SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
"Perhaps we should start calling ourselves the Hizb-ul-Muhajireen" (Party of Exiles or Refugees), the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s Rawalpindi-based ‘supreme commander’, Mohammad Yusuf Shah aka Syed Salahuddin joked to a confidante last month.
Shah’s playful use of words didn’t conceal the bitterness behind his remark: the feared army of Islamist guerrillas he had once commanded has now degenerated into a ‘party of exiles’, unwanted in both India and Pakistan.
Although elections to the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Assembly are still three months away, both the National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have held dozens of rallies in preparation for what all the actors know will be an intense contest. Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is also campaigning vigorously, calling on his supporters to boycott the elections. High voter turnouts are, nevertheless, expected.
From his headquarters in Pakistan, Shah had shaped the outcome of the last elections in 2002, using his terror squads to attack NC activists and coerce its rural supporters. One hundred political workers, mainly from the NC, were killed during the election process — adding to 61 claimed by terrorists in the election process of 1996, 57 in 1997, and 76 in 2001. Helped by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s (HM’s) not-so-tacit support, the PDP surged past J&K’s traditional party of government in several key constituencies.
Robbed of near-certain victory by NC election-rigging in the 1987 elections, when he had contested as a candidate for the religious-chauvinist Muslim United Front, Shah had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and joined an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-run jihad training camp, vowing to wreak vengeance against India and the NC.
As events have shown, Shah delivered on his threat. But the victorious homecoming he had hoped for has proved a mirage. In the years since 2002, the HM has haemorrhaged commanders and cadre at a massive rate — leaving the terror group and its ‘supreme commander’ powerless spectators to the impending elections this time around. HM’s rank and file are demoralised; its field units strapped for funds and weapons; and its patrons in the ISI suspicious of its motives and motivation.
For all practical purposes, what was once J&K’s numerically-strongest terror group has just one field unit — a dozen-odd operatives grouped around southern division commander Shabbir Ahmed Mir in the town of Tral.
Not surprisingly, the Hizb has been unable to mount a single attack of consequence for over a year, because cell after cell has been betrayed to the J&K Police or penetrated by Indian intelligence. Ideologically committed leaders like Pervez Ahmed Dar, who, using the code-name ‘Musharraf’, acts as the HM’s financial chief, have attempted to staunch the tide — but to little avail. Dar’s immediate superior, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, was shot dead in February; key lieutenants like central division commander Tajamul Islam and top south Kashmir operative Raees Dar are in jail.
Ever since Nasir Ahmad Dar, the organisation’s chief of military operations within J&K, surrendered to authorities earlier this year, the HM has been unable to appoint a successor. Kulgam-born Riyaz Ahmad Bhat was selected, but the commanders parents travelled to Pakistan and arranged their son’s marriage, ensuring he stayed on in Pakistan rather than risking death by returning home.
To make matters worse, the ISI no longer seems to trust the Hizb. Pakistan Army units have actually turned back Hizb detachments attempting to cross the LoC this summer — a reflection of the ISI’s fear that the group’s cadres are likely to tamely surrender once home. It is not an unfounded suspicion: almost a hundred Hizb operatives have done just that over the past year. Instead, the ISI is putting its faith in Pakistani jihadis. Upwards of 300 Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) cadres are thought to have massed at the Sawai Nallah near Muzaffarabad, along with similar numbers of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) cadres at Chela Bandi and al-Badr at Chetiyan. Signs of the jihadi build-up are already evident. Bus passengers near the Lolab Valley, for example, were twice stopped by jihadi units last month, and asked to turn in any policemen amongst them.
Despite such efforts, though, secessionists have had no success in disrupting the build-up to the elections — something that is causing growing dissension within their ranks.
In a recent statement faxed to journalists in Srinagar, United Jihad Council (UJC) spokesperson Syed Sadaqat Husain lashed out at the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) for refusing to condemn the elections, a decision he described as "an error history shall never forgive." Husain said the APHC’s silence "could only be interpreted in two ways clandestine agreement with New Delhi or the loss of popular support". He argued, further, "When India, under the shadow of gun, wants to hold an election to portray to the world that circumstances in Jammu and Kashmir are normal, that the resistance movement has died down and that the people of the state have accepted the accession to India, the foremost responsibility of the Hurriyat leadership is to campaign, educate people and warn them by removing the curtain hiding the Indian deception."
Hizb chief Shah himself has been increasingly theatrical in his polemic, promising attacks against Israeli tourists in J&K, for example, and even threatening to take the jihad "to Lahore" unless Pakistan reverses its policies. But both in Pakistan and India, this polemic is understood for just what it is: the rage of an ageing and battered beast that has lost its bite.
Does all this mean Pakistan has given up the fight? Not quite.
For one, Pakistan seems determined to reduce its commitments in the fight against the Taliban along its border with Afghanistan, in an effort to heal the jihadi-Army rupture that emerged during the later years of President Pervez Musharraf’s tenure as Army Chief. In a recent article in The Washington Post, commentator Ahmed Rashid said that the bulk of Pakistan’s Army would be deployed along its borders with India — not committed to counter-terrorism operations in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Rashid noted that "more than 80 percent of the $10 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan since the September 11 attacks has gone to the military; much of it has been used to buy expensive weapons systems for the Indian front rather than the smaller items needed for counterinsurgency".
Pakistani strategists understand, moreover, that the coming elections will be a critical test of the legitimacy of the secessionist project in J&K. If turnout is high — and the secessionists of the APHC, expecting it to be so, have already started saying the elections are about administrative issues, not J&K’s future — what little claim the jihadis can make to represent the peoples of the state will lie in ruins. That stark fact, in turn, appears to be compelling Islamabad to step up the heat in J&K — notwithstanding the desire to avoid a crisis with India at a time when multiple internal crises threaten to tear Pakistan apart.
Indian troops stationed along the LoC in Poonch have consequently come under intense fire along the LoC several times over the past six weeks (since the first incident on May 8), a series of assaults which could lead to the unravelling of the ceasefire which was put in place in 2003. For example, an Indian forward position near Salhotri village, was hit with rockets and grenades just after 8:00 AM on May 19 — the first ceasefire violation along the LoC this year to have claimed a life: Jawashwar Lami Chhame, a Nepali national serving with the 2-8 Gurkha Rifles, died when he was hit by shrapnel in the course of the estimated 20-minute assault.
Salhotri had seen a build-up of tensions since late-April, when terrorists began to use Pakistani military positions as staging posts for infiltration attempts. Indian troops interdicted an infiltrating group on the Tarkundi Gali pass on May 16, and killed one terrorist. It is impossible to say whether the attack that claimed Chhame’s life was carried out by terrorists or troops — but the fact is the Pakistan Army did nothing either to prevent the attack, or to punish its perpetrators.
Earlier in May, Pakistani troops opened fire on an Indian position in Tangdhar with machine guns and mortar. Several shells fell close to the post in the course of the May 13 night-time assault. No casualties were, however, reported.
Pakistan’s Army-led border police, the Rangers, are also thought to have provided logistical support for a May 8 infiltration attempt which involved cutting through border fencing near Samba. Both terrorists who crossed the fencing were interdicted and shot dead two days later at the village of Regal. Four civilians — among them news photographer Ashok Sodhi— were killed in the fighting, along with two soldiers.
Border Security Force (BSF) officials say three earlier attempts to penetrate the border fencing near Jammu had been made this year, starting with a February 22 incident near Makwal where two infiltrators were shot dead. On March 3, a terrorist was killed while attempting to cross the fencing near the Chak Rangwari post, while another attempt was made near Chak Abdullian on April 30.
In an effort to improve border security, the BSF now intends to realign fencing along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu, while the Indian Army is enhancing counter-infiltration measures along the LoC.
Pakistan’s posture along the LoC seems linked to the lifting of restraints imposed by the Musharraf regime on J&K-based jihadi groups — restraints that saw violence decline each year since 2002. In a March 1 video-phone address to a Lashkar rally in Pakistan-administered J&K’s capital, Muzaffarabad, the LeT chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed announced that restrictions placed on the terrorist group’s operations had been lifted. Soon after, Indian intelligence began reporting a build-up of Lashkar cadre at infiltration staging-posts along the LoC. A new state-of-the-art wireless communications station was set up by the proscribed group at the town of Kel, just across the LoC from Lolab, while a training centre at Balakote was revived. A new basic training facility was also set up at Gujaranwala, in the province of Punjab.
JeM chief Masood Azhar was also released from house arrest, and allowed to parade with armed cadres in the town of Bahawalpur — a defiant show of strength by one of the world’s best known Islamist terrorists.
Pakistan’s ISI Directorate also resumed funding for the HM, which had been shut off under international pressure in 2006. In May 2008, jihadi groups jointly paraded in Muzaffarabad under the leadership of HM’s Yusuf Shah, in their first public show of strength since 2001. Shah, who also chairs the UJC, announced he would "continue jihad in Kashmir until the region is liberated from Indian occupation".
Both the aggressive polemic and the hostilities along the LoC seem likely to escalate as the elections near. Whether the India-Pakistan peace process can survive the multiple strains it is now subject to remains to be seen.
Beginnings of an End?
Terror turned realtime in Nagaland in the early hours of June 4. Television cameras captured live footage as armed cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Unification (NSCN-U) and the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN (NSCN-IM) exchanged fire in the Seithekima area, 15 kilometres off the commercial hub, Dimapur, in a clash that left 12 NSCN-U cadres dead. The NSCN-IM blamed the Unification faction of initiating the clash. In a separate clash in a nearby area, another two NSCN-U cadres were killed on the same day. Barely 20 days earlier, on May 16, in a similar pattern in the same area, 16 persons including 14 NSCN-U cadres and two civilians had been killed. The clash had occurred while NSCN-U cadres were returning after carrying out an attack on an NSCN-IM camp in a nearby area. IM cadres, waiting in ambush, hailed bullets on their unsuspecting rivals, giving them little chance to react, and decamped with their victims’ weapons. With bodies lying scattered, local people converged on the NSCN-IM’s Cease-fire Monitoring Cell at the 4th Mile area in Dimapur, demanding an explanation for such ruthless killings. Subsequent firing by the IM cadres claimed the lives of two civilians.
Apart from the staggering number of deaths in these individual incidents, the incidents themselves come as no surprise to regular watchers of the Naga conflict and conform largely to the pattern of militant violence in Nagaland. In a State where the two principal militant factions [NSCN-IM and the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K)] have been under a cease-fire agreement with the Centre, Nagaland records disturbing level of annual fatalities, with a consistent escalation over the years. Fatalities, mostly among the militant ranks as a result of factional clashes, claimed 97 lives in 2004, 99 in 2005, 147 in 2006 and 154 in 2007. According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), 25 fatalities were recorded in 2008 (till March 31). The Institute for Conflict Management database records another 48 deaths between April 1 and June 3 (a day before the June 4 incident). Total fatalities in the current year, consequently, already stood at 87, as of June 5, 2008.
Interestingly, the NSCN-U, which has been in the thick of things in Nagaland since its inception in November 2007, has been a product of a move to unify the warring NSCN-IM and NSCN-K, which represented a tribal divide that has marked the Naga secessionist struggle since the 1950s. On November 23, 2007, armed cadres and some senior functionaries of both the IM and K factions converged at Hovishe under the Niuland sub-division in the Dimapur District to sign an inter-factional ‘truce agreement’, declaring the unification of both warring factions a common goal. The Agreement led to the birth of NSCN-Unification (NSCN-U), which remained stationed at Vihokhu, 25 kilometres from Dimapur. The IM leadership was critical of the development and made it clear that the Agreement was not acceptable to them.
The NSCN-IM’s attitude was mostly rooted in the tribal divide within the group, which was brought into further prominence by the formation of the NSCN-U. The NSCN-U signified a revolt by the cadres belonging to the Sema tribe within the NSCN-IM against the overbearing presence of the Tangkhul tribe, to which the IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah belongs. The Tangkhuls have a marginal presence in Nagaland and are mostly based in the Hill District of Ukhrul in neighbouring Manipur. The NSCN-U has subsequently argued that the IM faction is trying to turn Nagaland into a ‘Gaza Strip’ to rehabilitate the Tangkhuls, with a view to undermine the native Nagas in the State. At least on three occasions this year, NSCN-U cadres have carried out attacks on Tangkhul Nagas in Dimapur.
Inevitably, the birth of the NSCN-U has added to the instability parameters within Nagaland. Cadres of the new outfit, mostly drawn from the IM faction, retained the legacy of violence of their parent group. With its proximity to NSCN-K, the NSCN-U also faced no dearth of small arms and ammunition. A glimpse of the array of weapons in the possession of the NSCN-U was provided by a March 11 recovery of an AK-47 rifle with magazine, one .22 rifle, one double barrel 12 Bore gun, one 7.65mm pistol of Italian make with three magazines, one.38 revolver and two Chinese grenades, from six arrested NSCN-U militants in Dimapur.
There is little doubt that the NSCN-U is being supported by the NSCN-K, which has apparently found a way out of its direct confrontations with the IM faction (the two principal factions have clashed only six times this year, thrice in the neighbouring state of Manipur and thrice in Nagaland) and is still being able to inflict losses on its bete noire. Both the NSCN-K and NSCN-U cadres have reportedly operated in tandem and a substantial amount of arms and ammunition has been transferred from the Khaplang camp to the NSCN-U cadres. Realising this, on May 10, the Cease-Fire Supervisory Board (CFSB) had asked the NSCN-K to shift its camp at Vihokhu in the Dimapur District to avoid clashes with the NSCN-IM, since the camp was not a ‘Designated Camp’.
While clashes between the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K, in previous years, were reported mostly from the Districts of Kohima, Mon, Phek, Zunheboto, Mokokchung and Wokha, Dimapur has emerged almost as the sole location (with the exception of just one incident in Wokha) of the fighting between the IM and U factions. Since its inception, Unification cadres have been based primarily in and around Dimapur and have not ventured into the NSCN-IM strongholds in other Districts. Dimapur, however, hosts NSCN-IM’s command headquarters at Camp Hebron and, consequently, accounts for a large concentration of its total of 3,000 cadres.
Prior to the June 4 incident (and excluding the May 16 clash), the clashes between the U and IM factions in 2008 have included the following.
In addition, at least three clashes between the two factions were averted in the Dimapur District as a result of intervention by civilians. On May 14, irate villagers drove away cadres of both factions from Khehokhu, Hoito and Nihoto areas, where both the groups had converged to carry out attacks on each other. Previously, on May 8, people chased out NSCN-IM and NSCN-U militants engaged in a violent clash at Diphupar. On April 24, a factional clash between both factions was averted after people forced cadres belonging to both factions to vacate Diphupar ‘B’ and Ikishe villages. While civilian intervention for peace is an indication of the popular disenchantment with an overwhelming atmosphere of constant war and is a welcome scenario in trouble-torn Nagaland, the near absence of the state in peace-making has contributed to the significant collateral loss of civilian lives, as in the May 16 incident.
Several previous assessments on SAIR have underlined that the cease-fire ground rules which are supposed to keep the armed cadres within the designated camps, and to control their movements and activities, have been violated with impunity over the years. The mere existence and non-enforcement of such ground rules has provided the militant cadres the licence to run a regime of extortion and abduction targeting not just the civilian population in the state, but also the transit traffic and travellers bound for neighbouring Manipur, on the National Highways passing through Nagaland.
A confirmation of the state of affairs, largely a product of a complacent Union Government, was provided by a MHA letter to the Nagaland Government on January 29, 2008. The letter broadened the definition of cease-fire violations to include extortion in the garb of collecting ‘taxes’, abduction for ransom and killings, smuggling of arms and ammunition, issuing demand letters, issuing warning/threat azhas (orders) to senior politicians and bureaucrats, movements through and residence in populated areas with arms and in uniforms, inter-factional clashes and targeted killing of rival cadres, stand off between cadres and Security Forces (SFs) and unauthorised concentrations of armed cadres. The MHA letter further indicated that cease-fire violations involving commission of offences would be dealt with primarily by the State Police, with the support of Assam Rifles/Army wherever required. However, violations involving movements and stay in populated areas with arms and in uniforms and unauthorised concentrations would primarily be dealt with by the Assam Rifles or the Army. State Police and other Central Forces would be co-opted wherever necessary.
The letter also included a newly formulated Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) for the Army/ Assam Rifles (AR), Central Para-Military Forces (CPMFs) and the Nagaland Police, which included the directive that, during joint operations, cordon should be established by the Army/AR and search operations should be carried out by the State Police / India Reserve Battalion (IRB) / Nagaland Armed Police (NAP) / CPMFs. However, only in exceptional circumstances where the Police make such a request, the senior most Army / AR officer present on the spot may assume command of all forces to deal with the situation.
For some inexplicable reasons and in spite of the continuing clashes between the militant factions, the SOP has remained unimplemented for three and half months after the directives to this effect reached Kohima. After the May 16 incident the State Government had asked for the implementation of the SOP, pleaded with the militant factions to vacate populated areas, and directed the Police and CPMFs to enforce cease-fire ground rules to pre-empt armed clashes between rival factions. On May 22, the State Government also set a deadline of June 10 to evict all armed militants from civilian areas in all the 11 Districts, especially from District Headquarters. However, it was not till June 6, that the Dimapur District administration conducted a thirteen-hour ‘flush out’ exercise in different colonies of Dimapur town and nearby villages. No such operation, however, had been carried out in any of the other Districts till the writing of this report.
As indicated repeatedly on SAIR, the Nagaland State Government’s role in the long-standing conflict has remained negligible and limited mostly to issuing of occasional pleas for ‘sanity’. While the earlier Congress regime headed by the present Governor to Goa, S.C. Jamir, was accused of favouring the NSCN-K, the Nephiu Rio-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) Government, which was re-elected in the March 2008 elections to the State Legislative Assembly, is believed to be close to the NSCN-IM. Such proximity has led Rio to maintain, on a permanent basis, that factional clashes are ‘political’ in nature and are largely unavoidable as long as the conflict exists. On May 10, Rio expressed his doubts regarding New Delhi’s ‘sincerity’ in talks with the militant groups, and said that there was no clear direction from the MHA about what the fate of talks with the NSCN-IM was to be. He asserted, further: "Definitely, the delay (in talks between NSCN-IM and Centre) is the cause of all the problems. It is getting multiplied. We want to see the sincerity of the Government of India and the underground groups to resolve it."
Official complacency and complicity notwithstanding, the recent developments signify a moment of truth for the NSCN-IM, not just because its monopoly over violence is increasingly being challenged by other armed factions, but also due to a rapidly developing schism between the common people and the rebel group. For example, at a meeting organised by the local populace in Dimapur after the May 16 violence, speakers repeatedly questioned the rationale behind the continued bloodshed and the direction of the Naga struggle under the leadership of the NSCN-IM. While it might be easy for the insurgent outfit to dismiss such queries as part of the propaganda by sympathisers of rival factions, it remains a fact that the group is no longer the undisputed leader of the Naga movement, a position it laid claims to, in earlier years.
On May 19, 2008, a new militant group, the United Naga People’s Council (UNPC), another splinter from the NSCN-IM, was formally launched at an unspecified location in the Senapati District of neighbouring Manipur. UNPC has the purported objective of minimising the divide between the Hills and the Valley areas of Manipur, an objective that runs contrary to the NSCN-IM’s grandiose vision of a Greater Nagaland (Nagalim). Further, on June 3, four NSCN-IM senior cadres defected to the Khaplang camp, alleging that the IM faction is being run to satisfy the interests of few persons.
Evidently, irrespective of the fatalities it has been able to inflict on the NSCN-U, restiveness is fast catching up with the NSCN-IM top leadership. General Secretary Muivah, in media interviews, has started talking about exercising the ‘back to the jungle’ option if negotiations with the Government of India do not progress satisfactorily. He is also trying hard to initiate a half-baked reconciliation effort with the NSCN-K. Such efforts, however, have limited utility as far as pressurising the Government or cajoling his old adversary, Khaplang, to come to his rescue. In the coming days, NSCN-IM is bound to see its popular support decline even further, even as peace in Nagaland remains miles away.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 2-8, 2008
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
14 NSCN-U cadres killed in factional clash in Nagaland: At least 14 cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Unification (NSCN-U) were killed in clashes with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) cadres in and around Dimapur on June 4. The NSCN-IM blamed the Unification cadres for initiating the clash. Imphal Free Press, The Hindu, June 4, 2008.
Three militants of new Sikh outfit arrested in Jammu along with arms and ammunition: Jammu Police on June 4 arrested three militants of the newly formed outfit ‘Panj Pardhani Group’, along with a large quantity of arms and ammunition, from Dumi Malpur in the Kanachak area along the Jammu-Akhnoor road and foiled their plot to kill two religious preachers of Punjab — Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Pyara Singh Baniyarawala. Arms and ammunition recovered from their possession include one AK-56 rifle with two magazines and 150 rounds, five Chinese pistols with five magazines and 93 rounds. A large quantity of literature, written in Punjabi, including photographs of slain militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, mobile telephones, diaries carrying telephone numbers of their contacts in different States and some other documents, were also recovered from a car in which the three militants were travelling. They were identified as Malkeet Singh, Surjeet Singh and Harbans Singh.
All three militants, who hailed from the Barnala district of Punjab, had collected a consignment of arms and ammunition from an unidentified smuggler at Akhnoor, who had received the consignment from across the border. The consignment of arms was reported to have been sent from Pakistan by Ranjeet Singh Neeta. Further, a ring leader of the Panj Pardhani Group, based in Barnala, has been identified by the Police on the basis of preliminary questioning of the three arrested militants. Daily Eexcelsior, June 4, 2008.
Government asks Bangladesh to check cross-border infiltration: During the two-day meeting of the revived Joint Working Group (JWG) between India and Bangladesh held in New Delhi on May 31 and June 1, India asked Bangladesh to check cross-border infiltration and launch a crackdown on anti-India elements operating from its soil. The Indian side was led by Joint Secretary (North East) in the Union Home Ministry Naveen Verma and the Bangladeshi delegation was headed by Joint Secretary (Political) M. Hakim Chowdhury. The JWG met after five years. India also expressed concern over the continuous flow of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and the support that the insurgent groups active in the Northeast were getting from across the border. The Hindu, June 3, 2008.
Political persons can become President, but not top leaders, say Maoists: The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) on June 8, said that politicians, but not the top leaders of the political parties, can run for the post of President. Earlier, the outfit had said that it will support only non-political persons for the position. This move is being seen as a move to bar Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who is also the president of the Nepali Congress (NC), from becoming the country’s President.
Earlier in the day, a meeting of the top leaders of three parties, Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the CPN-Maoist, had decided to form a joint panel to suggest ways to resolve the deadlock over power sharing. The party leaders have asked the panel to suggest a course of action within two days, ahead of the Constituent Assembly (CA) meeting on June 11. Nepal News, June 9, 2008.
Eight persons killed in suicide blast at Danish embassy in Islamabad: A suspected suicide bomber blew up his car outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad on June 2, killing at least eight persons and injuring 30 others. The Danish Foreign Minister said a Pakistani cleaner employed at the Embassy and a Danish citizen of Pakistani origin died, and three other local employees were hurt, but the Embassy’s four Danish staffers were unharmed. There was no claim of responsibility for the blast, but officials said it was likely linked to anger over blasphemous caricatures, which were recently reprinted by Danish newspapers.
The explosion, which occurred at around 1.05 pm, damaged the main gate of the Embassy and the front of the building. It also left a six-foot deep crater in the road. Windows were also broken in the nearby home of the Indian High Commissioner.Daily Times, June 3, 2008.
Majority of Swat militants released under peace agreement: The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Prison Minister Mian Nisar Gul Kakakhel said the Government had released a majority of the detained militants in Swat on June 4. "The NWFP Government has released the majority of the Swat militants after a peace accord between the Government and the militants," the Minister told reporters during a visit to the Central Jail in provincial capital Peshawar. Daily Times, June 5, 2008.
Peace talks not with terrorists, says Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi: The Pakistan Government is not holding peace talks with terrorists but only with peace-loving elements as part of a multipronged strategy to fight extremism, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Afghanistan on June 6. "We will not engage with terrorists," Qureshi told reporters, adding, "Those who pick up arms and rifles are neither your friends nor our friends. We are engaging with those elements that are peace-loving and want stability in their regions and want to live a normal peaceful life." Qureshi added that Islamabad believed it needed to adopt a more comprehensive approach to fighting extremism that included political engagement, socio-economic development and "when required", military measures. Pakistan has already signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in the Swat Valley. It is also in talks with al Qaeda-linked leader Baitullah Mehsud, who has vowed to continue jihad in Afghanistan while pursuing peace negotiations. Daily Times, June 7, 2008.
161 LTTE militants and 24 civilians among 199 persons killed during the week: 161 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 24 civilians and 14 soldiers were among 155 persons killed in separate incidents between June 2 and June 8, 2008. 16 LTTE militants were killed and at least 10 others injured as the troops attacked several LTTE camps and bunkers in the Navathkulama, Periyamadu Kulam, Kowitkuchdu, Udaiyadi and Nedunkandal areas of the Vavuniya and Mannar Districts on June 3. Separately, 30 LTTE militants were killed as the troops captured a one-kilometre stretch of the main defence line of the LTTE covering the Mannar 'Rice Bowl', by reaching the edge of the 'Rice Bowl' north of Adampan on June 4-evening. On the same day, the Security Forces (SFs) clashed with LTTE militants in the Villattikulam and Navavi areas of Vavuniya District, killing 11 militants and injuring at least another 15; three soldiers were also injured. Another 11 LTTE militants were killed in confrontations with the troops in the Kaddupulan, Kurukkandai, Nedunkandal and Parappakandattan areas of Mannar District; seven militants and a soldier reportedly received injuries during the clashes. Further, on June 6, 21 persons were killed and 40 injured in a powerful LTTE-triggered explosion on a public bus near Katubedda Shailabimbaramaya Temple on the Katubedda – Piliyandala main road in Colombo, at about 7.45 AM (SLST). Eight women and 13 men were among the dead in the explosion in the bus, which was proceeding to Mt. Lavinia from Kottawa. On June 8, 17 LTTE militants and six soldiers were killed as the troops captured areas around the LTTE’s ‘One-Four Base’ in the Ethawatunuwewa area of Vavuniya District; 35 militants and 18 soldiers were reported injured during the clashes. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, June 2-8, 2008.
Defence Ministry issues media guidelines for war reporting: Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry formulated guidelines for the media on war news coverage in the form of an advisory that is posted on its website, www.defence.lk, under the heading, "Deriding the war heroes for a living — the ugly face of 'defence analysts' in Sri Lanka". The guidelines address four main issues over which the Defence Ministry is most concerned: Criticism of military operations, promotion schemes, procurement and unethical methods used to obtain sensitive information. The advisory stated, "Whoever attempts to reduce the public support to the military by making false allegations and directing baseless criticism at armed forces’ personnel" is a traitor and a supporter of the "terrorist organization that continuously murder citizens of Sri Lanka." "The Ministry will continue to expose these traitors and their sinister motives and does not consider such exposure as a threat to media freedom," it further said. Colombo Page, June 7, 2008.
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