SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Loss of Confidence
Modern governments are vast bureaucracies engaged in an infinity of complex tasks, most of which are routinized to ensure continuity, standards and a necessary modicum of efficiency. The flip side is that established routines often lapse into mechanical responses, mere reflexes that have little contact with the original intent for which they were initiated.
The US State Department’s annual ritual of publishing what are now called the Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT) unfortunately appears to have slipped into the character of just such a habitual response, an embarrassing nervous tick that does little to enhance the appearance or reputation of those it afflicts, and that appears to fulfill no significant purpose. This is the regrettable conclusion that arises out of a close reading of the sections dealing with South Asia in CRT 2006 (the present assessment does not attempt to deal with or evaluate any other elements of the Report).
The CRT is a modestly rechristened version of the more ambitious Patterns of Global Terrorism (PGT), which was abruptly discontinued after a particularly disastrous edition in 2004 (PGT 2003) under the stewardship of the then US Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Cofer Black [A Tale Told by an Idiot; Flogging a Dead Horse]. The CRT is published (as was its predecessor) under a legislative mandate to provide the US Congress "a full and complete report on terrorism" each year with regard to countries that meet the criteria of the legislation, and in this CRT 2006 certainly falls short in its narrative on South Asia. CRT 2006 does not, of course, fall prey to the extreme perversity and errors that marked PGT 2003, and, if a brief overview of trends was all that was mandated, it would, perhaps and with some qualifications, suffice. As a "full and complete report on terrorism", one that would satisfy legitimate information needs of US Congress, however, it falls woefully short.
The experience with the appalling PGT 2003 obviously took a toll on the confidence levels of the counterterrorism establishment at Washington. In replacing the PGT reports with the CRT, responsibilities for the compilation and analysis of data were transferred to a newly created National Counterterrorism Centre (NCT), and were delinked from the CRT. Such compartmentalization has adversely affected the contents of the CRT and, in place of the detailed – albeit inaccurate – listings of terrorist incidents and the and aggregation of data in the PGT, CRT cherry picks a handful of significant incidents in each country in the region, and overwhelmingly relies on categories such as ‘hundreds’, ‘several’, ‘numerous’, and other approximations, in its assessments of the volume of terrorist activities in various theatres.
Within South Asia, CRT 2005 had given some reason for heightened expectations, particularly in its treatment of terrorism in India, going into surprising details, not only of terrorist operations and linkages, but also of administrative culture and the infirmities of the justice system. Indeed, this treatment gave cause for a hope that this approach would be deepened over time and that other theatres in the South Asian region would also be treated with a comparable thoroughness and realism – though the treatment of the Indian neighborhood remained politically coloured and inadequate even in CRT 2005.
Regrettably, this promise has not been fulfilled in CRT 2006, and there appears to be a slide back even in the quality and content of the treatment of terrorism within India. In reporting on Islamist terrorism outside Jammu & Kashmir, CRT 2006 quite naturally lists three major incidents, the July 11 train blasts in Mumbai, the second most devastating terrorist attack in the country’s history; the multiple blasts at Malegaon in Maharashtra on September 8, which saw 40 killed; and the March 7 multiple blasts in the temple city of Varanasi, which left 21 dead. Altogether surprisingly, it sees fit to mention, alongside these, the arrest of two suspected terrorists from the Al Badr on October 27, apparently on a mission to "establish a base in southern India" to "facilitate terrorist on economic and government targets". It is useful to note that 2006 also saw a number of other significant Islamist terrorist operations across India at various locations outside J&K, as well as a multiplicity of arrests of terrorists in several locations, including several in the Southern States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh. If the obscure arrest of two ‘suspected terrorists’ merits mention in CRT 2006, these – and indeed many other – incidents can hardly be rightly ignored. If these arrests were thought to be unique evidence of efforts to "establish a base in southern India", this is misleading. There have been dozens of earlier arrests [ Islamist Terrorist Modules Disrupted] which give overwhelming evidence of a an effort, sustained over decades, to establish and execute operations in ‘southern India’, and these have already manifested themselves in numerous terrorist attacks in the region.
The analysis of terrorism in other theatres across India is, at best, cursory, once again randomly picking out some incidents for mention, but communicating little by way of an accurate picture of the movements, or of their intensity and dynamics.
Worse, there is evidence of some extremely crude ‘cut and paste’ work in CRT 2006, most glaringly:
This conviction occurred in 2005, and not 2006, and the paragraph has simply been reproduced from CRT 2005.
Again, entire paragraphs on India’s "outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems" are simply lifted verbatim from CRT 2005, without attribution:
Such mechanical and un-attributed inclusions from previous reports in the body of CRT 2006 do not contribute to the authority and credibility of the exercise.
There are also several errors and inaccuracies of data and fact. For instance, the report states, "Indian officials said that terrorist infiltration into Jamu and Kashmir increased in 2006." India’s Ministry of Home Affairs Annual Report – and a number of other official pronouncements – however, indicate a marginal decline in infiltration by four per cent in 2006 over 2005. CRT 2006 mentions the July 17 incident of a Naxalite attack in the Dantewada Distrcit of Chhattisgarh, in which "at least 25 people were killed". In fact, 33 villagers were killed in the incident. CRT 2006 refers to "multiple terrorist attacks" resulting in "numerous deaths and injuries". This is meaningless. Data for all theatres in India – indeed, South Asia – is available in reliable open sources. Official data is also periodically made available for several theatres. Either of these sources, with appropriate attribution, can give an acceptably accurate picture of the course of violence. The problem of authority or validation can be addressed, simply, by transparency of process. If data is clearly attributed to defined open or official sources, its publication in a US report would not constitute endorsement or confirmation of its validity, but would constitute a sufficient provisional basis for analysis of trends.
Treatment of other theatres is no better. For instance, the perfunctory paragraphs on Bangladesh make no mention of the alleged ‘Left Wing Extremism’ that authorities in Dhaka consider the main problem in the country, if data on fatalities is an index. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, compiled from open source reports, of the total of 145 ‘terrorist’ fatalities in Bangladesh in 2006, 139 were categorized as ‘Left Wing’ terrorists. The credibility or otherwise of this official campaign of annihilation, and its reconciliation with Bangladeshi claims to vigorous counterterrorism action, should be a natural element within any comprehensive assessment of trends in terrorism and counterterrorism in that country.
On Pakistan, while substantial detail relating to various theatres is given in CRT 2006, a selective blindness and a policy-led approach to assessment, remains in evidence. There are numerous endorsements of Pakistan’s exemplary role in combating terrorism and of President Musharraf’s ‘courageous role’ in the global war on terrorism, but little effort is made to reconcile this with the Report’s parallel assertion that Pakistan "remains a major source of Islamic extremism and a safe haven for some top terrorist leaders". The Report goes further to name a number of ‘Islamic groups’ that survive in Pakistan under assumed names after they were banned under their original names, and notes for at least some of these that they continue "to operate openly in parts of Pakistan". CRT 2006, however, remains noncommittal on the reasons for this phenomenon, and the apparent state patronage such open activities would seem to reflect.
On data, again, CRT 2006 cites ‘credible reports’ that put the fatalities in a total of "650 terrorist attacks" at "as many as 900 Pakistanis". SATP data suggests a total of 1,421 fatalities in Pakistan during the year, including 608 civilians and 325 Security Force (SF) personnel. It is useful to note, moreover, that Islamabad has made consistent and intense efforts to stifle information flows from the areas of conflict in the country, and total fatalities may, in fact, be considerably higher. A clearer definition of the ‘credible’ sources on which the CRT relies, and greater transparency relating to the methodology relating both to the attribution of credibility and the extraction of data would go a long way in giving greater authority to future reports.
It is not the intention or objective, here, to enter into a detailed critique of CRT 2006 in each of the theatres of conflict in South Asia. What is essential is that this exercise needs to go a long way before it can come anywhere close to fulfilling its mandate of providing a "a full and complete report on terrorism" to the US Congress; and that the tentativeness, anxieties and ideologically driven assessments reflected in CRT 2006 do not sit well with the task and responsibilities of providing an authoritative, credible and comprehensive analysis of international trends in terrorism. As it stands, the annual CRT process fails to produce a reliable resource for assessments both for the US Congress as well as for policy makers, scholars and the media everywhere.
LTTE’s lost ‘citadel’
Situated in the central part of the Eastern Province covering a land area of approximately 2633.1 square kilometers and 299 square kilometers of internal waterways, Batticaloa District is strategically crucial for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). According to a 2004 report, out of the 18,000 active cadres of the outfit, about 7,500 were from Batticaloa and Ampara Districts, indicating that the Eastern region had become the provider of one of the largest segment of LTTE cadres. Further, according to estimates, more than 2,000 cadres were recruited or conscripted from this region after the 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA), in comparison to about 500 to 600 recruited from the rest of the North-East. With a total number of 255,000 Tsunami affected persons and an extreme paucity of educational, social and economic resources, Batticaloa constituted the LTTE’s major recruitment base, despite the challenge created by its breakaway faction led by Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan @ ‘Colonel’ Karuna. The Batticaloa District cadres of the LTTE played a vital role in the war to safeguard the Wanni heartland and in major offensives against Government troops in the North which led to the fall of Elephant Pass and other key garrisons in April 2000.
With an estimated population of 579,469 – including 426,896 Tamils, 151,487 Muslims and 1,162 Sinhalese – Batticaloa is the only Tamil majority District in the Eastern Province, with 71 percent Tamils, followed by Trincomalee (34 percent) and a still smaller minority in the Ampara District with only 20 percent of Tamils in its population. The LTTE had the support of a large section of the population in the District, including some Muslims. Corroborating this, I.M. Ibrahim, Secretary of the Mosque Federations of Ampara District, while addressing senior LTTE leaders at a meeting between LTTE and Muslim community leaders of Batticaloa and Ampara Districts on February 21, 2005, had declared: "First they divided us. Then they divided you. Sinhala leaders will always deny our rights. Tamil Muslim unity should be the foundation of your liberation struggle." [Significantly, however, the LTTE was responsible of a complete ‘cleansing’ of the Northern areas of all Tamil Muslims in 1990].
Since its re-entry into the Batticaloa District after the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in December 1989, the LTTE dominated the Batticaloa District, controlling four of the 14 Secretariat Divisions – Porathivu Pattu or Vellavely, Manmunai South West or Paddippalai, Manmunai West or Vavunathivu and Koralai Pattu South or Kiran – as well as part of Eravur Pattu or Chenkalady. Such was the LTTE dominance that Government agencies in the area worked under the rebels’ instructions. LTTE often summoned meetings of Government servants and blamed them for their inadequate support to the outfit’s activities and programmes.
The split in the LTTE in 2004 marked a turning point in the region, and in the LTTE’s history. With its Batticaloa-Ampara ‘commander’ ‘Colonel’ Karuna forming his own military front, the Tamil National Front (TNF), and later a political party, the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), the outfit lost its supremacy in the East. As one commentator noted in May 2004, some 70 percent of the LTTE political offices in the Batticaloa District remained unoccupied and the bulk of its military and administrative organisation in the area collapsed following the split. The LTTE also started losing the people’s support and public confidence in its capacities to sustain its struggle to achieve a separate Tamil homeland.
The LTTE’s attempts to regain supremacy following the split have been countered by the Karuna faction, which has eaten into the LTTE base in Batticaloa. Since March 2004, there have been 43 reported clashes between the TNF and LTTE in the Batticaloa District, in which the LTTE lost almost 100 cadres, including its Eastern Political wing leader, Kaushalyan and his deputy Nedimaran.
According to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, the LTTE has lost almost 2,923 of its cadres since January 1, 2005, in fighting across various theatres, of which 640 (approximately 21 percent) have been killed in Batticaloa District alone. The number of LTTE cadres killed in the District in 2005 was 33, rising to 348 in 2006. With 259 cadres already killed in the first four months of 2007, it is evident that the LTTE has lost its advantageous position in area region, as Government troops, with implicit support from the Karuna faction, secure the upper hand in the current ‘undeclared war’.
As the Mahinda Rajapakse Government intensifies its war against the LTTE, the military has forced the rebels to withdraw from critical areas formerly under their control and the LTTE ‘citadel’ in Batticaloa has virtually collapsed. Operation Niyathi Jaya (Definite Victory) launched by the Army on January 4, 2007, to evict the LTTE out of the Eastern region has pushed the outfit almost entirely out of the region. The Army gained full control of the 41 kilometre A-5 Badulla–Maha Oya–Chenkaladdy road on the morning of April 11 2007, after 14 years, thus confining the LTTE to some 150-square kilometres in the Thoppigala jungle. The operation launched by the SFs on February 24, 2007, to liberate Batticaloa South, West and the area south of the Thoppigala jungle had cleared 700 square kilometers by April 11. Troops have established control over settlements including Koduvamadu, Thamparaveli, Pankudaveli, Illupayadichenai and Karadiyanaru south of the A-5 road in the Batticaloa District. Since the launch of humanitarian operations by the troops following the closure of the Mavil Aru anicut (Dam) in July 2006, troops have captured Mavil Aru, Sampur, Verugal, Kadiraveli, Palchenai, Vakarai, Panichchankerni, Kaddamurivuakulam, Kirimichchikulam and areas south of the A-5 Maha Oya–Chenkaladdy Road. The operations have cleared areas extending between Yan Oya, north of Nilaweli in Trincomalee and Velaveli in Batticaloa.
In separate clashes in the District in 2007, security forces have also inflicted heavy casualties on the embattled rebels. Major clashes between the Army and LTTE in 2007 include:
April 2: Troops killed at least 23 LTTE cadres during clashes at Unnichchai, a LTTE strong hold.
March 21: More than 30 LTTE cadres were reportedly killed during clashes between troops and the outfit's cadres at various locations.
March 13: Two top level LTTE intelligence wing operatives, identified as Vendran and Illakkian, were among eleven cadres killed during air strikes in the Thoppigala jungles.
March 11: Troops killed nearly 20 LTTE cadres and injured many others in the Unnichchi, area between Chenkalady and Mahaoya.
January 21: SFs confronted a group of about 75 LTTE cadres who were attempting to escape towards Thoppigala from the Vakarai area and killed at least 18 of them.
Despite these setbacks, as has been its practice, the weakened LTTE has resorted to terrorist and guerrilla tactics and is far from being wiped out. It continues to carry out sporadic attacks in the District and has intensified its efforts to intimidate the masses by carrying out murderous attack against civilians and through forcible conscription in the region. Thus, on April 13, 2007, LTTE cadres shot dead five members of a family, including a three year old child, at Chenkalady. In an earlier effort to create ethnic unrest, the LTTE killed six Sinhalese aid workers who attended construction work at the "Village of Hope", a housing scheme built for orphan children at Mailambaveli in the Eravur area on April 1, 2007. Two other aid workers were injured in the incident. March 29, at least ten civilians were killed and seven others were injured in two separate mortar attacks by the LTTE on the Sittandi, Sandiliveli and Morakottanchchena villages.
In other significant actions, on March 27, 2007, the LTTE carried out a suicide attack targeting the Army main base at Chenkalady, killing three members of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), a 12-year-old boy and two security force personnel. Five civilians, two Army soldiers and two Policemen were also injured. In a more daring and desperate attack, the Ambassador of Italy, Pio Miriani, and US Ambassador, Robert Blake, were injured in an LTTE mortar attack targeting helicopters carrying Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe along with the foreign diplomats on February 27. The mortars were launched as the two helicopters landed at the Webber stadium in Batticaloa town.
With 300 to 350 cadres still holed up in the Thoppigala jungles, a substantial reserve of fighters in the North, and a country-wide capacity to deliver high intensity terrorist attacks, the LTTE still has the capacity to inflict significant damage in attempts to regain its declining control.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 30-May 6,, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed depend on 'surrogate bases' in Bangladesh and Nepal, says Home Ministry: Pakistan-based terrorist groups, particularly the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), are increasingly depending on "surrogate bases" in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Middle East for movement of trained cadres and finances for their operations, the Union Home Ministry indicated. A home ministry document, based on intelligence inputs, said the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), linked to the JeM and LeT, is recruiting Indian youth, sending them to Pakistan for training, and re-inducting them via Bangladesh to carry out terrorist attacks. "This is evident from the Mumbai local train serial bomb blasts in which 11 Pakistanis infiltrated through the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar, Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal and Indo-Pakistan border in Gujarat," the report said.
Noting that cross-border terrorism was no longer Jammu and Kashmir-centric, the document said it has spread its tentacles to the hinterland. The report said terrorist groups carry out their activities in the hinterland beyond the known theatres of violence to make "greater impact" and get wider publicity. The essential components of the strategy of jehadi groups include well-calibrated violence against soft targets to create terror, undermining the economic and scientific prowess of the country, subverting Indian Muslim youth and provoking communal tensions with the help of local elements. Sleeper cells and modules exist in certain parts of the country and were activated when required, the report said. During 2004-06, as many as 669 terrorist modules were neutralized and plans to target vital installations like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and IT companies were foiled, the report said. Kashmir Times, May 7, 2007.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister invites Maoists for talks: The Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has invited the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) for talks, saying the Government was very concerned about the safety of those driven to relief camps by the violence and that in the long term the insurgents could not possibly win. "The Government is highly concerned about the safety and future of 50,000 relief camp settlers. They will return to their native villages once the situation improves and peace returns," the Chief Minister said. In an interview, Raman Singh said that "Maoist militancy is an inter-State problem and during the past four months, guerrillas have managed to maintain a lot of pressure on police but in the long term fight they will never achieve success against police and paramilitary forces." When asked whether the Government had sent any feelers or emissaries to the insurgents for initiating a dialogue, the Chief Minister stated, "I am inviting the guerrillas through the press. If they respond, our top Police officials will engage in dialogue."
Meanwhile, the State saw over 200 deaths, including 113 civilian casualties, in the first four months of 2007 in Maoist-violence, according to a senior Police official. "Maoist violence has surged to a record high in Chhattisgarh. The state witnessed 200 deaths by April 25, including 113 civilian casualties and 44 policemen deaths. As many as 44 rebels, too, were killed," said Inspector General of Police Girdhari Nayak. IANS, May 3, 2007 & April 30, 2007.
Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI trying to revive Punjab militancy, indicates intelligence report: Intelligence agencies have said that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, are trying to revive militancy in the Indian State of Punjab through sympathisers of Sikh militant groups like the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and Khalistan Commando Force (KCF). Information has reportedly been sent to the Punjab Police about the plans to target towns of Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Pathankot region. Instructions have also been given to monitor the activities of sympathisers of BKI-Hawara, ISYF-Rode, KZF- Neeta and KCF, who are sending funds through hawala (illegal money transfers) to "re-launch their separatist movement." The Statesman, May 3, 2007.
Maoists refuse verification of combatants till political deadlock is over: The Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M), on April 30, 2007, refused to allow immediate verification of its combatants who are now located in the cantonments under United Nations (UN) monitoring. In a meeting of the UN-chaired Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee, which comprises members from the Nepali Army and the Maoists' People's Liberation Army, Maoist representatives said they would allow verification immediately after the political deadlock is broken and the Government fulfils physical requirements in the cantonments. Kantipur Online , May 1, 2007.
Pakistan is a safe haven for top terrorist leaders, says US report on terrorism: According to the United States’ Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, Pakistan remains a major source of Islamic extremism and a safe haven for some top terrorist leaders. The al Qaeda’s continued calls for the overthrow of President Pervez Musharraf remained a threat to Pakistan, despite the Government's efforts to eliminate al Qaeda elements, the report claimed. Pakistan continued to pursue al Qaeda and its allies aggressively through nationwide police action and military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it noted. Despite having approximately 80,000 troops in the FATA, including Army and Frontier Corps units, the Government of Pakistan has been unable to exert control over the area, the report observed. According to the report, "the government's crackdown on banned organizations, hate material, and incitement by religious leaders continued unevenly. Madrassa registration, foreign student enrollment in madrassas, and financial disclosure requirements remained a source of friction between Government and religious leaders." US State Department, April 30 & 29, 2007.
Terrorist outfits worldwide copy LTTE innovations, says US report on terrorism: According to the United States’ Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, many Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) innovations, such as explosive belts, vests, and bras, using female suicide bombers and waterborne suicide attacks against ships, have been copied by other terrorist groups. The report said that in 2006 the LTTE financed itself with contributions from the Tamil Diaspora in North America, Europe and Australia and by imposing local ‘taxes’ on businesses operating in the areas of Sri Lanka under its control. Using this money, LTTE weapons were purchased on the international black market or captured from the Sri Lankan Army. The report also notes that the breakaway faction of the LTTE led by ‘Colonel’ Karuna conducted its own assassination campaign against the LTTE and pro-LTTE civilians in the east. Daily Mirror, May 2, 2007.