SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Exactly two weeks after the September 13, 2008, serial attacks at crowded market locations in Delhi, once again on a Saturday, terrorists struck the national capital on September 28, killing one and injuring over 20. The intensity of the explosion, this time around, was lower, and the ‘tiffin bomb’ – packed in a plastic bag – was simply tossed off a motorcycle in the Phool Walon ki Sair flower market at Mehrauli in South Delhi.
The intervening two weeks had seen frenetic activity in the intelligence and security establishment across the country, as much of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and its front, the Indian Mujahiddeen (IM), network unravelled, with the killing of two SIMI-IM cadres in Delhi and the arrest of several others in Delhi, Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh, building on significant detentions in Gujarat (which had followed the serial explosions in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008).
Exaggerated (and often distorted) reportage by a hysterical media on the Delhi encounter and the arrests across the country had created the irrational expectation that the spate of arrests and the ‘neutralisation’ of the SIMI-IM network would somehow spell the end of the succession of terrorist attacks that had been inflicted at apparently diminishing intervals over the past months and years – but the flower market bombing has, unsurprisingly, put paid to that rather quickly. Investigators are still to identify the perpetrators of the latest bombing, but it should be abundantly clear that, despite the body blows inflicted on the SIMI-IM networks, this organisation’s capacities are yet to be entirely extinguished. Moreover, the various other Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorist groups that have operated – individually and in tandem, often with SIMI – over the past years, to execute numerous terrorist attacks across India, show no signs of any significant decline in capacities or loss of support from their state sponsors in the neighbourhood – Pakistan and Bangladesh. Under the circumstances, there is little reason to believe that recent Police successes will have any permanent impact on the ongoing Islamist terrorist campaign across India.
It must be evident, consequently, that the question of containment of the threat and the creation of necessary counter-terrorism capacities must remain at the forefront of all policy discourse. It is, in some measure, gratifying that the debate at the Centre in the aftermath of the September 13 Delhi bombings – polarized and incoherent as it no doubt substantially remained – is beginning to show some signs of urgency. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conceded that there are "still vast gaps in intelligence", and this observation was followed, on September 17, by a Cabinet decision to augment the Intelligence Bureau’s (IB’s) strength by an additional 6,000 personnel. The IB was also tasked to set up a new ‘Research and Technology Wing’ dedicated to the continuous monitoring and analysis of patterns of terrorist activities and responses.
At the same time, significant augmentation of capacities was disclosed for the Delhi Police as well. The Home Secretary revealed that recruitment for 5,000 posts sanctioned earlier was ongoing, and an additional 7,612 posts in the Force had also received sanction. Further, plans to install a network of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in markets and at various border checkposts, and a centralised database with face recognition software, under the Delhi Police were also outlined, even as the projected augmentation of transport and communications capabilities was announced.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether, in what measure and within what timeframe these decisions are actually implemented. Crucially, however, as has been repeatedly emphasised in the past, the idea that terrorism can be contained at its points of delivery, or that India’s cities can be protected even while its ‘hinterland’ – the vast rural and mufussil areas – remain lawless and un-policed, is fundamentally flawed. The success of the national counter-terrorism effort will depend not only on high measures of efficiency (themselves far from realisation) at Delhi or in a handful of metropolii, but in a reformation of the policing and intelligence systems across the country. Processes to secure this objective have, however, yet to begin, and most States simply lack the political and administrative capability and – perhaps more crucially – integrity and intent, to take up the tasks of counter-terrorist capacity building with any degree of seriousness or urgency.
Even more dangerous, however, is the evidence of increasing communalisation, exceptionalism and a deeply destructive political dynamic that is progressively crystallizing around the discourse on Islamist terrorism across political parties, sections of the media, and the country at large. Among the principal objectives of irregular warfare, Mao Tse Tung notes, is the "destruction of the unity of the enemy". Terrorists targeting India, it is ever more evident, require very little effort to secure this objective, as political leaderships and social elites engage in an increasingly perverse debate on particular terrorist acts and state responses, or on the issueof terrorism in general.
It is, for instance, a matter of tremendous concern that an encounter in broad daylight, in the crowded Batla House locality of Jamia Nagar in South Delhi, and in which one Policemen – the leader of the raiding party, Inspector M.C. Sharma – was killed in the exchange of fire, and another was injured, should provoke significant scepticism not only among people in the immediate neighbourhood where the shootout occurred, but in a much wider constituency among political parties, the media and what passes for India’s ‘intelligentsia’. This is an index, equally, of the degree of communal polarisation, particularly in ghettoised neighbourhoods, as of the loss of confidence in the Police, especially among members of minority groups. Some human rights organisations, in a knee-jerk reflex, raised the bogey of a ‘staged encounter’, while the All India Minority Forum has called for a judicial inquiry into the killings. Other communal leaders and some political parties have jumped on to the bandwagon, perhaps cynically seeing an opportunity for some harvesting of votes or support through the adoption of partisan and extreme postures. The argument has been put forward that ‘innocent Muslims’ are being targeted in the spate of recent arrests – but no evidence has, at any point, been cited, to support the thesis, other than an undercurrent of sustained denigration of the Police. Crucially, the responses of enforcement agencies are increasingly being held hostage to an irrational media backlash that follows both the failure to act and effective action. There has been a constant clamour about investigative failures to solve the major terrorist attacks over the past over two years. But when a case is actually solved, there is immediate and unverified uproar over the ‘targeting of innocent Muslims’, and altogether bizarre conspiracy theories abound. Worse, it is more than evident that enforcement agencies in India have simply failed to acquire the skills and acumen necessary to deal with the intrusive, increasingly frenzied, and overwhelmingly ignorant media, and this has only further fed a rising panic in public perceptions. The institutional paralysis is deepened manifold by opportunistic and unprincipled political responses – variously based on tactics that seek mobilisation through appeasement or escalation of tensions between communities – as well as through strategic advocacy by a number of sympathetic communal formations.
There are grave dangers for the country’s future in this. The induced paralysis that afflicts our responses to a rapid succession of crises across the country has created vast spaces for the operation of anti-national forces – and Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorists are only one among these. Unless a minimal unity of purpose, across both parties and communities, is secured, India’s enemies will continue to succeed with increasing frequency against a fragmented people, polity and administration.
The September 14, 2008, handover of 18 militants by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel to their Indian counterparts, the Border Security Force (BSF), in Tripura has been hailed as a ‘major concession’ on the part of the Bangladeshis who, till recently, flatly denied the presence of any Indian militant groups on their soil. Some Indian analysts have gone overboard, terming the development a ‘turning point’ in Indo-Bangladesh relations. The reality, however, is that the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) – from which the militants were drawn – has, for some time now, been a spent force in Tripura, and was more of a liability than an asset to Bangladesh in its subversive campaigns against India. This isolated gesture, unless followed by the unlikely event of several repetitions in the near future, with cadres of far more dangerous terrorist and insurgent outfits that have secured permanent safe havens on Bangladeshi soil, will stop drastically short of addressing the numerous problems between the two countries.
The ATTF militants who were handed over, were reportedly arrested during a BDR raid on the long-established ATTF ‘headquarters’ at Satcherri in Habiganj District of Bangladesh, across the North District of Tripura, on October 10, 2004. Bangladesh Police later booked all the militants under the Arms Act and charge sheeted them in the District and Sessions Court in Habiganj. All the militants then were sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment which ended in July 2008. The BDR then decided to hand them over to the BSF. Significantly, these militants were all lower rung cadres and had joined the outfit only a year and half prior to their arrest.
This is not the first time that the BDR has created the appearance of cooperation with Indian authorities. The July 24, 2007 surrender of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) chairman Julius Dorphang in Meghalaya was indirectly facilitated by BDR personnel. The HNLC chairman, along with four of his fellow cadres, travelled from the outfit’s camp in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and crossed over into Indian territory at Lyngkhat village, near the India-Bangladesh border. Again, on April 3, 2008, acting on BSF’s request, BDR personnel conducted raids against Borok National Council of Tripura (BNCT) militants at an unspecified location in the CHT area, forcing them to release two abducted villagers from Tripura. More recently, on August 22, 2008, BDR personnel handed over Jackson Arengh, a militant of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), who had served a four year prison term in Bangladesh.
There is, however, a clear pattern to these incidents of ‘cooperation’ by the BDR. It is certainly not a coincidence that, so far, the militants who have been handed over by BDR belong to outfits that have been more or less neutralised in the States where they primarily operated. Tripura, for example, till 2004, recorded significant militancy related activities, but has since, through effective and forceful Police action, managed to virtually neutralize the principal insurgent groups. Thus, from a peak of as many as 514 fatalities in 2000, and 167 in 2004, the State recorded a total of 169 deaths in the three years between 2005 and 2007. During the current year, till September 23, only 19 fatalities, including those of 13 militants, were reported from the State. Both the active militant groups in Tripura, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the ATTF, have been thoroughly marginalised and are, today, a pale shadow of the disruptive forces they were a few years ago.
Similarly, the HNLC in Meghalaya is in a shambles. Effective Police action, withdrawal of popular support and high-profile surrenders like that of outfit’s Chairman Dorphang, has broken the back of the organisation. The outfit’s cadre strength, once in the range of over 250, has been reduced to under 50. With the other militant group in the State, the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC), observing a ceasefire with the Government since July 23, 2004, militancy in Meghalaya is all but over. Only seven deaths, all of militants, have been reported in the State in the current year (till September 23). Likewise, the NDFB is under a tripartite ceasefire agreement with the Assam State Government and the Union Government since May 25, 2005. Most of its cadres are presently based in designated camps set up by the Government.
Indian insurgents, once described by the former Prime Minister and leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Khaleda Zia as "freedom fighters", have served as critical instruments of the anti-India policy of successive Bangladeshi regimes. As a part of this policy, jointly authored by the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Bangladeshi military intelligence agency, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Bangladesh has provided safe haven to militants from virtually every organisation operating in India’s northeast and, over the years, consistently rebuffed Indian pleas to act against them. These militants have been financed and trained by the ISI-DGFI combine and unleashed regularly on the north-eastern states with full knowledge and cooperation of BDR. Even the ascendancy of the ‘India’s friend’, the Awami League (AL)’s Sheikh Hasina, failed to bring about any significant change in Bangladeshi policy towards the Indian insurgents. The leverage and facilities provided to these militants by the Bangladeshi authorities remains proportionally linked with their nuisance value in India. It is, consequently, not surprising that the neutralisation or marginalisation of individual outfits in their parent States downgrades their footing and the concomitant provision of support within Bangladesh.
Outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), however, remain in a different league. ULFA, in spite of the setbacks it has suffered due to the ceasefire recently declared by two of its major military formations, is still seen to be useful within the ISI/DGFI’s action plans in Assam. ULFA cadres continue to be pushed into Assam from Bangladesh with explosives. On September 8, 2008, for instance, an ISI agent was arrested along with a ULFA cadre in the Nalbari District of Assam with three kilograms of explosives which he had procured from Bangladesh. Given the operational utility of ULFA to the Bangladeshi establishment, a Bhutan type flush-out operation or an irregular raid on the lines of Myanmarese military operations against the outfit are virtually unimaginable in Bangladesh. The outfit’s utility to the twin intelligence agencies ensures the safety of its top leadership and the ULFA establishment in the country. ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa not only live under State protection in Bangladesh, but have been allowed, on numerous occasions, to fly out of the country to locations in Pakistan and South-east Asia.
The dubious Bangladeshi stand on ULFA is most evident in the case of Anup Chetia, the outfit’s ‘general secretary’. Chetia alias Golap Barua was arrested in December 1997 along with two of his associates, Laxmiprasad and Babul Sharma. In March 1998, the Bangladesh Government filed a chargesheet under Clause 25 (B) of the Special Powers Act for illegal entry into the country, possession of foreign currency notes of 16 countries, a satellite phone and forged Bangladesh passports. Even as Dhaka refused to deport Chetia to India, the Supreme Court handed out a seven-year-three months’ imprisonment on Chetia, which ended on February 25, 2005. Since then, Chetia remains in protective custody, shielded by a Dhaka-based human rights organisation – Manobadhikar Bastobayon Sangstha. The Bangladesh Government cites the absence of an extradition treaty with India for Chetia’s prolonged stay in that country. The absence of the treaty, however, acted as no hurdle in the September 14 handover of ATTF militants as well as that of the NDFB cadre in August.
The dubious Bangladeshi stand is further evidenced in the position of the Caretaker Government on Harkat-ul Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B). Although this outfit’s involvement in terror activities in Bangladesh is limited to few incidents, such as the 2004 grenade attacks on the AL rally in Dhaka, it has been a keen participant in several terror attacks on Indian urban centres beginning with the January 2002 attack on the American Center in Kolkata. HuJI-B cadres regularly cross over the porous Indo-Bangladesh borders and melt into the population before engaging in subversive and terrorist activities. On September 26, for instance, security forces in Assam killed seven Bangladeshi cadres of HuJI-B in an encounter at Bashbari area of Dhubri District. Six revolvers, three grenades, two gelatin sticks, six detonators, two kilograms of explosives, some Bangladeshi currency notes, a Bangladeshi mobile SIM card and addresses of some hotels in Bangladeshi were recovered from the slain militants’ possession. Reports in September indicate that, notwithstanding numberless Indian requests to rein in the outfit, HuJI-B has been allowed to float a political party, the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP), by the Caretaker Government. Intelligence agencies in Bangladesh, in spite of the confessions made by HuJI-B operations commander Mufti Abdul Hannan of involvement in the attack on the AL rally, have reportedly found nothing that links this outfit with terror activities. Kazi Azizul Huq, an adviser of the IDP claimed on September 27, "The intelligence agencies gathered that we have no relations to any terrorist networks." On September 26, IDP held an Iftar party at the Diploma Engineers Institution in Dhaka, which was attended by several newspaper editors and human rights organisations. Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Naim Ahmed told the media that they allowed IDP to arrange the function as it was a ‘religious’ one.
The Caretaker Government’s 21 months’ stint in power has ensured that a number of anti-India elements, especially some retired generals of the DGFI, have been placed in critical positions, from the Election Commission to the National Coordination Committee heading the anti-corruption drive. A former DGFI director Maj. Gen. (Retd.) M. A. Matin has even been made the Adviser (Home Affairs) in the Caretaker Government, one of the 11 advisers who assist Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed to run the Caretaker Government. In his book The Continuation of our Liberation Struggle, released in July 2008, Matin criticised the secular character of Bangladeshi culture, termed the Ekushey February (Bengali language day) celebrations as Hindu cultural activities, lambasted AL leader Sheikh Hasina as an Indian agent and spewed venom at India for Bangladesh’s woes.
The BSF, in its Directors General-level talks with the BDR on August 24, 2008, handed over a list of 263 militant leaders and cadres presently settled within Bangladesh and the detailed location of 110 militant camps / safe houses. The list of militants included the top ULFA leadership, the NLFT chief Biswamohan Debbarma, the ATTF Chief Ranjit Debbarma, the HNLC ‘commander-in-chief’ Bobby Marwein and ‘general secretary’ Cheristerfield Thangkhiew and the NDFB chief Ranjan Daimary. The BDR reportedly agreed to the joint verification of militant camps indicated by the Indian side. Very little, however, is expected to be achieved from such an unlikely venture, due to the very fluid nature of these facilities in Bangladesh and the procedural delay between action proposed and actual implementation.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 22-28, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Seven HuJI-B terrorists killed in Assam: Seven suspected Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) terrorists were killed in an encounter with the Army at Bashbari under Rupshi development block in the Dhubri District on September 26. Six revolvers, three grenades, two gelatin sticks, six detonators, two kilograms of explosives, some Bangladeshi currency notes, a Bangladeshi mobile SIM card and addresses of some hotels in Bangladeshi were recovered from the slain militants’ possession. Acting on a tip-off, personnel of the 21 Jat Regiment of the Army’s Red Horn division stationed at Pentair cordoned off a patch of jungle where the terrorists were hiding. The encounter started around 3-30 am and lasted half-an-hour. Assam Tribune, September 27, 2008.
Teen-age boy killed in explosion in New Delhi: On September 27, a 13-year old boy was killed in an explosion at the crowded Mehrauli area of South Delhi. Twenty-two persons were injured. According to eyewitnesses, two men who were in their mid- 20s riding a black motorcycle dropped a polythene bag containing the bomb near an electrical goods shop at the Mehrauli Sarai market around 2-15 p.m. The teen-age boy Santosh, who was standing nearby, picked it up when the bomb exploded killing him. Preliminary investigations indicated that a low-intensity device concealed in a tiffin box was used to trigger the explosion. Delhi Police; The Hindu, Delhi Police, September 28, 2008.
Five Indian Mujahideen cadres arrested by Mumbai Police: On September 24, the Mumbai Police claimed to have arrested five suspected members of the Indian Mujahideen. While Afzal Mutalib Usmani (32) was arrested from Uttar Pradesh, Mohammed Saddik Shaikh (31), Mohammed Arif Shaikh (38), Mohammed Zakir Shaikh (28) and Mohammed Ansar Shaikh were arrested from their Mumbai residences on September 23 night. All the accused, originally from Azamgarh District in Uttar Pradesh, have worked with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Joint Commissioner (Crime), Rakesh Maria told journalists. "They broke away from SIMI to form the radical group of Indian Mujahideen. Saddik, was one of the co-founders of the outfit along with Atiq, killed in the Delhi encounter, and Roshan Khan, who is yet to be traced. The Police are on the lookout for Khan", Maria added. The Police have booked the arrested terrorists under the Explosives Act, Arms Act, various sections of the Indian Penal Code and for criminal conspiracy. The recovered items from the arrested terrorists include 10 kilograms of gelatin or ammonium nitrate, 15 detonators, eight kilograms of ball bearings, four fully active electronic circuits, one sub-machine carbine, two .38 revolvers and 30 cartridges of 9 mm carbine and eight cartridges of .38 revolver. The Hindu, September 25, 2008.
Afghan ambassador designate to Islamabad abducted in Peshawar: Afghan Consul-General in Peshawar and Ambassador-designate to Islamabad, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was abducted on September 22 by unidentified gunmen. Farahi’s driver was shot dead for resisting his abduction. The Afghan diplomat was on his way to his residence when armed men overtook his vehicle near Phase 3 of the posh Hayatabad locality, adjacent to the Khyber tribal region. "The driver tried to speed away but the assailants, who were in a double-cabin truck, overtook it (the car) and blocked its way," said an eye-witness. The Police, however, maintained that only the diplomat was abducted. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in Islamabad, "The diplomat did not follow Government’s instructions and travelled without security cover." The Afghan Government blamed Pakistan for not providing adequate security to Farahi. No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Dawn, September 23, 2008.
Anti-Taliban offensive continues in Bajaur: At least 82 Taliban militants and seven Security Force (SF) personnel were killed in the past week in a continued air and land offensive between the SFs and the Taliban in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While SFs killed at least 10 Taliban cadres on September 23, 25 Taliban militants and seven soldiers were killed on September 24. Official sources indicated that foreign al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are ‘infiltrating’ into Bajaur from Afghanistan to join their colleagues in the battle. Afghan commander, Qari Ziaur Rehman was reportedly leading the foreign Taliban and al Qaeda – Arab, Chechen, Uzbek and Afghan fighters. While the Army claimed to have cleared 80 percent areas of Utmankhel, Salarzai and Khar tehsils (revenue divisions), the Nawagai and Mamoond tehsils remained under the control of the Taliban. Inter-Services Public Relations Director General, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas stated that troops used heavy artillery, fighter jets and helicopter gunships to target Taliban positions in the Loyesam, Rashakai, Tang Khata, Gang, Tangi, Shnikot, Bai Cheena and Kosar areas. Armed clashes in the Rashkai area was followed by attacks from air involving helicopters and fighter jets. Taliban hideouts in Gulani were bombed. On September 25, SF attacks on Taliban positions in Damadola, Shinkot areas killed at least 16 Taliban militants and two civilians, and injured 20 others, mostly civilians. On September 26. Taliban attacks on a SF check post in Tang Khatta, about nine kilometres from Khar township, was repulsed by the SFs, resulting in the killing of seven terrorists. Subsequently, helicopter gunship attacks were carried out in the Tang Khatta, Damadola, Rashakai, Bicheena and Banda areas, killing another seven militants on the same day. On September 27, another 16 militants were killed in separate operations after the Taliban carried out attacks on three military posts near Khar township.
The Frontier Corps (FC) Inspector General, Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, on September 26, claimed that the situation in the Agency would be stabilised within two months. "My timeframe for Bajaur is anything from between one-and-a-half to two months to bring about stability", he said. He claimed that troops have killed more than 1,000 militants including five top al Qaeda and Taliban commanders and injured 2,000 others since the offensive began in early August this year. 63 troopers have also been killed and another 212 injured in the operation. Khan also estimated that 65 percent of the Taliban problem would be eliminated if they were defeated in Bajaur.
Meanwhile, the Utmankhel tribe jirga (council) has resolved to take action against the Taliban and their backers in the area. Similarly, thousands of Salarzai tribesmen announced the launch of an operation against the Taliban on the fourth day after Eid. They torched the houses of 18 people accused of helping or sheltering the Taliban. Daily Times, September 23-29, 2008.
50 militants killed as Army takes control of Kohat tunnel: More than 50 militants and a lone security force (SF) trooper were killed in the ongoing military operation in the Darra Adam Khel area of NWFP, according to a statement by the military on September 23. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Spokesman Maj. Murad Khan said the SFs had secured major portions of the Indus Highway, cleared the Kohat Tunnel, and successfully evicted Taliban from their roadside hideouts, on the second day of the operation. The troops also carried out a search operation in Darra bazaar area, the statement added. Daily Times, September 24, 2008.
25 militants and three Frontier Corps personnel killed in gun battle in Dera Bugti: At least 25 militants and three Frontier Corps (FC) personnel were killed while four FC personnel received injuries in a two-day gun battle between the security forces (SFs) and militants in the Gandoi and Uch areas of Dera Bugti District of Balochistan on September 27. Official sources said that FC personnel on patrol in the Gandoi area were fired upon by militants resulting in an exchange of fire that continued on September 27 and 28. SFs claimed to have destroyed two militant camps and seized a huge haul of weapons and explosives. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) spokesman Sarbaz Baloch, however, claimed that BLA cadres had killed 17 SF personnel in the fighting. The clash incidentally occurred 26 days after the September 1 unilateral ceasefire announced by three militant outfits – the BLA, the Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Liberation Front. Daily Times, September 28-29, 2008.
243 LTTE militants and 20 soldiers among 266 persons killed during the week: 243 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 20 soldiers and three civilians were among 266 persons killed in separate incidents between September 22 and September 28. At least 16 LTTE militants were killed and five others injured during clashes with the security forces (SFs) in the Akkarayankulam, Wannivilankulam and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District on September 21. Four soldiers were also killed during the confrontations. Separately, troops killed 11 LTTE militants, including the provincial leader of the outfit, identified as Muttu, in the east of Navvi in Vavuniya District. On September 22, at least 17 LTTE militants were killed and 13 others injured as clashes erupted between the militants and the troops in the Akkarayankulam, Wannivilankulam, Pannaikandamdu and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District. 13 LTTE militants were killed as the troops neutralized eight bunkers of the outfit at Vannappulikulam, an area between Nachchakuda and Akkarayankulam, in the Kilinochchi District following a four-hour long battle on September 25. Two soldiers were also killed while 14 others sustained injuries during the encounters. At least 18 militants were killed as the troops repulsed a LTTE attack on the SFs Forward Defence Line (FDL) in the Maniarkulam area of Kilinochchi District on September 26. On the same day, 17 militants were killed in clashes between the two sides in the Vannavikulam area of Kilinochchi District. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 22-29, 2008.