SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
A suicide car bombing in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul in the morning of July 7, 2008, killed at least 41 persons. The blast destroyed cars and shops outside the building and wounded more than 140 persons, Health Ministry spokesman Abdullah Fahim disclosed. Unconfirmed reports at the time of writing indicated that the suicide bomber exploded two Embassy vehicles as they were entering the premises. The highly guarded Embassy is located on a busy street in central Kabul near Afghanistan's Interior Ministry. While the outer wall and a security observation post of the Embassy were damaged in the attack, Jayant Prasad, the Indian Ambassador, and his deputy were reportedly not inside the Embassy at the time of the blast. Four Indian nationals were killed in the suicide attack, Ambassador Prasad said. Among those killed were Brigadier R. Mehta, the military attaché, and V. Venkat Rao, an Indian Foreign Service officer who was the Press Councilor, and two Indian paramilitary troopers guarding the Embassy.
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said the suicide attack was carried out in coordination with "a regional intelligence service" – clearly hinting at the involvement of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). "The Interior Ministry believes this attack was carried out in coordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region," a Ministry statement asserted.
India and its role in the reconstruction of a war-ravaged Afghanistan has always been opposed by the establishment in Pakistan, as well as by the Taliban – al Qaeda combine in that country, and threat perceptions at the Kabul Embassy, as well as at the multiplicity of Indian developmental projects in Afghanistan have always been high. The vulnerability of Indian establishments and presence in Kabul is further augmented by the fact that the Afghan capital is itself highly susceptible to terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings. Indeed, on April 27, 2008, militants had opened fire targeting President Hamid Karzai when he was about to address an annual military parade in Kabul, killing a legislator and two other Afghans.
Over the past few months, the Taliban had vowed to augment their attacks, including suicide bombings, clearly demonstrating an intensification of the militant campaign. Indeed, the attack on the Indian Embassy comes within the context of spiraling violence in the country. More US and NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan in June 2008 than in any other month since military operations began in the aftermath of 9/11. 45 soldiers, including 27 American, 13 British, two Canadian, one Polish, one Romanian and one Hungarian, were killed during the month. Coalition fatalities in June in Afghanistan, for the first time, exceeded Coalition fatalities in Iraq. A report by John Holmes, the head of the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Operations in Afghanistan, stated that the number of documented civilian deaths had increased by 62 percent in the first six months of 2008, compared with the first six months of 2007. The agency had recorded a total of 698 civilian fatalities. The UN "blamed the actions of US, NATO and Afghan Government forces for 255 deaths and anti-occupation insurgents for 422." Reports indicate that Taliban – al Qaeda militants from both Afghanistan and Pakistan are "taking advantage of the summer months to increase operations across the south and east of the country. The number of attacks on US troops in the eastern provinces has increased by 40 percent this year, according to American commander, Major General Jeffrey Schloesser."
Since 2002, the Taliban has demanded the departure of all Indian personnel working on various projects with the Afghan people and Government for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. These demands have been backed by targeted actions against Indians. In the most recent of these, before the Embassy bombing, a trooper of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) was killed and four others injured in an attack by the Taliban in the south-west Province of Nimroz on June 5, 2008. Two Indian nationals, M.P. Singh and C. Govindaswamy, personnel of the Indian Army’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO), were killed and seven persons, including five BRO personnel, sustained injuries in a suicide-bomb attack in the Nimroz Province on April 12, 2008. Earlier in the first-ever suicide attack on Indians in the country, two ITBP soldiers were killed and five others injured in the Razai village of Nimroz Province on January 3, 2008. In April 2006, Indian national, K. Suryanarayana, working with a Gulf-based company, was abducted and later killed by Taliban militants, allegedly on orders from the ISI. Earlier, Ramankutty Maniyappan, a 36-year old BRO employee, was abducted on November 19, 2005, and his decapitated body was found on a road between Zaranj, capital of Nimroz, and an area called Ghor Ghori, four days later. Following his abduction, Taliban spokesperson Qari Yusuf Ahmadi had claimed that they had given the BRO an ultimatum to leave Afghanistan within 48 hours, failing which they would behead Maniyappan. Nimroz is the location, among others, of the strategic Zarang-Delaram Highway Project under execution by India.
There are approximately 3,000-4,000 Indian nationals working on several reconstruction projects across Afghanistan. The present level of India’s assistance to Afghanistan is USD 750 million, making it the 5th largest bilateral donor after the US, UK, Japan and Germany. According to the Indian Embassy at Kabul, of the total pledge of USD 750 million between 2002 and 2009, the fully committed amount is USD 758.21 million and cumulative disbursement up to 2006-07 has been US $ 278.94 million. This is higher than the disbursement rates of most other countries. The budgetary estimate for 2007-08 is US $ 105.04 million.
The augmenting violence in 2008 compounds distressing trends that had been established in the preceding year. Violence claimed at least 8,000 lives in 2007, the highest death toll for any year since 2001. Armed conflicts between the Taliban, on the one hand, and Afghan and international forces, on the other, left over 1,500 civilians dead in 2007, according to a UN report. Insurgency-related violence "reached unprecedented levels in 2007 with an average of 566 incidents recorded per month, and 160 ‘actual suicide attacks’ throughout the year", according to the report. Writing in the March 2008 Report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, further,
The dangers of anarchy within Afghanistan and across areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are predominantly sourced in Pakistan, to a far greater extent than in the debilitated state of Afghanistan. The NATO has said that recent peace deals between the Pakistan Government and Taliban have led to increased violence within Afghanistan. NATO officials disclosed in May 2008 that over the preceding three to four weeks, Taliban attacks along Afghanistan's eastern border had increased from 60 to 100 incidents a week. A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Kabul claimed that "the spike in insurgent attacks is the result of decreased activity by the Pakistani Army on the Pakistan side of the border."
The Taliban – al Qaeda combine have evidently regrouped rather well, particularly in the Afghan countryside, especially in provinces dominated by the Pashtuns along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Islamabad has evidently allowed the combine to regroup on Pakistani territory and to launch attacks across the border. Despite selective military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP), there is no indication that Pakistan has any intentions to cut the Taliban’s lifeline on its soil.
Two groups of local Taliban in Waziristan have reportedly joined forces to fight against the NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Mullah Nazir group of South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur group of North Waziristan agreed on June 30, 2008, to jointly fight the NATO troops in Afghanistan. Their spokesman, Mufti Abu Haroon, disclosed that the Taliban militants would go to Afghanistan to fight NATO troops under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
Pakistan’s disastrous deals with the militants and other strategic inconsistencies have amplified the already gigantic terrorist problem in Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan’s own multiple internal convulsions, its capacities for power projection into Afghanistan have not been significantly undermined, and it remains the case that it shares strategic goals with the Taliban in this theatre.
Driven to a wall, President Karzai had recently threatened to send Afghan troops across the border to fight Taliban militants within Pakistan. Accusing Pakistan of sheltering most of the militants involved in recent incidents in the Garmser District of Helmand Province, he told a Press Conference on June 15, 2008, that Afghanistan had the right to self-defence and, since militants cross over from Pakistan "to come and kill Afghans and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to do the same."
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs has reiterated India’s determination to continue with its commitments for the development of Afghanistan, and stated that "Such acts of terror will not deter us from fulfilling our commitments to the Government and people of Afghanistan." Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, who visited the Embassy shortly after the attack, declared, further, "India and Afghanistan have a deep relationship between each other. Such attacks of the enemy will not harm our relations."
It is evident that the Taliban – al Qaeda combine and the transnational jihadi groups based within Pakistan remain the principal instrumentalities of Islamabad’s response to India’s deepening co-operation with Afghanistan, even as ISI-supported terrorist groups remain Pakistan’s principal tool of policy projection in the Indian province of Jammu & Kashmir. Despite country’s rising internal difficulties and contradictions, the Pakistani establishment’s deep engagement with Islamist extremism and terrorism is far from over.
Across the Strait
The international pressure which has clogged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) attempt to replenish its depleted military equipments has undermined the rebel’s capacities to thwart the military offensive by the Sri Lankan Government troops. With their capacities progressively diminished, the LTTE has suffered severe losses. These developments are now impacting on India’s southern States, especially Tamil Nadu, as the LTTE attempts to source its war materials from these Indian Sates.
According to reports emanating from various sources, regular seizures of huge quantities of explosives and other war like materials meant for the LTTE have occurred in Tamil Nadu since the resumption of the war in Sri Lanka in January 2006. The recoveries also include large volumes of ball bearings that are used as shrapnel (significantly, the sale of ballbearings is restricted and closely monitored in Sri Lanka), aluminium bars, both ordinary and electronic detonators, boat building equipment, walkie-talkies, batteries and petroleum Chemicals, including sulphuric acid, high-speed outboard engines for boats, cycle spares, tyres for cycles and motorcycles, power generators, medical supplies and surgical equipment have also been recovered in transit or in caches awaiting transportation. Most of these recoveries have been reported from the coastal District of Ramnad, which overlooks the Mannar District in Sri Lanka. Police sources also disclose that the LTTE has attempted to build a huge vessel in Kerala and tried to procure mortars from Tamil Nadu.
Some of the major recoveries and arrests in India relating to the LTTE in 2008 include:
June 14: A suspected LTTE sympathiser was arrested along with 25 bundles, including 18,000 batteries, uniforms and medicines from a high speed boat in the sea off Devipattinam in Rameswaram. The seized material was worth INR one million.
June 13: The Tamil Nadu Police arrested a Sri Lankan and seized 18,000 pen torches and 25 bundles of plain cloth meant to be smuggled to Sri Lanka.
June 8: About 40 kilograms of ammunition was recovered from the campus of the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd. at Gummidipoondi in Thiruvallur District. Police said the ammunition, kept in gunny bags, was found near a well in the campus. Police had searched the area following a minor explosion on June 7, in which two Sri Lankan Tamil refugees sustained minor injuries.
June 5: The Police arrested two persons, including a Sri Lankan, and seized 2000 batteries. The Sri Lankan was an inmate of a refugee camp in Coimbatore District in Tamil Nadu.
May 18: The ‘Q’ Branch Police in Madurai arrested two Sri Lankan nationals allegedly supplying explosives and electronic gadgets to the LTTE. The duo had sent unspecified large quantities of explosives to the LTTE through agents along the Rameswaram coast. At the time of arrest, they were in possession of 44 walkie-talkie sets and INR 459,000 in cash. K. Senthil of Madurai, who provided logistic support to the two, was also arrested.
April 27: The police arrested five persons and seized eight cans of unidentified chemicals, a country boat and a mini van.
April 17: The Police arrested two Sri Lankan Tamils, Nandharuban and Sivakumar, while they were trying to smuggle tractor tyres, which are used in army trucks and jeeps, meant for the LTTE.
April 9: Tamil Nadu State Intelligence sleuths seized 16 cans of highly inflammable chemical solution, suspected to be used for manufacturing powerful explosives, meant for smuggling to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. The Police also arrested a Sri Lankan Tamil Refugee, Navaneetha Krishnan, from the Samathuvapuram locality near Sakki Mangalam.
April 1: The Coastal Security Group (CSG) Police neutralised a network involved in supplying uniforms to the LTTE. It came to light when a CSG team raided a boat near the fishing harbour in Rameswaram. Five persons were also arrested.
March 27: Police arrested three persons who were involved in smuggling activities for the LTTE, under the National Security Act.
February 11: Police arrested an alleged supplier of explosives to the LTTE and seized 100 detonators, 83 gelatin sticks and 10 meters of fuse wire. The man had been shuttling between Tiruchirapalli and Pudukottai to procure the explosive substances, including gelatin sticks.
January 20: The Tamil Nadu police arrested two persons in connection with the smuggling of ball bearings to Sri Lanka. Following the trail of cell phone contacts of Nathan alias Suruli, arrested along with seven others at Madipakkam on January 17 in the same case, ‘Q’ Branch Police, on January 20, intercepted Selvaraj, working in a sweet stall in Mumbai for the last 25 years, and seized small packets of ball bearings he had bought as samples.
January 8: The ‘Q’ Branch of the Tamil Nadu Police intercepted a consignment of explosives bound for Sri Lanka in Madurai and took six persons into custody, who admitted that they were meant for use by the LTTE. S. Sivakrishnan alias Nandan of Sri Lanka and S. Muthuramalingam of Kamuthi were found to be in possession of 5,000 detonators concealed in a travel bag.
In addition to amassing materials for war, the LTTE is also looking for new recruits from the State. The LTTE has asked its agents in Tamil Nadu to recruit cadres from the Sri Lankan Tamil refugee population, according to a May 27 report posted on the Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence Website. The LTTE has issued instructions to its operatives in Tamil Nadu to get Tamils who had recently fled from North Sri Lanka to come back and join its ranks, the report added. An estimated 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils are living in about 130 refugee camps across Tamil Nadu. According to a June 23 report citing an unnamed senior Police official, "The LTTE is keeping a close watch on the refugee camps. They identify the refugees who were earlier associated with them and use them in India for smuggling essentials for them." Many of these LTTE sympathizers are also involved in crimes like forgery and cheating in their efforts to raise funds for supplies.
It is significant that the LTTE had established an elaborate network of criminal operations in coastal Tamil Nadu in the early 1980s, and this was given free rein for several years, till it was ruthlessly uprooted in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, by an LTTE suicide bomber. At this stage, LTTE cadres masquerading as refugees had taken to criminal and subversive activities along the coastal belt in the Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram Districts, and had established a widespread network of extortion, smuggling and organized criminal activities . The revived movement of LTTE cadres and sympathizers is a concern, not only for Tamil Nadu but for the rest of India as well. Unsurprisingly, the Union Government, while extending the ban on the LTTE as an unlawful association by two years May 14, 2008, declared in its notification that the LTTE had ‘sympathizers, supporters and agents on Indian soil’, and that the group’s objective for a separate homeland for all Tamils threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. The notification further stated that the LTTE continued to be an "extremely potent, most lethal and well organised terrorist force in Sri Lanka and has strong connections in Tamil Nadu and certain other pockets of southern India." Further, the LTTE continued to use Tamil Nadu as the base for carrying out smuggling of essential items like petrol, diesel and drugs to Sri Lanka. The notification observed that the LTTE would continue to remain a "strong terrorist movement and stimulate the secessionist sentiment to enhance the support base of the LTTE in Tamil Nadu as long as Sri Lanka continues to remain in a state of ethnic strife, torn by the demand for Tamil Eelam which finds strong echo in Tamil Nadu due to the linguistic, cultural, ethnic and historical affinity between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka."
Earlier, on March 17, 2008, the National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had stated that the Union Government had received intelligence reports that some sympathisers of the LTTE in certain ‘small’ pockets of Kerala and Tamil Nadu were extending support to the outfit in various forms. Emphasizing the need for strong measures to contain these trends, Defence Minister A. K. Antony stated on May 1, 2008, "We will not allow the LTTE to function in Tamil Nadu. Indian soil will not be allowed to be used as base by any terrorist organization… We are giving high priority to coastal security. This will be done in three levels with the involvement of the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Coastal Police of the states concerned (Tamil Nadu and Kerala)."
India is constantly being urged, both by the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE, to mediate in the enduring conflict in Sri Lanka. While addressing a Press Conference in Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu on June 9, 2008, Sri Lankan Minister for Community Development and Social Inequity Eradication, P. Chandrasekaran, said that India should play the role of a mediator to end the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Similarly, the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance, on June 21, 2008, sought India's intervention to protect the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils. As LTTE subversion on Indian soil augments, it will become increasingly difficult for New Delhi to continue with its posture of detachment, and pressures for a more direct involvement in Sri Lanka will clearly mount. With memories of the disastrous intervention in 1987 still raw, however, it is far from clear how the mandarins of South Block will respond.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 30-July 6, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Maoists now active in 22 States, says intelligence report: intelligence report of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs reported that the Maoists are active in 22 States of the country. Basing its information on literature and pamphlets seized by the security forces in anti-Maoist operations, and also on interrogation of arrested extremists, the report stated that the Maoists are aiming to liberate and control 35 per cent of India's land by the end of 2009. According to the report, Maoists have spread their activities to States that had earlier not witnessed any activities like Delhi, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Gujarat. As many as 39 left-wing extremist groups are currently operating in the country with a combined membership of more than a 100,000, the report added. The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) alone accounts for more than 90 per cent of violent incidents. Indian Express, July 4, 2008.
15 policemen among 20 persons killed in suicide attack in Islamabad: 20 persons, including 15 policemen, were killed and more than 40 persons sustained injuries in a suicide attack near the Melody Market area of capital Islamabad on July 6, 2008. The suicide bomber targeted policemen deployed at a rally observing the first year anniversary of an Army raid on the Lal Masjid (Red mosque) in Islamabad. "The whole event at the mosque went smoothly but then the suicide bomber targeted the security," Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik told reporters. A policeman at the Aabpara Police Station, which is a few yards from the blast site, said that the explosion occurred after one an inspector had finished a count of the Police personnel inside the compound. "A young man walked into the Police contingent and apparently blew himself up," a senior security official told AFP. The News; Daily Times, July 7, 2008.
Al Qaeda regrouping in Tribal Areas, says US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff: United States (US) Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said al Qaeda is regrouping in the border areas of Pakistan. Talking to BBC on July 4, 2008, Chertoff said he feared al Qaeda and other militant groups could resume their activities after turning the Pakistani Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan into their centre. He said Pakistan was so far not a safe haven for al Qaeda as was Afghanistan at one time, but neither the US nor Pakistan should remain indifferent to the problem. "Our biggest apprehension is that al Qaeda and the likes have the ability to secure such safe havens where not only can they train the recruits but also establish research centres and then use these areas in the attacks against the West," he said. He said the reorganisation of al Qaeda and the similar groups in Pakistan was not only a source of apprehension for the US but also for its European allies, adding that Pakistani authorities must also be concerned. Daily Times, July 5, 2008.
197 LTTE militants and 12 soldiers among 210 persons killed during the week: 197 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 12 soldiers and a civilian were among 210 persons killed in separate incidents between June 30 and July 6, 2008. 10 militants were killed and 32 others injured when the troops attacked LTTE camps north of Kiriibbanwewa and Janakapura in the Vavuniya District on June 29. Further, on July 1, at least 25 LTTE militants were killed and more than 39 others injured as the troops clashed with the militants in the Ampandankulam East, Periyamadu North, Palamoddai, Navvi, Andankulam, Yalankulam, Echarakkai, Janakapura North, Kokkutoduvai and Kiriibbanwewa areas of Vavuniya District. Two soldiers were also killed while 25 others were wounded in LTTE-triggered explosions and firing during the clashes. Seven bunkers and a militant camp were also neutralised. On July 2, 12 LTTE militants were killed by the security forces (SFs) in clashes at Kayamodai and Puthukulam in the Mannar District. The troops also killed 12 militants in the Janakapura, Kokkuthuduvai and Palamoddai areas of Vavuniya District. At least 17 militants were killed as the Army’s 59th Division engaged in an offensive on the Welioya front and captured the LTTE’s strategic ‘Michael Base’ on the afternoon of July 4. On the same day, at least 25 LTTE militants were killed and an equal number of them injured by the SFs, as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Parayanakulam, Palamoddai, Vidattaltive, Periyamadu and Nedunkandal areas of the Vavuniya and Mannar Districts. Two soldiers were also killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in the Palamoddai area. Separately, two soldiers engaged in clashes in the Periyamadu area went missing. Further on July 4, at least 20 LTTE militants were killed during encounters with the troops in the Maruthamadu, Navakkulam, Thunukkai, Nochchimunai and Navvi areas of the Vavuniya District. One soldier was also killed while three others were wounded in the clashes. Further, on July 5, the troops confronted a group of LTTE militants and killed 15 of them while injuring 18 others in the Ampandankulam, Puttakamam, Paranthekulam, Palamoddai and Navvi areas of Vavuniya District. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, June 30-July 6, 2008.