SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Viewed purely in terms of fatalities, the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has now crossed the threshold from a high-intensity to a low-intensity level. For the first time since 1990 (when they were 1,177) fatalities in this terrorism-wracked State in 2007 – at 777 – fell below the 'high intensity conflict' mark of a thousand deaths. At their peak in 2001, fatalities had risen to 4,507. Evidently, 2007 is a watershed year for J&K, bringing tremendous respite to its people.
Figures for 2007 reconfirm the continuously declining trend of terrorist violence in the State since the peak of 2001. According to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, the fatality index in 2007 decreased by 30.38 percent in comparison to 2006. While there was a substantial decrease in civilian fatalities (164 in 2007 as against 349 in 2006) and those of the terrorists (492 in 2007 as against 599 in 2006), there was only a marginal decrease in Security Force (SF) personnel killed (121 in 2007 as against 168 in 2006).Comparative Fatalities in J&K, 2001-2007
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal database
According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in 2007 (till November), the number of militancy-related incidents was down by 33 per cent and that of civilians killed by 59 per cent and SF personnel by 28 per cent over the corresponding period of the previous year. According to the J&K Government/J&K Police, there were 1,054 incidents (till November 30) as against 1,667 in 2006. Over 4,000 illegal weapons, including AK-47 rifles, pistols/revolvers, UMGs/LMGs, rocket launchers/boosters and huge quantities of ammunition and explosives/IEDs were recovered in the State through 2007.
Diminished violence, however, did not indicate a necessary decline in the capacity for terrorism, and there are clear indications that the infrastructure that supports and sustains the Kashmir jihad remains intact in Pakistan. Official sources disclose that at least 52 terrorist training camps were still operating, including 30 in Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, and the rest in the area of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) referred to as Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). At least one-third of these camps are known to be "fully active" at any given point of time.
Moreover, the decrease in levels of violence in J&K is not due to any change in Pakistani intent, but is rather the consequence of "changes in capacities and compulsions in Pakistan." The multiplicity of crises in Pakistan has diluted Islamabad’s capacities to sustain past levels of terrorism in J&K – "particularly since a large proportion of troops had to be pulled back from the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border for deployment in increasingly violent theatres in Balochistan, NWFP [North West Frontier Province] and the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]… Pakistan's creeping implosion has undermined the establishment's capabilities to sustain the 'proxy war' against India at earlier levels." On a more general level, the secular decline in violence witnessed since September 2001 can be attributed to Pakistan’s compulsions arising out of its domestic difficulties, the ongoing peace process, the American and international pressure on Islamabad and the successes of the counter-insurgency grid in J&K. Official sources indicate that the ratio of SFs to terrorists killed has seen an upward trend from 1:3.6 in 2006 to 1:4.3 in 2007. This is a clear indication that the counter-insurgency grid is working well in J&K, and that any review of troop deployment at this juncture – a populist issue in the State – would fritter away the gains made by the SFs.
The decrease in jihadi violence in J&K has, however, been paralleled by a shift in the Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorists’ focus to the Indian heartland, with as many as 140 persons (all civilians) killed in Islamist terrorist attacks outside J&K through 2007, in locations as varied as Varanasi, Lucknow and Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, Ajmer in Rajasthan, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Panipat in Haryana. By comparison, 164 civilians were killed in jihadi terrorist attacks in the whole of J&K in 2007. These trends suggest that J&K is gradually emerging as a launching-pad for terrorist attacks across India. Investigations into these attacks have confirmed that each of them had linkages to the Kashmiri jihad in terms of human and logistics support. This shift in the pattern of violence from J&K to other locations offers Pakistan greater ‘deniability’, and also enables it to harness the grievances – real or perceived – among the Indian Muslims. Such a shift in strategy constitutes no radical departure, or even nuanced reorientation, of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)/jihadi agenda. It lies "entirely within the paradigm that has been sustained since the Zia-ul-Haq regime, and has progressively translated itself into the Islamist fundamentalist and terrorist movements in the region."
In J&K, SF operations have seen extraordinary successes in targeting the terrorist leadership. During 2007, eighty seven terrorist leaders were neutralised. Among the terrorist groups, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) was the worst hit. In 2007, 34 of its leaders, including two ‘divisional commanders’, five ‘district commanders’, eight ‘commanders’, four ‘battalion commanders’, and three ‘A category commanders’, were killed across the State, along with 307 HM militants. 22 leaders of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) including, four ‘divisional commanders’, five ‘district commanders’, five ‘commanders’, two ‘area commanders’, a ‘chief operations commander’, and two ‘section commanders’, were killed by the SFs in 2007. The year also saw 18 Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leaders, including one ‘divisional commander’, four ‘district commanders’, six ‘commanders’, and four ‘battalion commanders’, neutralised by SFs. Six ‘commander’ rank jihadis from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), three each from the Al Badr Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI), and one from the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) were also killed in 2007.
The top militants killed in 2007 included Bilal Afghani aka Chhotta Bilal, ‘chief commander’ of the Al Badr Mujahideen, on December 3, in Budgam; followed by Qari Umar (‘deputy chief’ of HuJI for J&K) on November 12 in Baramulla; Abu Hamza (‘chief operations commander’ of the JuM) on October 11 in Baramulla; Qasim Bhatti (‘chief operations commander’ of the LeT) on October 4 in Bandipora; Mohammed Shafi aka Nasir-ul-Islam (HM ‘divisional commander’) on September 26 in Doda; Aijaz Ahmed Chopan (‘chief operations commander’ of HM) on August 26 in Ramban; Abu Talah aka Taib (‘operations commander’ of LeT in the Jammu region) on August 8 in Kupwara; Mohammed Abid Hussain Basra aka Zargam (HM ‘divisional commander’) on August 1 in Doda; Mohammad Younis (‘commander-in-chief’, HM Pir Panjal Regiment) on March 1 in Rajouri; Mohammed Khalid-ur-Rehman (LeT’s ‘India Commander’) on July 18 in Doda; and Noor Mohammad aka Ansari (‘divisional commander’ of HuM) on January 20 in Doda. These fatalities continued a trend established over the previous years, with at least 101 terrorist leaders killed in 2006, adding to 125 killed in 2005. The HM has lost 179 ‘commanders’ at various levels since 2003; the LeT, 123; and JeM, 64. The tremendous rate of attrition at the leadership levels has made it difficult for the various terrorist groups to find replacements for their field commanders.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 15 Corps in Kashmir valley, Lt Gen A. S. Sekhon, stated on November 1, 2007, that there were 1,500 militants operating in the State, including 700 to 800, in the Kashmir Valley. Earlier, the GOC 16 Corps of the Northern Army Command, Lt. Gen. T. K. Sapru, had disclosed, on August 23, 2007, that nearly 200 Pakistan-trained militants had crossed over to the Indian side of the LoC in the preceding six months, while at least 400 militants, including a large number of foreigners, were operating in the Jammu region. Sapru added, further, that the proportion of foreign terrorists operating on the Indian side was just below 50 per cent, compared to the locals.
Infiltration into J&K during 2007 may have dropped marginally in comparison to the preceding two years. According to Sriprakash Jaiswal, Union Minister of State for Home, there were an estimated 499 cases of infiltration in 2007 (till October), whereas in 2005 and 2006, the figure was 597 and 573 respectively. Jaiswal disclosed further, on November 27, 2007, that these figures pertained to those militants who had been apprehended or killed while crossing the LoC/borders.
A.K. Mitra, Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF), on November 30, 2007, noted that, "A shift in the pattern of infiltration has been observed since 2005... the terror outfits infiltrate in large numbers across the international borders in order to succeed even after encounters with the Security Forces". He indicated that the risk involved in cutting the fence and making an entry point for a small group was the same as with larger groups. Due to the increased risk involved in crossing the borders, militants have tried unconventional methods and high-tech equipment for infiltration. Mitra disclosed that, "Though infiltration numerically has come down as compared to 2006, nevertheless the middle- or lower-level cadres continue to infiltrate through Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir." Official sources also said that, as infiltration attempts are more frequently foiled across the LoC, militants are increasingly using ingress routes via Nepal. Moreover, with the troops more effectively securing the conventional infiltration routes, the militants have reportedly changed tactics and now try to infiltrate through the "not-so-common" routes primarily in the hilly areas of the border Districts of Poonch (Mendhar, Balnoi, Balakote, Krishnaghati) and Rajouri (Bhimber Gali, Kanga Gali, Nowshera).
The Pakistan Army has also reportedly developed a new kind of "floating air pillow" for ingress via newly developed infiltration routes through rivers along the LoC and International Border in the Jammu sector. The "air pillows" were said to have been successfully used by a group of five militants to infiltrate into Indian territory from Munawar Tawi along Sunderbani-Khour sector on the Rajouri-Jammu border in November 2007.
The new ranks of militants in J&K are "more lethal, motivated and well qualified, who dare to seek direct contact with security forces", according to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Though fewer in number, the militants are now using new ways and means to sustain their operations not only in the State but across the Indian heartland. Deputy Inspector General (Ops) of CRPF, N. C. Nathanael, disclosed in Srinagar, on November 29, 2007, in his presentation on 'New Formats of Militancy and Violence in the Valley', that the militants now had a higher striking capability: "There are now long fire stand offs and frequent IED attacks… They (militants) try to work with low risk and high gains. Earlier, we used to search them but now they come pro-actively and strike." He added, further, "we have also seen single cell operations in which only one person operates and that way when the person is caught or the operation is successful no evidence is left." Militants are also attempting to harness advantages accruing from modern technology. According to Nathanael, "They have online terror training through which they try to motivate more and more youth. Besides, they use e-mails, SMS and mobiles for information and operation purposes. Earlier we could intercept the e-mails through servers, but now they are operating through a single mail address at two different places. They pass the password in a code message and use the same account which makes it difficult to intercept."
Nevertheless, the unstable domestic scenario in Pakistan has had an impact on the Kashmir jihad, though it has not led to any change in the intent or the infrastructure that orchestrates violence. There is, nonetheless, a definite pause. The momentary waning in intensity has led to some confusion within the jihadi rank and file. For instance, radio messages and phone calls across the LoC indicated that militants, preparing for a winter stay in the Kashmir Valley, were a worried lot with the declaration of the Emergency in Pakistan. Communication intercepts by Indian intelligence agencies brought out the "uncertainty and confusion" among militants who rely heavily on logistical support from their handlers in Pakistan. Their immediate anxiety, during that particular period, was whether the supply lines would continue. Intelligence officials disclosed, "The militants are currently in a state of confusion about the developments across the border. Even their handlers are not clear how things will shape in the future."
Within J&K, Islamabad is also endeavouring to raise a united political voice in its favour. To this end, it is attempting to engineer unity among various pro-Pakistan groups, including the two factions of the main secessionist formation, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). The objective appears to be to gradually transform the predominantly terrorist movement into a more wide-based movement of political extremism, backed by calibrated terrorist operations, to secure a stronger position at the negotiating table and achieve what has not been possible on the ground through terrorism alone.
Even as the troops continue to engage the terrorists, Indian Army sources claim that, with the increasing turmoil in Pakistan, ‘sleeper’ terrorist cells in J&K have been progressively activated and there is a possibility of a gradual upsurge in violence over the coming months. Intelligence sources suggest that militant groups could raise the stakes in an election year in J&K.
The proximity of elections has also brought enormous political pressure to bear on the populist issue of a troop cut in the State, but the Army insists that the situation is far from conducive to such a measure. Indeed, the ratio of troops in J&K is far below the troops-civilian ratio in violence-afflicted Waziristan in Pakistan or even in Chinese occupied Tibet. The J&K Governor, Lt. Gen. (Retd) S K Sinha, noted, on January 25, 2008, the eve of Republic Day, that "The ratio of deployment of troops, Army and paramilitary, to population in the region, excluding militancy-free Ladakh, is 1:40. This is less than 1:37 in Waziristan and 1:28 in Tibet."
Though violence levels are down and there is a perceptible improvement in normal life patterns in the State, there is no compelling rationale for a lowering of guard. Grave risks also loom large in the future: "if Western attention is diverted from the region, or if the Islamists in Pakistan are able to carve out autonomous capacities and regions, free of their dependence on the state's covert agencies, or if there is a radical escalation in the 'global jihad' in the wake of the proposed US withdrawal from Iraq in the foreseeable future, the developments in Kashmir could once again find the state unprepared as the situation spirals out of control."
The gains of 2007 cannot be allowed to lead to complacency. Pakistan’s intentions remain unchanged; its terrorist reserves are intact; Islamist terrorist groups have established some autonomous capacities for operation, independent of Pakistani state agencies; and the South Asia and wider Asian region teeters on the brink of spiralling instability. In the long war against Islamist terrorism, the partial relief in J&K could well prove the calm before a rising storm.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 28- February 03, 200
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
16 police stations in New Delhi prone to "Maoist infiltration": Delhi Police has identified 16 Police Stations as prone to "Maoist infiltration". 12 of these stations reportedly fall in the North West Police District. The threat has forced the security apparatus to plan for an anti-Naxalite cell in the city. Sources in Delhi Police said senior officers are in touch with their counterparts in the Maoist-affected States such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. "The arrangement is essentially for intelligence sharing to check the spread of ultra-Left extremism in Delhi," a Police source said. About the proposed anti-Naxalite cell, sources said it has been planned on the lines of the anti-terror unit of the Special Cell. Sources stated that "Unlike the Special Cell, which attempts to thwart terrorist activities in general, the focus of this cell would entirely be on containing Maoist extremism." Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal neither confirmed nor denied the proposal of forming an anti-Naxalite cell but said that the city Police are looking into Naxalite menace with "seriousness". Indian Express, January 29, 2008.
Terrorists planned blasts in Goa: Interrogation reports of Hyderabad resident Raziuddin Nasir, who had reportedly undergone training at a Harkat-ul Jihad-i Islami (HuJI) camp in Pakistan, revealed that militant groups had planned serial blasts on Goa beaches. Nasir, who is being interrogated by intelligence agencies and the Police departments of more than 12 States, after being arrested sometime in January 2008 in Karnataka, disclosed that the purpose of his visit to Goa immediately after the twin blasts in Hyderabad on August 25, was to identify beaches for organising serial blasts. The arrival of foreign tourists in droves, especially Israelis, seemed to have put the beaches on the target list of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and HuJI operatives. To that effect motorcycles had been stolen by Nasir and his accomplice Asaduddin Abubakar of Karnataka and these were meant to be used as bombs on a few select beaches. The Davangere police seized 11 stolen motorcycles on the basis of the statements of Nasir and Abubakar. The Hindu, February 2, 2008.
ISI hires Dawood Ibrahim to kill L. K. Advani and Narendra Modi: Security around former Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was reviewed on January 29, following intelligence inputs that "Global Terrorist" Dawood Ibrahim had been asked by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to assassinate them. The inputs to central agencies have come from various sources indicating that Dawood had been approached by the ISI to carry out the plot. The intelligence inputs suggested that Dawood, who has been designated by the US as a global terrorist having links with al Qaeda, had been roped in after several sleeper cells of various terror groups failed to execute the plan. Rediff, January 30, 2008.
White House, London and New York are my targets, says Baitullah Mehsud: Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud said in an interview with Al Jazeera that he wanted to destroy the White House, New York and London. "Very soon, we will be witnessing jihad’s miracles," he said in his first-ever television interview. "Our primary aim is to finish Britain [and] the US, and to crush the pride of the non-Muslims," Baitullah told Admad Zaidan, Al Jazeera bureau chief in Islamabad, at an undisclosed location. Baitullah Mehsud accused President Pervez Musharraf of working for the interests of "the nonbelievers". He said his coalition would fight back and "teach him a lesson". Mehsud said the Taliban coalition was carrying out a "defensive jihad". "The Army is bombarding our houses and fighting with us," he said, adding "We have formed this coalition to guarantee the safety of civilians." Daily Times, January 30, 2008.
Senior al Qaeda commander Abu Laith Al-Libi killed: Senior al Qaeda commander Abu Laith Al-Libi has been killed in Pakistan, CNN quoted, "a knowledgeable Western official and an unnamed military official" as saying. The 41-year-old Libyan was active in operational planning and training, and according to the US official, "not far below the importance of the top two al Qaeda leaders" – Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He was placed on the US military’s most wanted list in 2006, behind Laden, Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Daily Times, February 1, 2008.
Six militant outfits operating in Darra Adam Khel: Six militant outfits appear to be operating in Darra Adam Khel, with two having extended their sway to within 20 kilometers of Peshawar, officials and residents fleeing the area claimed. Darra Adam Khel, 40 kilometers south of Peshawar, capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), is well known for illegal arms dealing. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Muslim United Army International, and the local Taliban have been "active in the area since mid-2005," said a former Darra resident, who used to live near a militant stronghold in Mazeedkhel.
Asking not to be named for fear of reprisal, the Mazeedkhel resident disclosed that the militants had set up around eight training camps in different parts of Darra Adam Khel, adding that foreign militants were imparting training to members of the local Taliban there. "In these training camps, basic military training is imparted, and they send potential suicide bombers to South Waziristan for further four-months of training," said the resident who travelled to Peshawar to flee the military operation targeting militants.
Officials in Peshawar confirmed the presence of the militant groups in Darra, adding that the groups had focused on "extending sway" to Peshawar. They said, "Today, both the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad have a strong presence within 20 kilometers of Peshawar." The unnamed officials said, "The fact of the matter is that some of the groups, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are very active around Peshawar and Kohat District, especially in areas close to the Kohat-Rawalpindi Highway." The officials also stated that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was the "most active group" in Darra. Daily Times, January 29, 2008.
20 civilians killed 50 others injured in blast in Dambolla bus stand: At least 20 passengers aboard a bus were killed and 50 others injured when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants detonated an explosive device at Dambulla Bus Stand in the Matale District on February 2. The bus was to play on the Kandy–Anuradhapura road. Initial reports quoting Dambulla Police said that many Buddhist devotees on a pilgrimage to the sacred Anuradhapura city were among the dead and injured. Sri Lanka Army, February 2, 2008.
12 people killed in suicide attack in Colombo: At least 12 civilians were killed and 100 injured in a suicide attack by the LTTE at Colombo’s Fort Railway Station in the afternoon of February 3. The blast, coming on the eve of the country’s 60th Independence Day, is the fourth in a series targeting civilians since the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) between the Government and the outfit formally ended on January 16. The Police said the explosion was carried out by a female suicide-bomber who got down from a train in the station minutes before the blast. The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry, in a statement, said the recent attacks by the LTTE in the south bore "clear indications of the outfit’s desperation over the ignominious defeats" that it was encountering on the northern battlefronts. It also highlighted the need for national solidarity to bring an end to "this brutal terrorism." The Hindu , February 4, 2008.
LTTE urges United Nations to recognise 'Tamil sovereignty': The LTTE has urged the United Nations (UN) to recognise 'Tamil sovereignty' to end the 25-year-old ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, accusing the Sri Lankan Government of committing excesses against the minority community in the country. "We urge you to consider recognising Tamil sovereignty as a constructive approach to end the five decades-long, large-scale, and serious rights violations against the Tamil people," the LTTE political head, B. Nadesan, said in a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on January 30. "It should also be obvious to the international community that there is only one path open to regain the rights of the Tamil people and that is for the international community to recognize the sovereignty of the Tamil nation," Nadesan said. Rediff , January 31, 2008.
United Nations say LTTE and Karuna faction recruiting children from North and East: The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the LTTE and its breakaway faction led by ‘Colonel’ Karuna, of recruiting children from the North and East, in a report looking at Children in War. In a new report issued on January 29, Ban Ki-moon said, child recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is taking place in more than a dozen countries around the world. The UNICEF has also received confirmed reports that 246 children had been recruited or re-recruited by the Karuna group during the reporting period. "There have been reports that the Karuna faction has abducted and recruited children from IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in Sri Lanka, while in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), children have been recruited from camps in North Kivu Province by forces loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda". The Hindu , February 1, 2008.
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