SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
"Islam is our nation," thundered Mohammad Amir Shakeel Ahmad at the Students Islamic Movement of India’s (SIMI’s) 1999 convention in Aurangabad, "not India."
Ahmad was one of hundreds of SIMI cadre who, at that decisive meeting of the now-proscribed Islamist group, joined in the terrorist networks which have since carried out strikes across India. He was arrested in 2005 for smuggling in military-grade explosives and assault rifles for a planned series of attacks in Gujarat, along with over a dozen other SIMI-linked Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives.
Listening in the audience that day in 1999, was a slight, soft-spoken man who was moved enough by the speech to give his life for SIMI. Mohammad Abrar Qasim, then a Wardha-based student of dentistry, had been recruited into SIMI in 1993, after attending his first meeting at the Jamia Masjid mosque in Mominpora — the Mumbai slum where the first Lashkar networks in India had formed.
Six years later, fired by what he heard at the Aurangabad conference, Qasim became a full-time SIMI worker, using his earnings as a dentist to serve as its Nagpur ‘in-charge’ and then its Bihar ‘chief’. He even married Amara Qasim, the daughter of Ziauddin Siddiqi — the SIMI leader whose inflammatory speeches led to criminal charges first being filed against the organisation.
But somewhere along the line, the stories of Ahmad and Qasim diverged. Last month, Qasim walked into a Nagpur court, and announced that he wished to surrender to the authorities. Startled court clerks listened as Qasim announced that he had been wanted by the Maharashtra Police ever since the Mumbai serial bombings of July 11, 2006, but now wished to clear his name.
In the weeks since he surrendered, Qasim has been telling officials that SIMI’s links with terror are the work of a hardline minority. Most of SIMI’s rank-and-file, he claims, wish to emerge from the shadows. "Moderates in SIMI want to come overground," Qasim told one Police official who interrogated him, "because we have nothing to hide."
Back in January 2006, former SIMI president Shahid Badr Falahi called a meeting of core SIMI activists — Qasim among them — at Aluva, Kerala.
Under the cover of a summit of the National Urdu Promotion Council, the group elected new office-bearers, who it tasked with lobbying politicians and religious leaders to have the 2001 ban on SIMI revoked. Most of the team led by the new SIMI President, West Bengal resident Mohammad Misbah-ul-Haq, were anti-jihad political Islamists. Key office-bearers, such as Kalim Akhtar, Shahbaz Husain, Abdul Majid, Noman Badr, Saif Nachan and Minaz Nachan, believed that SIMI’s jihad links had hurt both the organisation and Muslims as whole.
But one team member didn’t share their beliefs. Shibly Peedical Abdul, a computer engineer from Kerala, who escaped the February 2008 Police sweep against terror suspects in Karnataka, was among the jihadist SIMI operatives thought to have helped organise the July 2006 serial bombing of Mumbai. The bombings killed 209 people and injured 704. Abdul fled Bangalore hours after the arrest of SIMI operative Ehtesham Siddiqui, who police say helped execute the bombings. So, too, did SIMI political Islamists.
It wasn’t until January 2007 that the political Islamists were able to meet again. A senior New Delhi-based Jamaat-e-Islami leader was in attendance this time, attempting to persuade the new leadership to surrender. "Misbah-ud-Din called Abdul in the middle of the meeting," one participant told SAIR, "and demanded to know why SIMI cadre had participated in the Mumbai attacks. Abdul admitted the jihadists had met in Ujjain just a week before the terror strikes. He said the jihadists would continue their activities, and accused us of selling out."
With no hope a compromise could be reached, SIMI political Islamists met again at Calicut in Kerala, from November 12-14, 2007. If SIMI was to ever function as a political organisation, Misbah-ud-Din said, its leaders would have to face prosecution. Qasim, fed up with life on the run, offered to go first. "The idea," says a senior SIMI functionary, "was to see if it would open some doors."
Will it? While one faction within SIMI is rethinking its future, so too are the terrorists. Abdul’s case — and that of the networks he commanded in Bangalore – is instructive.
If Bangalore needed a face to advertise the new India it represents, the city needn’t have looked beyond Abdul: now its most wanted terrorist. From small-town origins in Kerala, Abdul built a successful career at a multinational company and even set up his own firm.
But when police arrested Lashkar-linked Andhra Pradesh resident Raziuddin Nasir in January 2008 and Kerala-origin computer engineer Yahya Kamakutty in Febuary 2008 — key operatives, Police say, of a terror cell planning bombings in Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai — it has become evident he represented a very different kind of project to reinvent India.
Police in Bangalore began paying serious attention to the Abdul-led SIMI network after the 2006 Mumbai serial bombings. Siddiqui, who had served as SIMI’s Maharashtra general secretary, told police he had been in regular contact with three Bangalore residents. All three men, it transpired, were successful professionals — very different from stereotypical SIMI recruits. One of Siddiqi’s Bangalore contacts, computer technician Muzammil Ata-ur-Rehman Sheikh, is now being tried for his role in the serial bombings along with his brother, Faisal Sheikh. Siddiqui also named Kamakutty and Abdul.
Operating through SARANI, a religious front-organisation, Abdul had recruited over a dozen local men—the core of the cell discovered in February. Most of SARANI’s work was religious. In one e-mail to Kamakutty, Abdul demanded members observe the fajr namaaz, or dawn prayers. In another, he asked them to avoid debates with rival Islamists. Just how much the recruits knew about Abdul’s real agenda is unclear.
Behind the scenes, though, Abdul was preparing for war. In 2004, investigators later found, he delivered at least one consignment of weapons in preparation for terror strikes. Rashid Husain, a Bihar-based SIMI activist who also had links to the Jammu and Kashmir-based Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is thought to have organised the operation. Later, Abdul is believed to have participated a conclave of SIMI members at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh from July 4-7, 2006, where plans to revitalise the jihad in India were discussed. Several members of the cell which executed the Mumbai serial bombings later that year participated. Abdul also set up Fatah Business Solutions, a firm suspected to have laundered terror funds.
Soon after Siddiqui’s arrest, though, Abdul disappeared. Police now had to make a difficult call. Although Kamakutty had long been known to be involved with SIMI’s terror cells—notably having worked with Muhammad Faisal Khan, who helped organise the 2003 serial bombings in Mumbai — he was left untouched, in the hope that he would lead the Police to Abdul. After Nasir’s arrest in February 2008, though, Yahya was finally held. Of Abdul, however, there is still no trace. Nor have at least two dozen men thought to have attended the Islamist groups they founded, been located.
Nasir’s plans were at an early stage — he possessed only crude pistols and some low-grade explosive — but others may be further down the road to a strike.
SIMI’s political Islamists and terrorists seem, then, to be running on parallel tracks — racing, as it were, to shape the outcome of the most successful contemporary mobilisation of the Muslim ultra-right in India. Who is likely to win?
In some senses, the political Islamists are fighting against the tide of history. Like many other south Asian Islamist movements, SIMI’s genesis lies in the Jamaat-e-Islami. Established in 1941 by the influential Islamist ideologue Syed Abu Ala Maududi, the Jamaat-e-Islami went on to emerge as a major political party in Pakistan, fighting for the creation of a Shariah-governed state.
In India, however, the Jamaat gradually transformed itself into a cultural organisation committed to propagating neoconservative Islam amongst Muslims. It set up networks of schools and study circles, devoted to combating the growing post-independence influence of communism and socialism. A student wing, the Students’ Islamic Organisation (SIO), was set up in 1956, with its headquarters at Aligarh. As Muslims in north India were battered by communal violence the Jamaat slowly moved away from Maududi’s hostility to secularism. It began arguing that the secular state needed to be defended, as the sole alternative was a Hindu-communalist state — an argument still made by Jamaat leaders in areas like northern Kerala.
SIMI was formed in April, 1977, as an effort to revitalise the SIO. Building on the SIO networks in Uttar Pradesh, SIMI reached out to Jamaat-linked Muslim students’ groups in Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar and Kerala. From the outset, SIMI made clear its belief that the practice of Islam was essentially a political project. In the long term, SIMI sought to re-establish the caliphate, without which it felt the practice of Islam would remain incomplete. Muslims who were comfortable living in secular societies, its pamphlets warned, were headed to hell.
Winds from the west gave this ideology an increasingly hard edge. Its leadership was drawn to the Islamist regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq’s in Pakistan. SIMI threw its weight behind the United States-backed mujahideen fighting the Soviet Union and the socialist regime in Afghanistan, and the forces of Sunni reaction in west Asia. "SIMI’s rhetoric," the scholar Yoginder Sikand has recorded, "grew combative and vitriolic, insisting that Islam alone was the solution to the problems of not just the Muslims of India, but of all Indians and, indeed, of the whole world."
Alarmed at this course of developments, elements of the Jamaat leadership sought to distance themselves from SIMI. Others in the Jamaat, incensed at what they saw as the organisation’s betrayal of Maududi’s authentic Islamism, resisted the moderates. In 1982, a compromise was brokered: the Jamaat formally distanced itself from SIMI, but both organisations, in practice, retained a cordial relationship.
Part of the reason for SIMI’s spectacular growth after 1982 lay in the support it gained from Islamists in west Asia, notably the Kuwait-based World Association of Muslim Youth and the Saudi Arabia-funded International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations. Generous funding from west Asia helped it establish a welter of magazines – Islamic Movement in Urdu, Hindi and English, Iqra in Gujarati, Rupantar in Bengali, Sedi Malar in Tamil and Vivekam in Malayalam – that propagated the idea of an Islamic revolution. SIMI also set up a special wing, the Tehreek Tulba e-Arabiya [Movement of Students of Arabic], to build networks among madrassa students, as well as the Shaheen Force, which targeted children
Much of SIMI’s time was spent on persuading its recruits that Islam alone offered solutions to the challenges of the modern life. In 1982, for example, it organised an anti-immorality week, where supposedly obscene literature was burned. A year later, in an effort to compete with the left in Kerala, SIMI held an anti-capitalism week – but held out Islam, rather than socialism, as the solution. SIMI also worked extensively with victims of communal violence, and provided educational services for poor Muslims.
SIMI’s polemic appealed to the growing class of lower-middle class and middle-class urban men who felt cheated of their share of the rising economic opportunities opening up in India. Hit by communal bias and educational backwardness, this class of disenfranchised youth were drawn to SIMI’s attacks on Hindu polytheism and western decadence. The organisation’s claims that there could be justice for Muslims only in a Shariah-based order resonated with communities battered by decades of communal violence, often backed by the Indian state. As Sikand has perceptively noted, the organisation provided "its supporters a sense of power and agency which they were denied in their actual lives." By 2001, SIMI had over 400 Ansar, or full-time workers, and 20,000 Ikhwan, or volunteers.
Towards the end of 1991, SIMI began its turn towards terror — an event precipitated by the Ram Janambhoomi movement, but one for which the ideological foundations had long been laid. Soon after the tragic events of December 6, 1992, and the pogroms which followed it, SIMI president Falahi demanded that "Muslims organise themselves and stand up to defend the community." Another SIMI leader, Abdul Aziz Salafi, demanded action to show that Muslims "would now refuse to sit low."
What that meant in practice soon became evident. On the first anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, SIMI-linked LeT operatives Jalees Ansari, Mohammad Azam Ghauri, Abdul Karim ‘Tunda’ and Mohammad Tufail Husaini — the first in jail, the second dead, the third still missing, and the last now wanted for his possible role in the November 23, 2007, serial bombings in Uttar Pradesh — carried out a series of reprisal terror strikes across India. Their organisation, the Mujahideen Islam e-Hind, is thought to have been a precursor to the Indian Mujahideen, which claimed responsibility for the November 23, 2007, attacks on Court premises across Uttar Pradesh.
Growing numbers of SIMI members followed in their footsteps, making their way to LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI) training camps, but SIMI leaders continued to insist their organisation itself had nothing to do with terrorism. Its polemics, however, became increasingly bitter. In a 1996 statement, SIMI declared that since democracy and secularism had failed to protect Muslims, the sole option was to struggle for the caliphate. Soon after, SIMI posters called on Muslims to follow the path of the eleventh-century conqueror Mahmood Ghaznavi, and appealed to God to send down a latter-day avatar to avenge the destruction of mosques in India.
By the time of SIMI’s 1999 Aurangabad convention, the ground-level manifestations of this ugly polemic were only too evident. Many of the speeches delivered by delegates were frankly inflammatory. Among those listening to the speech was 1993 bomber Azam Ghauri who, by the accounts of some of those present, was offered the leadership of SIMI.
When 25,000 SIMI delegates met in Mumbai in 2001, at what was to be its last public convention, the organisation, for the first time, called on its supporters to turn to jihad. Soon after the convention, al-Qaeda carried out its bombings of New York and Washington, D.C. SIMI activists organised demonstrations in support of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin-Laden, hailing him as a "true mujahid," and celebrating the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Writing in 2001, in an article published just after the convention, the commentator Javed Anand recalled seeing stickers pasted "in large numbers in Muslim shops and homes, a thick red ‘NO’ splashed across the words DEMOCRACY, NATIONALISM, POLYTHEISM. ‘ONLY ALLAH!’ exclaims SIMI’s punch-line."
Despite SIMI’s proscription, the Bangalore arrests show, the terror networks founded at that time continue to thrive—and grow. It is, most likely, too late for the political Islamists to turn back the tide.
In Maharashtra, a relatively secure State of the country, with a demonstrated ability to take on the ‘people’s war’ of the Communist Party of India–Maoist (CPI-Maoist), the rebels have put a two-pronged strategy into play. While the conventional ‘protracted war’ is being played out in the impoverished eastern Vidarbha region of the State, a silent operation is on in the flourishing western industrial townships. The security forces (SFs) have been able to keep the Maoists at bay in the east, but the western Districts are clearly in jeopardy, unless a serious attempt is made to secure their future.
Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data indicated a significant decline in Left Wing Extremist (LWE) related violence in 2007 compared to the previous year. In 2007, 30 fatalities were recorded in 94 incidents in Maharashtra. The slide in the situation noticeable in 2005 and 2006 – with 56 and 61 fatalities, respectively – largely appeared to have been arrested, although the civilians constituted 77 per cent of the total LWE related fatalities recorded in 2007.Maharashtra: Left-wing Extremism related fatalities: 2003-2007
Source: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Six out of the seven LWE affected Districts in the state (Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondia, Yavatmal and Nanded), out of a total 35, are located in the eastern part of the State [Nashik being the only affected District in the west], in the economically backward Vidarbha region, sharing borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Geographical contiguity with, and the ‘spill over’ from, the Maoist affected Districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar and Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, as well as Rajnandgaon, Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, have been described as the principal reason for the extremist mobilisation in eastern Maharashtra.
According to State Police sources, at one point of time, the CPI-Maoist had established more than 22 units in Gadchiroli, comprising 200 office-bearers, out of which 162 were male and 38 female. These units, reporting directly to the party’s politburo, functioned through a further 325 village units, which, together, had 7,825 members. Activities of these cadres ensured that, throughout 2007, at least 28 villages had a janathana sarkar (people’s government), which, in Maoist parlance, were the ‘embryonic stage of organs of real people’s power’. Maoist front organisations like the ‘Deshbhakti Yuva Manch’ (Patriotic Youth Forum) spread the revolutionary message and imparted training to the youth.
Clinical Police operations since 2005 are said to have disrupted the Maoist dominance in the eastern belt through a series of arrests and surrenders. According to State Police Headquarters, 11 top commanders of the outfit have been arrested in the State between 2006 and 2007. During the same period, another 122 cadres surrendered. Further, in January 2008, 55 Maoists surrendered with 28 weapons in the Gadchiroli District. The Police claim that the Gaonbandi (no entry to the villages) scheme, being implemented since 2003, to prevent the Maoists from exploiting, mobilizing and recruiting the villagers, was carried out in 242 villages. These villages, through their panchayats (village level self government institution) passed a resolution barring entry to the Maoists and were provided with INR 300,000 each. As a result, Maoist recruitment in both Gadchiroli and Chandrapur Districts is said to have been drastically reduced, forcing the outfit to wind up several of its dalams (armed squads) in the Gadchiroli and Gondia Districts by June 2007, and shifting existing cadres into Chhattisgarh. The dalams that have folded up include the Gamini, Kotagaon, Dhanora and Jimmalgatta squads.
The trajectory of mobilisation in urban areas, however, is troubling. While such strategy has simply failed to take off in many states including those which have been severely affected by the Maoist people’s war, noticeable progress appears to have been achieved in Maharashtra’s western region – arrests of some of the top cadres not withstanding. In fact, the Police ‘successes’ in the east could have been a factor behind the Maoist mobilisation in the west. To that effect, the urban centres of western Maharashtra could become the first victims of the Maoist engulfment, if current levels of the rebels’ activities are allowed to persist.
On May 8, 2007, the Nagpur Police arrested Arun Ferreira, the Maoist communications and propaganda strategist, and a Maoist ‘divisional secretary’ Murali Sattya Reddy, from the Deekshabhoomi area. Subsequent investigations revealed Ferreira’s seven-year long history of mobilising support and organising Maoist activities in the Vidarbha region. Three months later, on August 19, two Maoists – Vishnu alias Shridhar Shrinivasan, Maharashtra ‘State secretary’ and a member of the central politburo, and Vikram alias Vernon Gonzalves, a Maharashtra State Committee member – were arrested from the outskirts of Mumbai. A day later, on August 20, in a joint operation with the Andhra Pradesh Police, the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra Police arrested K.D. Rao, a lawyer practising in the Bombay High Court, outside the YMCA hostel near Colaba in Mumbai, for his alleged links with the Maoists and involvement in the killing of a Police officer six years earlier.
These arrests, apart from indicating the ‘successes’ for the Maharashtra Police, were also a rude awakener, suggesting that Maharashtra’s urban centres could emerge as the next-generation battlefield of the Maoists. This broad objective has been made clear in one of the most comprehensive Maoist documents on the subject, "Urban Perspective: Our Work in Urban Areas". The document is now reportedly being revised by a five-member Urban Sub-Committee (USC), formed some time in January 2007. The new document is likely to focus on past successes and failures at ‘mass mobilisation and party building’ in organised and unorganised economic sectors in the urban areas. It is most likely that the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) planned in Navi Mumbai encompassing Dronagiri, Kalamboli, Ulwe and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) areas would receive due attention of the USC.
While no arrest of the Maoists has taken place in western Maharashtra since August 2007, State Police sources indicated in the last week of February 2008 that at least 75 Maoist sympathisers were currently based in Mumbai and were engaged in propagating their ideology, setting up secret cells and front organisations, and recruiting people. The general targets of this advance force were trade and labour unions, the poor and students – but their strategies of mobilisation were extremely focused, looking at small sub-groups within these broad categories, who had specific grievances that could be harnessed. The Mumbai City Police are currently in the process of identifying and preparing dossiers on this core group. Mumbai is also being used as a resting, planning and recruitment location. Police claim to have definite information about injured Maoists from other States reaching the city for treatment, education and relaxation. Similarly, intelligence sources indicate that Maoist front organisations have begun spreading their tentacles into rural Thane, an industrial District barely 100 kilometres north from Mumbai. This western District’s tribal and backward taluks (revenue division) including Jawahar and Mokhada have been the most vulnerable to Maoist mobilisation.
The orientation of the anti-Maoist strategy in Maharashtra appears to be prejudiced heavily towards containing visible capacities for violence. Accordingly, the Maharashtra Police have invested substantially in augmenting the fighting capabilities of its Force in areas affected by such violence. The focus of attention and concentration of SFs has, consequently, been most visible in the eastern region, where the Maoists are engaged in guerrilla actions. Comparatively less attention appears to have been focused on the western Districts, where, senior Police officials note, "there is no armed activity." This lack of armed activity, in all probability, is likely to continue till the Maoists manage to bridge the 700 kilometre gap between Yavatmal (the inner most affected District in the east) and Mumbai, by way of establishing a regime of sympathisers, over ground workers, and networks to facilitate the initiation of armed activity.
At the forefront of anti-Maoist operations in the Vidarbha region is a Special Action Group (SAG) of 300 specially trained Armed Police personnel, raised in 2006 on the lines of the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh. Trained at the Unconventional Operations Training Centre (UOTC) at Hingana on the outskirts of Nagpur, SAG personnel have been deployed in Gadchiroli, Gondia and Bhandara Districts. The Director General of Police (DGP) on March 10, 2008, spoke of setting up another specialised force to combat the Maoists in the State. Maharashtra also boasts of a numerically robust Police force compared to the national average, though it still remains below international prescribed norms in terms of Police-population ratios. The Police population ratio in Maharashtra stands at 147 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 122. Police density (Policemen per 100 square kilometres) is 49.9 compared to the country-wide average of 42.5.
These figures, however, camouflage a serious shortage of fighting forces within the State Police. The ratio between civil Police and armed Police in Maharashtra stands at 1:91.2 (national average is 1:77.4), indicating that only a meagre 8.8 per cent of the (actual) Police force of 153,628 is available for armed operations against lawbreakers, including the Maoists. In comparison, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have 16 and 39.7 per cent of their respective Police Forces in the ‘Armed’ category.
A 15 per cent vacancy against sanctioned posts among the armed Police makes Maharashtra even more vulnerable. Against a sanctioned strength of 16,040 armed police personnel, the actual strength stood at 13,539 on December 31, 2006. Worse, the armed Police has been left leaderless over protracted periods, with, for instance, all four sanctioned posts at the top levels of Director General (DG)/Additional DG/Inspector General (IG)/ Deputy IG vacant as on December 31, 2006. Wide vacancies also existed in the lower ranks. A 78 per cent vacancy existed among the ranks of the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP)/ Superintendent of Police (SP)/ Additional SP/Assistant SP and Deputy SP (17 of 79 sanctioned posts were filled). In the Inspectors/Sub-Inspectors (SI)/ Assistant Sub-Inspectors (ASI) category, the vacancy was 21 per cent and personnel below the ASI rank was handicapped by a 14 per cent vacancy. Such vacancies cannot be ‘acceptable’ even under present circumstances, where operations concentrated in just the six Districts of the east. They would be disastrous in the event of the probable Maoist expansion into the western region of the State.
Maoist strategies have unfolded systematically across various States of the country, but have constantly taken security planners by surprise. In the case of Maharashtra, while operational successes by the Police are, no doubt, significant, much more will be needed in terms of a strategy of containment and defence against the creeping Maoist consolidation in widening areas of the State, especially in the western Districts. Police ‘successes’ in the east notwithstanding, the Maoist challenge can be expected to hang heavy over the State in the foreseeable future.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 10-16, 2008
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Police kills five suspected Maoists: Bhutan police said that they have killed at least five suspected Maoists in various operations over the last week. 17 suspected Maoists have also been arrested in the recent raids, officials said. An unnamed senior Bhutanese Police official said they had raided two small Maoist camps in the jungles in the south of the country and arrested at least eight Maoists, including a ‘commander’, along with weapons. BBC, March 12, 2008.
Operational Chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba and two soldiers killed in Jammu and Kashmir: Security forces (SFs) killed Hafiz Naasir, one of the most wanted militants and the Kashmir valley ‘chief’ of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), in an encounter at village Chatlura near Sopore town in the Baramulla District on March 16, 2008. Lt. Col. M. S. Kadam, the officiating Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles (22 Battalion), and another soldier, identified as Pradeep Kumar, are reported to have died and four SF personnel injured in the encounter. Hafiz Naasir, a Pakistani militant, had been appointed some time in 2007 as LeT operational chief for Kashmir, after working in the Valley for about ten years. Deputy Inspector General of Police (north Kashmir), Dr. B Srinivas, described Naasir as the most wanted militant in the Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara Districts. Daily Excelsior, March 17, 2008.
Maoists have INR 600 million budget for weaponry and explosives: The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has built up a budget of INR 600 million to buy weapons and explosives, the Government said. The spending covers a procurement drive from 2007 to 2009, Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal said, in a written statement in Parliament on March 11, 2008, citing a Maoist insurgent arrested in the eastern State of Jharkhand. Bloomberg, March 11, 2008.
30 persons killed in twin suicide attacks in Lahore: At least 30 people were killed and more than 200 sustained injuries in suicide blasts at the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters and an advertising agency office in Lahore on March 11, 2008. The first attack was carried out at the FIA regional headquarters on Temple Road, severely damaging the eight-storey establishment and adjacent buildings. The building also housed the offices of a special US-trained counter-terrorism unit. The suicide bombers on a pick-up rammed through the gate of the building, running over a policeman before blowing up the vehicle. The second attack was carried out on Bungalow No 83/F in Model Town – the office of an advertising agency. Two children and a gardener died in the bombing and about 12 people were injured. The advertising agency is located near Bilawal House, office of the Pakistan People’s Party. Police said around 50kg and 30kg of explosives, respectively, had been used in the two attacks. Daily Times; Dawn, March 12, 2008.
LTTE ready for conditional talks: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have expressed readiness to hold talks with the Government if it halted the military operations against them, but warned that the offer should not be seen as "any desperation" on their part to stop the war. "The LTTE is prepared to commence negotiations with the Sri Lankan Government if the Government security forces are ordered to halt their military operations. It was the Government which started the war," the LTTE political head P. Nadesan told a group of Parliamentarians from the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance in Wanni recently. "The offer of the LTTE for a ceasefire and talks should not be construed as any desperation on our (LTTE’s) part to stop the war. The ball is in the Sri Lankan Government's court. It was they who started the armed attack," Nadesan was quoted as saying, by Suresh Premachandran, a TNA parliamentarian from Jaffna District, who was present at the meeting. Times of India, March 16, 2008.
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