SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Sideshows in a Theatre of Violence
The third Roundtable Conference, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was convened at New Delhi on April 24, 2007, amid the usual boycotts and condemnations by extremist and separatist groups. The deliberations focused primarily on recommendations of four of the five Working Groups that were formed in the Second Roundtable in May 2006. The five Working Groups focused on: Confidence-building measures across segments of society in J&K; strengthening relations across the Line of Control (LoC); economic development; ensuring good governance; and strengthening relations between the State and the Centre. While four Working Groups have completed their deliberations and submitted their reports, the group on Centre-State relations is likely to hold another one or two sittings to finalise its report.
Predictably, the terrorist groups rejected the Roundtable Conference. In a joint statement, the Al-Nasireen, Farzandan-e-Millat, Save Kashmir Movement and Al-Arifeen (believed to be front outfits of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed) said tripartite or bilateral talks and conferences were putting the Kashmir issue into the "cold storage" and its solution lay only in the UN resolutions.
While the major separatist groups, including the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), unsurprisingly boycotted the Roundtable, participants from mainstream political parties and representatives of other sections of the society endorsed suggestions of the Working Groups. These, if implemented, could provide relief and rehabilitation to widows, orphans and other victims of militancy and violence, simplify procedures to facilitate travel across the LoC, enhance cross-border linkages, expand people-to-people contact, including promotion of pilgrimage and group tourism, increase responsiveness, accountability and transparency of the administration, strengthen local self-government, institute zero tolerance for human rights violations, provide other economic benefits, etc. The fifth group on Centre-State relations is to deliberate on matters relating to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union and methods of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the State. This group (it evidently handles the more contentious issues, perhaps explaining the delay in its report submission) will also deliberate on effective devolution of powers among different regions to meet regional, sub-regional and ethnic aspirations.
Even if a handful of these measures are implemented effectively in the immediate future, it would go a long way in providing some relief to the terrorism-wracked State. But the trajectory of the past provides very limited space for optimism. The record of implementation of legislation and executive decisions has been appalling not just in J&K but across many conflict theatres and in the country as a whole.
One of the glaring imperfections of the Roundtable was appropriately conveyed by Agnisekhar, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir (A-faction), a group fighting for the rights of the Kashmiri Pandits (descendents of Brahmin priests), who have been displaced by the jihadis from their ancestral homes in the Valley. Pointing to serious "omissions" in this regard, he noted, "It is amazing that the perpetrators of violence and the victims are being weighed on the same scale." It is, indeed, important to also note, as an earlier Conference of representatives from all parts of undivided J&K recorded, that "the discourse on Jammu and Kashmir is currently and overwhelmingly defined by those who resort to terrorism, their sponsors and their front organisations."
On the ground in J&K, the secular decline in terrorist violence, a trend discernible since 2001, continues. But the terrorists’ capacity to strike at important targets and to maintain a threshold level of violence, nevertheless, remains undiminished. Approximately 219 people, including 79 civilians and 111 terrorists, have already died in militancy-related violence in 2007 (Data till April 27. Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal).Comparative Levels of Violence in J&K, 2001-2006
According to the Annual Report 2006-07 of the Union Home Ministry, during 2006, the number of incidents was lower by 16 per cent, those of civilians killed by 30 per cent and Security Forces (SF) killed by 20 per cent, over previous year.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and its proxies continue to demand ‘demilitarization’ in J&K, with Srinagar, Kupwara and Baramulla identified as the three areas where a withdrawal of the Army is sought. President Pervez Musharraf has claimed that such a move would help build the 'impetus for peace'. The issue of troop reduction has been a central part of Pakistan's long-standing demands on Kashmir and had, in the past, been projected as a pre-condition for talks with India. The demand for demilitarization also gives an indication of the end-game Musharraf proposes, comprehending a partition of the Valley under which these districts, with overwhelming Muslim majorities, would be ceded to Pakistan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, has repeatedly stated that demilitarization and progress in the peace process could only be contingent on a cessation of cross-border infiltration and terrorist violence. To the extent that terrorist violence continues in J&K, there is no rationale for any dilution of operational military presence.
A scrutiny of the trajectory of violence in J&K helps understand why General Musharraf is insisting on troop withdrawal specifically from these locations, and indicates that the rationale goes beyond concern for the 'impetus for peace' or for the welfare of the people of Kashmir. Further, it goes well beyond the fact that Kupwara and Baramulla are districts close to the LoC. Baramulla and Kupwara have traditionally served as a gateway to terrorism in the Kashmir Valley, and have, for long, been crucial to the jihad in Kashmir.
With borders that are mountainous and heavily forested, Baramulla and Kupwara are two neighbouring Districts to the north and northwest of the Valley, with their topography clearly demonstrating their strategic importance. Baramulla, spread over 4,588 square kilometres, is bordered by Kupwara in the north, Budgam and Poonch districts in the south, parts of the summer capital, Srinagar, and Ladakh in the east, and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), in the west. Kupwara (2,379 square kilometres) was carved out of Baramulla district in 1979. To the east and south of Kupwara is Baramulla, while in the west and north is the LoC, which separates it from Muzaffarabad. According to those who oversee security in J&K, the prevailing situation in the two Districts does not warrant any re-adjustment of the counter-insurgency grid, and any dilution of Forces is bound to affect the grid and the security base. Terrorist groups active in the Districts include the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), which has a northern division for Kupwara-Bandipora-Baramulla; Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT; also known as the Jama’at-ud-Da’awa), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Al Umar Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Al Badr. Kupwara and Baramulla witness high levels of infiltration and terrorist activity, and any lowering of guard there would allow the terrorists, who have been under extraordinary pressure lately, to regroup and recover lost ground. It would also mean granting unhindered access to the Valley, especially to capital Srinagar, which is to the south-east of Baramulla. Being border Districts adjacent to the LoC, any withdrawal of troops from Baramulla and Kupwara would undermine the internal security grid and would facilitate infiltration into the Valley. The operational advantage in these Districts, vis-à-vis the execution of operations, accruing primarily due to terrain and location, lies with the terrorists. Troop withdrawal would simply cede the entire territory to the terrorists. Furthermore, the flow of actionable intelligence of terrorist movement into other Districts in J&K would also be adversely affected.
Although official sources indicated that infiltration was down marginally by four percent in 2006 over 2005, there are apprehensions that militancy could escalate once the snow melts on the mountain passes along the LoC. Intelligence inputs indicated that terrorist groups were planning "a calibrated infiltration during the forthcoming summer to ease pressure from the security forces." In his three-page letter to former J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on March 15, 2007, the Prime Minister himself has cited "intelligence inputs that suggest that militants might raise the level of violence in coming months." Sources added that infiltration continues with constantly changing ingress routes and new techniques being deployed. The Union Home Ministry has noted that there is "infiltration of better-trained and professional groups, equipped in breaching fences and negotiating hurdles." For the record, during 2006, an estimated 573 infiltrators crossed over into Jammu and Kashmir (Source: Annual Report 2006-2007, Union Ministry of Home Affairs)Estimated Infiltration in J&K
On April 11, 2007, the Army disclosed that there was a substantial force of militants currently operating in J&K, and others waiting in readiness across the border. Northern Command’s General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Lt. Gen. H. S. Panag in Reasi stated, "I don’t think Army can go back to barracks at this stage. Militants can take advantage of the situation. And, we can’t leave people under the shadow of gun and allow insurgents to operate… There are at least 1300 to 1500 militants operating in the State. A large number of trained militants in Pakistan are awaiting infiltration from across the border. Militants’ infrastructure in Pakistan is also intact." He added, further, that out of the estimated 1,300 to 1,500 militants, nearly 40 per cent are Pakistanis from the Punjab and Sindh provinces, who have nothing to do with Jammu and Kashmir: "These militants are purely controlled by the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]."
The J&K Government, which believes that nearly 50 terrorist training camps are in place across the LoC, is reported to have passed on to the Union Home Ministry a list of 120 militant leaders wanted for terrorism in the State. All of them are currently based somewhere in Pakistan and PoK. They include Syed Salahuddin, chief of the HM and of the Muttahida Jihad Council, LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, LeT ‘operations chief’ Bilal alias Salahuddin, Shah Faisal and Madni, JeM ‘operations chiefs’ and Yousuf Baloch of the JeM.
Security forces have reportedly noticed some enhancement of terrorist capacities on the ground. There is a greater reliance on grenade attacks, with 226 such attacks in 2006, as against to 152 in 2005 (Source: Annual Report 2006-07, Union Home Ministry). The militants are targeting the troops with greater accuracy than before and the number of ‘sharp-shooters’ is also reportedly increasing. There has also been a tactical shift towards soft targets, including minority communities, tourists and migrant labourers. Terrorist groups have also reportedly begun to ‘outsource’ in order to change the complexion of militancy. They are now recruiting "young men with a clean slate" who lob grenades, plant improvised explosive devices, and engage in other operations, subsequently to return to their ordinary life.
On April 24, 2007, General Musharraf had claimed in Madrid that a ‘solution’ to the Kashmir issue would soon ‘appear’. In his closing remarks at the Roundtable, Dr. Manmohan Singh did some plain-speaking and noted that "some public statements in this regard emanating from Pakistan do not give the correct picture… Lasting peace will not come through instant deals."
The various manifestations of the ‘peace process’, including both domestic and bilateral negotiations, as well as the frequent and competitive posturing of the parties in dialogue, remain essentially a tactical sideshow in regional conflict scenario. Despite a significant and continuous decline in terrorist violence over the years, the centrestage is yet to be vacated by the shadow of violence in J&K.
'Peace' under Terror
The near decade-long ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the six year old ceasefire with the rival Khaplang faction (NSCN-K) continue to hold in Nagaland, in an environment of endemic fratricidal clashes, pervasive extortion and rapid consolidation of the insurgent sway over every segment of society and Government. New Delhi’s response, surprisingly, remains stubbornly conventional, failing to question the rationale behind the countless rounds of peace talks, a move that undermined political processes in the State, and ceding to the insurgent group a position of dominance in the State, even as fratricidal violence, extortion and intimidation remain entrenched in the day to day lives of the people.
For a State under a ‘ceasefire’ with both the principal insurgent groups, Nagaland still registers higher levels of insurgent violence than many of the States with an ‘active’ insurgency, and the situation appears to be progressively worsening over the years. According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), insurgency-related fatalities have increased from 97 in 2004 to 99 in 2005, to a further 147 in 2006. Incidents of insurgent violence have registered an increase from 186 to 192 between 2004 and 2005, and sharply to 309 in 2006. Institute for Conflict Management’s open source documentation of insurgency-related fatalities totalled 56 in 2007, till April 20.
Virtually the entire volume of fatalities are concerned with the network of intimidation and the turf wars between IM and Khaplang factions, with the Security Forces (SFs) obvious and mute spectators, accounting for very few of the violent engagements or fatalities. In 2007, for instance, of the total of 56 fatalities, 43 (77 per cent) have been insurgent cadres, and the remaining 13, civilians. Insurgents accounted for 57 per cent of the total fatalities in 2004, 71 per cent in 2005 and 79 percent in 2006. Only three SF personnel have been killed in Nagaland since 2004.
Of the 56 fatalities thus far in 2007, 43 have occurred in a total of 24 factional clashes. The toll includes 22 NSCN-IM cadres, 18 NSCN-K cadres and three militants from the Naga National Council (NNC). Clashes have occurred in seven of Nagaland’s 11 Districts: Mon, Mokokchung, Zunheboto, Phek, Peren, Kohima and Dimapur.
The war of attrition continues with scant regard for the ceasefire ground rules, which stipulate that the insurgents stay in designated camps, bans their movements in uniform and with arms and prohibits extortion. The NSCN-IM’s writ runs supreme in most parts of the State, though the NSCN-K remains dominant in the Districts of Mokokchung and Dimapur. While NSCN-IM’s well-oiled ‘finance department’ engages in wide-spread ‘tax-collection’ activities, its ‘home department’ virtually runs the administration in the State. Its ‘crime suppression department’ ensures control of its areas of dominance, administering a selective ‘justice’ over various ‘offenders’. Cadres move unhindered in the townships and country-side, enforcing the insurgent group’s diktats. Intelligence reports indicate that the cadre strength of the NSCN-IM has increased from 800 to about 2,500 since the July 1997 ceasefire announcement.
Internecine clashes have remained the principal instrument of seeking or defending dominance for the two groups in various parts of the State. For the NSCN-K, which is yet to start a dialogue process with the Government of India (GoI) since its April 2001 ceasefire agreement, violent engagements with its rival also help send periodic reminders to New Delhi that any ‘deal’ with the IM faction would have no permanent positive impact on the Naga conflict. Fratricidal engagements also serve as opportunities to inflict costs on each other, upsetting the cadre strength and wearing down stores of weapons and ammunition. The lack of progress in NSCN-IM’s protracted dialogue with the GoI, currently in its 10th year, has only provided added incentive to both factions to continue with their ‘war games’.
Unconstrained insurgent activities have resulted in the occasional civilian backlash. On April 22, 2007, subsequent to the abduction and torture of three Sumi tribesmen by NSCN-IM cadres, a large mob of about 5,000 people attacked the Wungram Colony, home to several of the NSCN-IM’s leaders in Dimapur, destroying 47 houses and several vehicles. The houses of NSCN-IM’s ‘steering committee member’, Rh. Raising, tatars (‘parliamentarians’) Samson Jajo, Nithungla and Kamlang, and three leaders of the group’s armed wing — Hangshi, Ramkating and Markson — were gutted in the incident. Over 300 civilians belonging to the Tangkhul tribe, from which NSCN-IM’s top leadership, including its ‘general secretary’ Thuingaleng Muivah, is sourced, were displaced from the Colony and have since taken shelter at the nearby police station at Chumukedima and the group’s camp in Hebron, near Dimapur town.
Such occasional, desperate and rarely fruitful mass interventions notwithstanding, insurgent factions in the State continue to hold sway across wide areas of the State, and engage in continuous efforts to extend their areas of dominance. The Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, is on record claiming that such clashes are a part of the ‘political problem’ ‘between India and Nagaland’, thus indicating that these would continue as long as the ‘conflict over Nagalim (greater Nagaland)’ is not resolved. The Chief Minister’s refrain closely echoes the NSCN-IM’s position that the factional violence is due to the GoI’s failure to restrict the movement of NSCN-K cadres. The GoI, on the other hand, insists that the clashes between the insurgent outfits are a law and order problem. About 10 months ago, on June 20, 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a seven-member Congress Party team from Nagaland at New Delhi, that the conflict between the insurgent Naga factions was a 'law and order problem' which the State’s Home Department has to solve on its own, instead of blaming Delhi.
The Nagaland Police, however, has not been involved in any significant cases challenging the dominance of the insurgents, while the Central Para-military Forces (CPMFs) have failed to take effective steps against the flagrant and rampant violations of the ceasefire ground rules.
Myanmar, with which India shares a 1,640 kilometre-long unfenced border, remains vital to the capabilities of the Naga outfits, especially the NSCN-K. The group’s ‘general headquarters’ is located in the Sagaing Division of Myanmar, bordering three Indian states: Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. On April 27, 2007, official sources in New Delhi said that Myanmar has promised to step up military action against all Indian insurgent groups operating from its territory. However, assurances made by the 18-member Army delegation led by Brigadier General Tin Maung Ohn can, at best, be termed as routine and insignificant, and are not expected to have any decisive impact on the potential of the insurgent groups. Sporadic military offensives in the Sagaing division by the Myanmarese Army have taken place since the mid-1980s, but have only temporarily displaced the various insurgent groups from Manipur, Assam and Nagaland. Once the Myanmarese Army personnel have vacated the areas, the groups have simply gone back to reclaim their facilities. Moreover, a fairly cosy relationship exists between lower-rung Myanmarese military personnel and the insurgents, and the latter are often warned in advance of imminent raids, allowing them to minimise damage.
Little change is anticipated in the situation in Nagaland in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, with elections to the State Legislative Assembly due in 2008, insurgent violence can be expected to grow and expand into newer areas. With both the State and the Union Government frozen in their commitment to a policy of inaction, the civilian population in the State will continue to bear the brunt of insurgent lawlessness.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 23-29, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Interim Government lifts ban on Sheikh Hasina's return: The Interim Government on April 25, 2007, issued a press note withdrawing the bar on Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina's return to the country and also said it never put any pressure on Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia for leaving the country. The decision was taken by the Government after two days of emergency Cabinet meetings chaired by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, following international and local demands. A Home Ministry press note to this effect said, "The Government issued a press note as a special security measure and in the people's interest on April 18, 2007, in light of recent comments and activities of Awami League President Sheikh Hasina and her concerns for personal safety. It was clearly stated in the mentioned Home Ministry press note that the measure was temporary. But, in light of opinions expressed in the media and in different quarters on the matter, the Government has decided to withdraw the measure". Hasina on April 25 told a private television channel that she will be returning home as soon as possible.
Earlier, a court in the capital Dhaka on April 23 had suspended the arrest warrants issued against the former Prime Minister and AL President Sheikh Hasina, former Home Minister and AL leader Mohammad Nasim and AL activist Kiron alias Abdul Malek, on April 22. Hasina is accused of involvement in the death of four political activists during street violence on October 28, 2006 -- a charge she has denied. The Daily Star, April 26 & 24, 2007.
Parliamentary Standing Committee recommends Unified Command in Maoist-affected States: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its 126th report released on April 26, 2007, has suggested the creation of a Unified Command common to all Maoist-affected States and implementation of a coastal security scheme in view of "greater risk" of infiltration from coastal belts. "The naxal [Maoist] activities have spread to more than 12 states and are reported to be having links with external agencies including ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan)" the Committee has said. The Hindu, April 28, 2007.
Third Round Table Conference on Jammu and Kashmir held in New Delhi: Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, on April 24, 2007, announced the constitution of two committees to take stock of the implementation of the recommendations of the working groups on Kashmir. Addressing the third Round Table Conference on Jammu and Kashmir in the national capital New Delhi, he said the standing committee would have membership from within the round table, while the second panel would comprise officers from the Government. Earlier, the Conference accepted the recommendations of the four working groups to address various aspects of the Kashmir issue while the fifth working group on Centre-State relations is yet to finalise its report.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister acknowledged the role of security forces in maintaining peace in Jammu and Kashmir, and said their deployment was directly linked to the extent of violence on the ground. He said wide-ranging initiatives were already being implemented to revitalise the economy of the State and the need was to work closely together to further carry forward the efforts to build a new, peaceful and prosperous State. "It is a vision of naya (new) Jammu and Kashmir which is symbolised by peace, prosperity and people's power,'' he stated.
The Conference, attended by leaders of mainstream parties but boycotted by the separatist groups, discussed suggestions of the four Working Groups and endorsed these, including the strengthening of mechanisms for relief to victims of militancy and violence. Among those who attended the meeting were Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad, People’s Democratic Party leaders Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti and Muzaffar Hussain Baig, National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, former Minister and Panthers Party leader Harshdev Singh, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Congress party leader Saifuddin Soz, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Ashok Khajuria, Dr Nirmal Singh and Hari Om, and Panun Kashmir chairman Agnishekhar. The Hindu; Daily Excelsior, April 25, 2007.
Seven Party Alliance agreed in haste to end people's movement, claims Prachanda: On the eve of first anniversary of Loktantra (Democracy), Maoist chairman Prachanda said that he feels the seven parties had agreed in haste last year to end the people's movement. Addressing a party training programme in Kirtipur on April 24, 2007, he said that the democratic republic could have been established last year itself had the seven parties decided to carry on with the agitation. He added that, though the two major demands of the movement were establishment of a democratic republic and holding of Constituent Assembly elections, leaders were ignoring these issues. He urged that Left forces should now make a republic the basis for their unity, asking his cadres to be ready for any eventuality while declaring the country a republic. He warned that he would unleash a street agitation to defeat "reactionaries' conspiracies" against republic. Nepal News, April 26, 2007.
31 people killed in suicide attack in NWFP: 31 people, including five police personnel, were killed and Federal Interior Minister Sherpao and his young son Sikandar Sherpao Khan were among several people wounded in a suicide attack on April 28, 2007, moments after the minister finished a speech at a public rally in his hometown Charsadda in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The head of the suicide bomber, who had a brown beard and was aged between 30 and 35 years, was found at the site of the blast near Station Koroona in Charsadda, and "he looks like an Afghan," NWFP Inspector General of Police Sharif Virk told reporters. No group has claimed responsibility fo,r the attack so far. Daily Times; Dawn, April 30 & 29, 2007.
United States arrests al Qaeda mastermind of attack on President Musharraf: A top al Qaeda ‘commander’, who led operations in Afghanistan and also plotted the assassination of President Pervez Musharraf, has been taken into United States custody, the Pentagon said on April 27, 2007.
Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, who was taken to Guantanamo Bay within the past week, was reportedly intercepted as he was trying to reach Iraq to manage the al Qaeda operations and possibly plot attacks against western targets outside Iraq, Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman said. "He also in recent years was involved in plots to assassinate perceived opponents of al Qaeda to include Pakistan President Musharraf as well as other officials," he stated. Recently, he associated with leaders of extremist groups allied with the al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Taliban, the Pentagon added. Al-Iraqi was held by the Central Intelligence Agency before being turned over to US military authorities, said Whitman. An unnamed US intelligence official said al-Iraqi had been captured during late 2006. Dawn, April 28, 2007.
Afghanistan losing war against Taliban, says President Musharraf: President Pervez Musharraf has accused the Afghan government of "doing nothing to fight terrorism" and said that it is ‘losing the war’ against Taliban. "Those who do nothing against terrorism, like (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai, are also the ones who criticise those who are fighting, like us," Gen. Musharraf told the Spanish daily El Pais. He denied accusations of President Karzai that the al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were in Pakistan, saying the two men were ‘probably’ holed up in Afghanistan. "Those who say that the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] helps the Taliban because we want a weak Afghanistan are liars," claimed President Musharraf. "They say these things to hide their shame because they are losing the war against the Taliban," he observed.
President Musharraf also said any attack by the US on Iran would fuel sectarian tension in Pakistan. "There would be an effect on Pakistan as well, with implications for religious sectarianism, from any operation against Shias in Iran, which Sunnis would suffer just as much," he said, adding, "Most Pakistanis are anti-American, and that feeling would grow." Dawn, April 27, 2007.
LTTE carries out aerial attack near capital Colombo: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at 1.45 am on April 29, 2007, dropped two improvised bombs each on the Kolonnawa and Muthurajawela areas near capital Colombo. Kolonnawa houses the offices of the Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited in which Lanka IOC, a unit of the Indian Oil Corporation, has a one-third stake. However, the bombs dropped on Kolonnawa did not explode. "One of the two bombs dropped on Muthurajawela caused minor damage to the fire guard equipment of a private gas company and the other damaged water supply," the Military said. Meanwhile, the LTTE, in a statement claimed that two oil depots that supplied fuel to the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) were targeted by the Tamil Eelam Air Force at 1.50 a.m. and 2.05 a.m. after the SLAF bombers attacked a suburb of Kilinochchi in the LTTE-administered territory. The outfit’s spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan stated that their aircraft returned safely to their air base in Vanni after the mission. This is the third air attack by the LTTE since March 26, 2007. The Hindu, April 30, 2007.
LTTE claims aerial attack on Palaly Air Base in Jaffna: The LTTE said on April 24, 2007, that they carried out their second aerial attack against Government forces targeting the main military complex in Jaffna peninsula using two light aircrafts. Two light aircraft of the LTTE bombed the Palaly Air Base in Jaffna and returned to their secret location in the Wanni region, further south, said the outfit’s spokesman, Rasiah Ilanthiriyan. He stated, "We have carried our second air attack at 0120 local time on the Palaly Air Field and their military stores." However, the Defence Ministry has denied that there was an air attack, but said the LTTE had used artillery to target the Palaly military complex. "We deny an air attack, but they used artillery to hit towards Palaly," a Defence Ministry spokesperson said, adding, "There were no damages and we have hit back using artillery." However, unconfirmed military sources said that six soldiers were killed and another six wounded at a location just outside Palaly following the attack. Palaly is a strategic military base with an air strip and functions as the headquarters for military operations against LTTE in the North. It is also the supply base for soldiers stationed in Jaffna Peninsula. The Hindu, April 24, 2007.