SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Two light aircrafts of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out an air attack on the security forces (SFs) forward positions in Welioya, 280-kilometre northeast of Colombo in the morning of April 27, 2008, but no injuries or damages were caused in the ‘air raid’, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara disclosed, adding, "The LTTE planes have returned safely to their hideouts in the Wanni after dropping three bombs."
Earlier, the LTTE took control of the Madhu Catholic Church and asked the priests to remove the famous statue, known as ‘Our Lady of Madhu', from the shrine, leading to the vacation of the church for the first time in 400 years – on April 3, 2008. However, the Tigers left the Church Premises on April 24, after realising that they had been surrounded by the SFs. The Church was finally handed over to the Mannar Bishop on April 26.
The capture of the Church failed to yield desired result – as a base to launch attacks on troops as well as to defame the Government if it attacked and damaged the Church in its bid to throw out the militants – since the LTTE had to evacuate it. But, with the failed air raid, these remained symbolic of the sheer desperation that is creeping into the rebel leadership because of the SFs continuous advances into the LTTE-controlled areas of North, the loss of public support in the East and the global onslaught targeting the organisation’s fund raising and arms procurement agenda and infrastructure across the globe.
The SFs, which gained effective control of the Eastern Province in July 2007, have now been pushing the LTTE further north in their endeavour to completely wipe out the rebellion. The Army has made substantial gains in the battle fields of Mannar, Jaffna and Vavuniya. Some of the major gains of the troops in 2008 include the following:
The troops’ advance on the Northern Front has resulted in high casualties among the LTTE ranks. More than 3000 LTTE militants have been killed in the first four months of 2008, as compared to 570 in the corresponding period of 2007, and a total of 3,352 for the entire year 2007. The dead include many senior leaders, prominent among them being the Chief of the ‘Liberation Tigers Military Intelligence’, self-styled ‘Colonel’ Charles aka. Shanmuganathan Ravishankar – deputy to Pottu Amman, the chief of the LTTE’s intelligence wing – who was killed in a ‘random claymore attack’ by the Sri Lanka Army’s Deep Penetration Unit at Pallamadu in the Mannar District on January 5, along with three LTTE ‘lieutenants’. Further on January 9, the outfit’s Eastern leader, Shanker, was killed by the troops in the Shaukade area of Batticaloa District.
The loss of huge numbers of cadre has dealt a body blow to the Tigers fighting force. Corroborating the fact, the Army Chief Sarath Fonseka stated, on April 29, that the LTTE was reluctant to use its best fighting cadres after the fall of the East and was encountering a severe manpower shortage with cadres deployed in the Wanni fronts composed mainly of conscripted young people, Sea Tigers (the Sea Wing of the LTTE) and those recruited for the LTTE police force. Media reports also indicate that women are being forced to join the LTTE, according to letters purportedly recovered from slain woman militants in Sri Lanka. "Every LTTE cadre is anxious to see his or her parents and I will come home for Pongal (harvest festival – January 14) though I do not know what my fate will be," said one letter recovered by security forces from a slain woman militant. "Amma, what can I do? When all those at home in the area were taken away, I too had to go with them (LTTE)," said another, which was released by the Media Centre for National Security.
Apart from losing cadres in large numbers in battle against the Army’s ground forces, the LTTE has suffered severe material damage inflicted by more than 50 air raids carried out by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in 2008, which targeted the outfit’s communication centres, training centres, and military bases often visited by senior leaders in the LTTE’s last citadels in the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts. In one such incident the SLAF on February 22 bombed an inland Sea Tiger base in the Kiranchi area of Kilinochchi District, killing self-styled ‘Lt. Colonel’ Kalai Arasi’, ‘Major’ Thuwarika and ‘Lt.’ Senthamani.
The LTTE is also worried about the loss of public support for its cause – the creation of a ‘Tamil Eelam’. The successful completion of the Batticaloa elections – though the installation of the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), a political party formed by the breakaway ‘Karuna’ faction of the LTTE, now led by Sivanesathurai Chandrakanttan aka Pilliyan is a source of worry – despite an LTTE boycott, has given the Tigers a great deal to ponder on. The subsequent announcement of the Eastern Provincial Elections scheduled to be held on May 10 has almost assured the fact that the LTTE will have no more say in the Eastern swathe of land where people, at one time, used to swear in the name of the rebel group.
These developments have made the Tigers frantic. It has been a pattern on part of the LTTE to attempt to raise the stakes by carrying out terrorist attacks targeting civilians and political leaders whenever it faces reverses on the battle field. The LTTE has, consequently, unleashed a wave of terrorist attacks since the Government’s January 3, 2008, unilateral decision to abrogate the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) and the subsequent formal annulment of the CFA on January 16. The major terrorist attacks since then, include:
Such acts of terror are at least partly intended to boost the morale of the desertion-prone LTTE cadres, as well as to draw the attention of the international community to apply pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to abandon its military operation in the North. The LTTE’s gameplan is based on the thesis that the war for ‘Tamil Eelam’ can not be carried forward without popular Tamil support and such support can only be generated and sustained through persistent acts of terror against the Sinhalese and the Sinhalese Government.
The Government in Colombo, on the other hand, appears to be unrelenting. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, on April 30, stated that isolated bomb explosions carried out by the LTTE to disrupt civilian life in the south would not deter the Government from achieving their ‘final objective’ of wiping out terrorism from the country before long. He warned that the LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran would not be able to carry out such barbaric acts endlessly because "our war heroes are in pursuit of him and his days are numbered". Similarly, the Army Chief Sarath Fonseka on February 9 declared, "LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran should realize that he cannot go ahead with his military campaign. They have no option other than to give up their struggle and enter the political mainstream."
Nevertheless, the LTTE demonstrates little inclination to accept defeat as yet, and the war in the North promises to be longer than Colombo’s projections. The LTTE retains capacities to hold a receding line for some time to come, and to continue its terrorist campaigns in the South. The prospects of peace in Sri Lanka remain far from imminent.
The MHA assessment of the state of militancy clearly seeks to underplay the realities of the ground situation. Year after year, the state of militancy in Manipur has displayed all the characteristics of intractability. With 408 deaths in the year 2007, Manipur remained the second most conflict ridden State in the northeast (behind Assam with 437 fatalities) according to Institute for Conflict Management data; in year 2008 (till April 28), with 162 fatalities the State had even surpassed the most conflict prone Jammu and Kashmir (153 fatalities) and to become the most violent theatre of conflict in the country. Irrespective of whether the current level of violence is sustained through the year, the state of affairs points to a scenario of all-pervasive hopelessness in Manipur. While the MHA can continue to live in a make-believe world of imagined gratification, it is clear that more than two decades of counter-insurgency operations in Manipur continue to be marked by serious shortcomings.
All the nine Districts of the state including both the Valley (four Districts) and the Hill areas (five Districts) have remained affected, not just by militant activities, but by unrelenting violence, reported from every one of the 59 Police Stations in the State. The unending militant violence has severely impacted on the very limited local capacities for governance, justice administration, and the provision of minimal security to citizens. Militants have not only extorted and abducted with impunity, but have also imposed diktats on issues ranging from food, dress, language, cultural and religious practices, education etc., most of which have been complied with by the hapless population. The militant influence has not been confined to the remote corners of the State, but is on full display in the ‘fortified’ State capital, Imphal, with attacks on the residences of ministers and Members of the State Legislative Assembly (MLAs). On March 8, 2008, for instance, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) militants drove up to the heavily guarded Manipur Assembly complex and lobbed a bomb that exploded without causing any fatalities. Again, on April 24, at least five persons, including a woman, were injured when a remote controlled improvised explosive device (IED) fitted on a scooter was exploded by the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) at the Babupara VIP colony near the Chief Minister's bungalow in capital Imphal.
The capacities of about 15 active militant outfits with an estimated cadre-strength of 10,000 remain rooted in factors such as support from civilians and the intelligentsia, a highly efficient intelligence network, hideouts in neighbouring Myanmar and arms supply from South-east Asia. The relentless hostility between the Hills inhabited by the tribals and the Valley dominated by the Hindu Meitei population, has acted as an enormous force multiplier for the extremist groups. More or less sustained counter-insurgency operations, for over two-decades, have had very little impact on the capacities of the militant outfits.
In January 2008, the Army authorities claimed to have dislodged the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the most potent outfit primarily active in the Valley areas, from its last bastion inside the State, the New Samtal area spread over 1,000 square kilometres in the south-western Chandel District. The claims followed the usual rigmarole involving visits by various Army officials and the Governor of the State, who made assurances that civil administration would soon be restored in the area. Coming after nearly one and half years’ of intermittent campaigns to end militant control over the area, the restoration of security force (SF) dominance in New Samtal was hailed as a decisive blow to UNLF capacities, with promises that these would be further diminished in the following months.
Within three months, however, the gains appear to be dissipating. Far from a restoration of civil administration in the area, what has actually occurred is that UNLF cadres, who had simply vacated the villages and retreated into the forest areas, or had crossed over into the safety of adjoining Myanmar, in the wake of security force operations, are now returning to the area, and have already managed ambushes on the security force contingents on two occasions. On May 1, 2008, the UNLF’s ‘293 battalion’ carried out two attacks on the para-military Assam Rifles (AR) personnel. At least two AR personnel were killed and four others injured as a result of the attack on three AR water collection vehicles at Phairengkot village. The second attack on an AR post at Molcham did not result in any casualty.
Although both Police and the Army sources in Manipur insist that the coordination between various security agencies is smooth and trouble free, there are several points of friction. Acute differences between the Police and the Army have a history of at least four years. Beginning with the July 2004 Manorama Devi episode, assessments of militancy by the Army and the Police have diverged markedly. In fact, the State Government’s decision to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the Imphal municipal areas was reached at the behest of the Police, despite stiff opposition from the Army. Subsequently, the Police refused to abide by the Army’s October 2005 Suspension of Operations agreement with Kuki militant groups, and continued to target Kuki militants under the ceasefire. The 2004 establishment of a ‘Unified Command Structure’ notwithstanding, frequent ‘ego clashes’ between the Army and the Police are said to have hampered the effectiveness of counter-insurgency operations. The Army has been accused of refusing to take orders from the Police during joint operations. Similarly, the Army complains of receiving very little support from the Police, especially during its operations in the Hill Districts. Police operations against the militants have remained mostly confined to the Valley.
Successes in counter-insurgency campaigns in conflict theatres in the country, including Punjab and more recent successes in Tripura, Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh, have underlined the crucial role of the State Police. While the Army and the central para-military forces (CPMFs) can play a supportive role, counter-insurgency operations need to be substantially Police-led, if they are to succeed. Unfortunately, the Police in Manipur have historically abdicated responsibility, leaving the Army and the CPMFs to lead from the front, resulting in numerous tactical successes, but enveloping strategic failure.
The MHA’s Police modernization programme has been under implementation in Manipur since 1969 and the programme aims at capacity building among the state Police force, especially to meet internal security challenges. Manipur has been classified as an ‘A’ category State under the programme and receives 100 per cent central assistance for Police modernization. Over the years, however, utilisation of the available central funds remains extremely poor. Accessible data indicates that the State spent 80 per cent of the INR 152.4 million in central funds released for 2004-05. However, utilization in the previous five years never exceeded 43 per cent. The release of the central funds has also been affected by the failure of the Police Department to submit projects.Utilization of central funds released for Police modernization
Source: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Worse, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on the Manipur Home Department for 2006-07 is a poor commentary on Police affairs in the State. The CAG audit found:
The capacities of the Manipur Police have also been diminished as a result of a manpower shortfall in the force. In spite of the fact that Manipur has a fairly healthy Police-population ratio (Police personnel per 100,000 population) of 554 (the national average is 126) and Police density (Policemen per 100 square kilometre area) of 63.8 (national average is 44.4), the 17,708 strong Police force (sanctioned strength) suffers from a vacancy of 19.52 per cent. While the vacancy among the civil Police force component is a bearable 12 per cent, among the armed Police component it is over 20.68 per cent. Leadership Deficits are worse, and National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data indicates that vacancies among the armed Police are almost 69 per cent at the levels of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP)/ Superintendent of Police (SP)/ Additional SP/ Assistant SP/ Deputy SP; 25 per cent at the Inspector/ Sub-Inspector (SI) and Assistant SI (ASI) levels; and 20 per cent among the personnel in the ‘below ASI rank’ category [All data as of December 31, 2006]. Between 2002 and 2005, Manipur recruited just 823 constables and 10 sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors. The bulk of the constable’s appointments (821 out of 823) were in 2005. Currently, the process of recruitment to SI an ASI posts is ongoing, and it will be a while before the new recruits are trained and assigned postings.
The failure of the Police to provide minimum security to civilians has resulted in some desperate moves recently. On May 2, 2008, the State Cabinet approved a plan to recruit 500 special Police officers (SPOs) and to arm them with .303 rifles to provide security against the militants in Heirok village of Thoubal District and Chajing village of Imphal West District. As per the plan, each of these SPOs would be provided with a monthly remuneration of INR 3,000 and would be required to stay at barracks to be constructed near these villages. The deployment will follow a month’s training in the use of arms.
In Manipur, the Village Voluntary Force (VVF) had played an effective role of resisting militant advances, notably that of the Naga National Council (NNC) during the 1960s and 1970s, in areas such as Ukhrul and Tamenglong. Many of these VVF cadres were later absorbed into the para-military Special Services Bureau (SSB), which was rechristened as Sasashtra Seema Bal (SSB) in 2007. However, the current move to appoint SPOs to checkmate the militants appears abrupt and was mostly influenced by appeals for arms by villagers of Heirok and Chanjing after two incidents of militant attacks on March 24 and April 23, which resulted in the killing of four persons. It is not clear what sort of resistance these ill-trained villagers with archaic arms would be able to put up against vastly superior militant cadres, nor is it clear whether this force would operate under Police or other SF command. It is also possible that the initial euphoria around the exploitation of a transient antipathy against militancy will die out, once the militants start eliminating these ‘sitting ducks’ and decamp with their weapons. The state’s agencies have been trying to provoke and spread popular discontent against militancy, but passing the responsibility of providing security to the villagers, unquestionably a function of the state, on to civilians is fraught with inherent dangers.
Sagacity does not appear to mark much of the State Government’s perspectives on counter-insurgency. On March 30, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, responding to the allegations of staged encounter killings, declared that the militants in the state must die for Manipur to be saved. "The Government is being criticised for killing militants. But we have little choice but to kill them to protect lives and property", Singh retorted. While the strategy is debatable, the fact remains that the security force setup, especially the Police force, appear to be entirely unable to neutralise the militancy. Unless there is a near-miraculous reinvention of the capacities and orientation of the Police Force in the proximate future, Manipur’s tryst with anarchy appears to be interminable.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 28-May 4, 2008
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Pakistan based militant outfits continue to target Jammu and Kashmir, says US State Department annual report: India was among the countries worst affected by terrorism with militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast, attacks by Naxalites and attacks elsewhere in the country taking a toll of more than 2,300 lives in 2007, the US State Department said. The State Department, in its annual report on terrorism, said terrorist activities along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir are on the decline but Pakistan-based militant outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and other terrorist groups continue to plan attacks in the Valley. "Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Kashmir-focused groups continued regional attack planning. In 2007, Kashmir-focused groups continued to support attacks in Afghanistan, and operatives trained by the groups continued to feature in Al-Qaeda transnational attack planning," it said. The report said Indian Government’s counter terrorism efforts remained hampered by outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems. "The Indian court system was slow, laborious, and prone to corruption. Terrorism trials can take years to complete. Many of India’s local police forces were poorly staffed, lacked training, and were ill-equipped to combat terrorism effectively," the report said. U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2008
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief Sajjad Afghani killed in Jammu and Kashmir: Sajjad Afghani, the Jammu and Kashmir chief of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), was shot dead by the Police on April 29, 2008, in a gun-battle at Sopore Sub District Hospital in the Baramulla District. A seven-member Police party conducted a raid on the residential quarter of Pharmacist Shaukat Ahmed Pir at Old Sub District Hospital and, in the ensuing encounter, Police shot dead Sajjad and arrested the Pharmacist. Before shifting his base to Sopore, Afghani had reportedly operated in the Kupwara District for several years. He was allegedly involved in over a dozen armed attacks on security forces, Police and soft targets in north Kashmir in the last 10 years. Daily Excelsior, April 30, 2008.
Frontier Corps commence withdrawal from Gwadar and Quetta in Balochistan: The Federal Government has decided to withdraw Frontier Corps (FC) from Gwadar and Quetta and hand over the responsibility of managing the law and order to Police in the two cities. FC troops were reportedly seen withdrawing from their positions on May 4. APP reported that FC sources disclosed that more than 600 FC troops had been withdrawn from 28 check-posts in the provincial capital Quetta, adding that about the same number of troops had also been recalled from the Gwadar District. Sources said that the Chief Security Officer of Gwadar, who belonged to the FC, had been replaced by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police. However, officials said that FC troops would remain stationed in troubled areas like Dera Bugti and Kohlu to protect sensitive installations, including the Sui Gas Plant and the pipeline network supplying natural gas all over the country. Earlier, on May 2, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said that the military operation in Balochistan had been stopped. Addressing the Balochistan Cabinet in the provincial capital Quetta, he asked the Federal and Provincial Governments to withdraw all cases registered against former Chief Minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal, so that he could be released. Dawn, May 3-5, 2008.
Al Qaeda remains threat to Pakistan, says US State Department annual report: Al Qaeda's continued public calls to overthrow President Pervez Musharraf have remained a 'threat to Pakistan', said the US State Department's Country Report on Terrorism 2007, which has also declared attacks on Benazir Bhutto as the 'deadliest' of the previous year. The report released on April 30, 2008, said that despite having a huge presence of approximately 80,000 to 100,000 troops in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Government's authority in the area continued to be challenged. It said, though military operations disrupted militant activities, no senior al Qaeda leader was either captured or killed in 2007. Pakistan arrested or detained several high-profile terrorist suspects, but faced significant challenges in prosecuting such cases, the report said. "The trend and sophistication of suicide bombings grew in Pakistan this year. The December 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in a suicide bombing after a political rally in Rawalpindi, was the most prominent suicide attack. Between 2002 and 2006, the Department recorded approximately 22 suicide attacks in the country, whereas in 2007 there were over 45 such attacks," the report said. Sectarian violence claimed hundreds of lives this year and increased since 2006, according to data from the Institute for Conflict Management, the report said. U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2008.
Al Qaeda’s headquarters in the tribal areas, says Europol: A report by the European Police Office stated that Pakistan’s tribal areas are the "command and control centre" for al Qaeda’s "remaining core leadership" planning attacks in the European Union (EU). The annual "Terrorism Situation and Trend Report – 2008" said: "The tribal areas of Pakistan host a number of terrorist training camps operating in support of the Afghan Taliban, pro-Taliban Pakistani groups and foreign Mujahideen." It also stated that, in the past, terrorist links between Pakistan and the EU were almost exclusively focused on the UK, but terrorism is now expanding in the EU. It said that the foiled plot in Germany, related to an Uzbek group based in the tribal areas, and recent cases in the UK and Denmark indicated an increasingly assertive and efficient Pakistani-based command and control of terrorism in the EU. It also said that a number of EU nationals who attended training in Pakistan were later involved in terrorist offences in the EU. According to the report, "Afghan Taliban and pro-Taliban groups in Pakistan have links to the increasingly active core-structure of Al Qaeda that is currently based in the Pashtun tribal areas in western Pakistan. There it is believed to have reorganised and rebuilt its capabilities as well as its command and control functions." The report notes that "over the past five years much of the command, control and inspiration for planning attacks came from Al Qaeda’s remaining core leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan." According to the report, a majority of the arrested suspects in the foiled attacks in Germany and Denmark had received some form of training in Pakistan. Dawn, April 29, 2008.
Baitullah Mehsud temporarily suspends peace talks with Government: Baitullah Mehsud, chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has temporarily suspended talks with the Government over the Army’s refusal to withdraw from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), his spokesman announced on April 28, 2008. However, the cease-fire announced by Mehsud on April 23 would continue, spokesman Maulana Umar added. The truce was declared after officials announced that a peace agreement had been drafted, which included the withdrawal of Government soldiers from some border areas, as well as the exchange of captives on both sides and a pledge not to launch attacks, AFP reported. "TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud ordered the cancellation of negotiations with the Government through a tribal jirga [council]," Umar told reporters. He said that Mehsud had taken the decision after learning of the continued presence of troops in FATA. "Some hidden hands are not sincere in (the) deal with the Taliban and there are elements that do not want peace," Umar quoted Mehsud as saying. He said the negotiating team had been ‘disappointed’ by the Government’s inaction, and further, that the Taliban would resume dialogue if their demands were accepted, warning that the militants would "take revenge" if the Government launched any military operation. Daily Times, April 29, 2008.
241 LTTE militants and 19 soldiers among 261 persons killed during the week: 241 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 19 soldiers and a civilian were among 261 persons killed in separate incidents between April 27 and May 3, 2008. At least 14 LTTE militants were killed and several others injured during clashes at several places in the Vavuniya and Mannar Districts on April 27. Two soldiers were also killed while four of them sustained injuries. Separately, 40 LTTE militants were killed as the troops captured the outfit’s ‘18 Base’ in the Veppankulam and Kallikulam areas of Mannar District on April 30. On the same day, 11 militants were killed and 21 soldiers were injured in fighting in the LTTE-held areas of Periyakulam, Karukkakulam and Kathankulam in the Mannar District. Advancing troops, on May 1, captured the LTTE-held Karukkakulam town (1.6 kilometres) in the Mannar District, killing 15 militants. One soldier was also killed in the clashes. Also on May 1, the security forces neutralised four LTTE bunkers and killed 11 militants in the Navathkulama, Muttiramadittakulam and Palampiddi areas of Vavuniya District. Further, on May 3, during encounters with LTTE militants in the Palampiddi, Adampan and Nedunkandal areas of Mannar and Vavuniya Districts, troops killed 12 rebel cadres. One soldier was also killed while six others sustained injuries in the clashes. The troops captured an area of about 1.5 square kilometres in the Periyakulam area of Mannar District, killing 10 militants. Sri Lanka Army; Colombo Page, April 28- May 4, 2008.
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