied that his seminaries are used by the Taliban as staging posts in their cross-border activities, but admitted that he directs his followers to support Taliban fighters in Afghanistan by providing "humanitarian aid". "We support anyone who is struggling for the implementation of an Islamic government," he said, without specifying the type of assistance. Telegraph, December 19, 2006.
Seminaries refuse to provide details of decrees and students: Seminaries rejected a Government offer to give them financial assistance under the Madrassa Reforms Project and refused to fill forms seeking details about the annual breakdown of the decrees issued by each of them. "Ulema of Islamabad, belonging to the Wafaqul Madaras Al Arabia, have refused to take financial assistance from the government for teaching formal subjects. It was decided during a meeting that the seminaries will not give the government any information on the number of foreign students and the annual breakdown of decrees issued by them," sources told Daily Times. The sources said the Madrassa Reforms Project wing of the Education Ministry had issued letters to all seminaries offering them financial assistance. Daily Times, December 22, 2006.
Australia considering ban on LTTE: Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, addressing a gathering on terrorism and Islamist extremism at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London stated that Australia is considering a ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He said, "We are seriously considering banning the LTTE. In the past two weeks Australian authorities have had discussions concerning the LTTE and a decision was expected to be taken shortly." Australian intelligence services had monitored the activities of some Tamil charities that had used the cover to illegally raise funds for the LTTE in Sri Lanka, he added. Australian diplomatic sources revealed that the recent increase in terrorist activities in Sri Lanka, such as the attempted assassination of the Defence Secretary, is among the factors that lead the Australian authorities to seriously consider hard-hitting measures against the outfit. Colombo Page, December 19, 2006.