SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
It is a new round of war over territory in Assam. In this ethnically polarised State, local politics and probable, yet unconfirmed involvement of former and active insurgent groups, is fuelling the existing schism between the two communities, the Bodos – the largest plains tribe in the State settled primarily in the north bank of the Brahmaputra river – and immigrant Muslim settlers. On last available reports at the time of writing, 32 persons from both communities had been killed in the north Assam Districts of Udalguri and Darrang, located about 100 kilometres from the State capital, Dispur.
Clashes started between the two communities on October 3 at Bhalukmari and Mohanbari villages of Udalguri District following rumours that a Bodo youth was missing. Though the youth was later traced and found to be safe, people belonging to two communities gathered at Ikrabari around 3 p.m. and each set ablaze houses belonging to the other community, gutting a total of 40 houses. Precipitating the already charged situation, a Muslim youth, Abdul Jabbar, was stabbed to death within the premises of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Udalguri. There was no stopping the violence after this, in spite of the initial deployment of Police personnel and their subsequent reinforcement by five companies of the para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and 11 columns of Army personnel.
Since October 3, violence has affected 35 villages and led to the death of 32 persons, 17 killed in clashes between armed mobs carrying bows and arrows, spears, machetes, and even guns and the remaining 15 in Police firing. Unofficial counts however, put the toll well past 50. The wave of violence has forced almost 80,000 people from both communities to take shelter in 36 relief camps (22 in Udalguri and 14 in Darrang Districts) set up by the Government. The worst affected areas include Rowta, Dalgaon, Kharupetia, Bhakatpara and Udalguri. Fresh reports indicate that the violence was gradually spreading into the adjoining Baksa District – which has significant Bodo and Muslim populations – as well.
The violence has followed a ‘majority attacking the minority’ pattern in both the Districts. In Darrang, with over 35 percent Muslims and a far smaller Bodo presence, it was mainly Muslim mobs that attacked tribal villages. However, in Udalgiri District, which was carved out of Darrang District in 2004, has a Bodo population in excess of 50 percent and Muslim settlers are in a distinct minority. Here the Bodo population went on a rampage against the Muslims.
Ethnic violence in the Bodo heartland of Assam has a long history. The Bodo Accord of 1993, which attempted to bring end to years of arson, violence and instability led by the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), which had commenced in 1986, sought to identify areas where the Bodo population exceeded 50 percent as ‘Bodo Areas’ to be brought under the direct administration of the Bodo Autonomous Council (BAC). An unintentional result of this provision has led to recurring and organised ethnic cleansing in areas where the Bodos do not yet constitute 50 percent of the population. The willing participants in these movements have been Bodo leaders, drawn either from political or community based organisations or insurgent factions. Their targets have sometimes have been the adivasis (tribals from outside the State brought to work in the tea plantations) and sometimes, the Muslims (Bangladeshis or otherwise).
It is important to note that majority of the Muslim victims in the current spate of violence (loosely referred to as Bangladeshi Muslims by the media) are of East Bengal (which later became East Pakistan) origin. They had migrated into Assam much before the creation of Bangladesh. As per the agreements of the Assam Accord, "All persons who come to Assam prior to 1.1.1966, including those amongst them whose names appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections shall be regularised." This makes these migrant settlers bona fide Indian citizens, notwithstanding their origin.
Contrary to media reports, which have linked the violence to the overall problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh and its concomitant pressures on the native population, this spate of violence thus, needs to be analysed from the point of Bodo aspiration to secure or sustain their majority in areas in and adjoining the Bodo heartland.
Reports indicate that people of both communities are confronting each other with full preparation. Both have access to sharp weapons, bows and arrows, a fact which further reinforces the claim that it is just not an assault by a dominant group on hamlets of vulnerable migrant population, but almost an equal fight between two well-prepared communities.
Two months earlier, in August 2008, Bodo majority areas in Assam had witnessed a similar violence, albeit of lesser intensity. At least seven people were killed and 50 injured in a series of clashes between both communities in Darrang, Udalguri and Kokrakhar and Sonitpur Districts. Violence on that occasion had started on August 14 in the Udalguri District, when two Bodo boys were killed in a clash during a 12-hour shutdown called by a little-known organisation, the Muslim Students’ Union of Assam, against the harassment of genuine Indian Muslims in the State. Nearly 5,000 people fled their homes at that time and normalcy was restored only after a fortnight.
Divisive politics in the Bodo heartland, between the erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) cadres – both operating under ceasefire agreements with the Government – is also getting intertwined in the entire issue. The BLT, after a seven-year insurgent campaign, had settled for a peace deal with the Government of India, which led to the establishment of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in December 2003. The BTC comprises four Districts – Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri. The BTC was the second such attempt at providing the Bodos – the largest plains tribe in Assam – with an autonomous self-governing body, after the 1993 Bodo Accord between the Union and State Governments and the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), which had led to the setting up of the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). Internal divisions among the Bodos led to the collapse of the BAC.
The BLT surrendered en masse just before the establishment of the BTC in December 2003. The Bodo movement however, split into two factions, one under the leadership of Hagrama Mohillary and Chandan Brahma, who formed the Bodoland People’s Party (BPP) and took control of the BTC with the backing of the Congress; and the second faction, the Bodoland People's Progressive Front (BPPF), led by moderates Rabiram and U.G. Brahma, which was sidelined as they fared poorly in the 2006 State Legislative Assembly polls. Both factions continue to accuse each other of fomenting trouble in the area.
The other key player in the Bodo heartland, the NDFB has been 22 years in existence. On May 25, 2005, this outfit signed a cease-fire agreement, with the Union and Assam Governments. The NDFB’s over-ground status bothers the BPP to a considerable extent, not just because of the low-level violence that continues between NDFB and former BLT cadres, but also as a result of the complications the NDFB’s eventual political agreement with the Government is likely to create for Hagrama Mohillary and co. Unsurprisingly, Hagrama Mohillary, on October 4, pointed to an NDFB role in the continuing violence and asked the Assam Government to call off the ceasefire with the outfit.
The Assam Government, BPP’s political partner, echoed Mohillary’s concerns. Assam Government spokesman and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, on October 5, stated that the violence in Udalguri and Darrang was "not an ethnic conflict’, but rather the result of a planned ethnic cleansing by the NDFB to drive out all non-Bodos from the area: "This is not a clash between Hindus and immigrant Bangladeshi Muslims as projected, but a systematic pogrom by the NDFB, as many of the people affected by the violence are genuine Assamese Muslims, Bengali Hindus, common Bodos, besides a few Adivasis (tea plantation tribals) as well." The Minister’s conclusion relied heavily on the "use of guns" by the attackers as he painstakingly explained that none except for the militants had access to such weapons in the area. The Minister also announced that four NDFB cadres had been arrested in this connection. On the same day, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stated that the ceasefire agreement with the NDFB was under review in view of its participation in violence.
On the face of it, the NDFB’s capacity to initiate and sustain such a ‘pogrom’ is doubtful. A bulk of its cadres is settled in three designated camps set up by the Assam Government. Others live in their respective villages, complaining of inadequate space and facilities in the camps. Even though occasional clashes between the former BLT and NDFB cadres have taken place on several occasions, it is highly improbable that the outfit would be central to widespread violence in areas closely monitored by the BLT and also by the Assam Government. NDFB, moreover, is an outfit consisting of the minority Christian segment among the Bodos and has little antipathy towards the Muslims. Moreover, the NDFB’s top leadership, including ‘chairman’ Ranjan Daimary, is still based in Bangladesh and is unlikely to participate in any movement which targets the migrant settlers, who are alleged to be drawn from Bangladesh.
In the immediate future, the clashes between the two communities are likely to reduce in intensity solely due to the large presence of Security Forces in the affected areas. However, the recurrence of violence in the near future – and periodic reverberations in years to come – cannot be ruled out.
The State Government’s knee-jerk responses are being executed at a war footing in Assam. Customary requests for rushing in CPMF companies have already been placed with the Union Home Ministry. The Deputy Commissioner of Udalguri has been transferred and the Police Chief of the District suspended. In all, the spate of violence has exposed the State Government’s lack of preparedness to deal with the sudden outburst of violence, and this is particular cause for concern in view of similar communal clashes that rocked the same Districts just two months ago. To blame it all on an outfit, 90 per cent of whose cadres are overground, is nothing less than evasive and dishonest, an attempt to cover up the utter failure of administration over several years.
Minnows Back in the Mainstream
On September 30, 2008, the United Liberation Front of Barak Valley (ULFBV) came overground with the formal surrender of 305 cadres at the Indian Tea Association (ITA) Cultural Complex in Guwahati. ‘President’ Panchram Apeto led the cadres, mostly belonging to the Reang tribe of southern Assam’s Hailakandi and Karimganj Districts, thus ending an eight-year-old armed insurrection. The militants surrendered a range of weapons and ammunition, including semi-automatic rifles and small arms, including three AK-47s and one M-16 rifle; 60 12-bore guns, and grenades, mortar shells and 158 rounds of AK series ammunition.
Describing the surrender as a happy occasion for both the extremists and society at large, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stated, "It has once again been established that the path of violence brings no gain to anyone." Appreciating the efforts of the extremists and their leaders in seeing reason, Gogoi hoped that other extremist groups would also come forward to ‘join the mainstream’, and thus bring peace and prosperity to the region. Particularly, stating that as more and more extremist groups of the State renounced violence, he anticipated that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) too would realise the value of taking part in peaceful negotiations. He lauded the efforts of the Assam Police in helping extremists to surrender and lead normal lives.
The State Police Chief R.N. Mathur noted that, while the ULFBV had not carried out any serious act of violence, its return to peace was a welcome development. He said that his department would take suitable steps towards the rehabilitation of the surrendered cadres. Several thousand militants belonging to different outfits have surrendered in Assam over the past years, of which 8,626 have been rehabilitated through Government initiatives.
ULFBV ‘president’ Pancharam Apeto declared that the outfit had taken up arms to protest the deprivation of the Reangs and other tribal people from the fruits of development. He added that areas inhabited by these communities lacked schools, proper roads and heath care facilities. There were instances of patients dying, he explained, on their way to hospital due to dilapidated condition of the roads connecting the tribal hamlets. Apeto stated, further, that the outfit agreed to lay down arms after the State Government assured them that their demands would be considered seriously. He also expressed his hope that after the surrender of all cadres the State Government would take steps to help develop the region, which lacked even basic health care and educational opportunities. In response, the Chief Minister promised the initiation of measures for the development of backward areas.
The creation of a Zila Parishad (District Council) for the tribal communities in the Barak Valley, restoration of land to the tribal people and development of tribal-inhabited areas of Hailakandi and Karimganj Districts were the major demands for which an armed rebellion was raised by the Reang group, which was formed in 2001. The aim of the outfit was, according to the Assam Police, to protect the Reang community from alleged "atrocities of the Mizos and Muslims". The ULFBV received logistical support and training from the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), Dima Halim Daogah (DHD) and National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT). Some ULFBV cadres received training in Nagaland, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The Assam Police Chief disclosed that the ULFBV had been involved in 28 insurgency-related acts of crime and violence. Further, its cadres had abducted 42 people, all of whom had either been rescued by security forces or subsequently released by the outfit. On December 31, 2007, three persons, including the son of a Congress party leader, were abducted by the ULFBV militants armed with AK-47 rifles at Kharolbasti in the Hailakandi District along the Assam-Mizoram border. The abducted persons were identified as Hussein Ahmed, Abdul Noor and Abdul Khaliq. They were campaigning for Abdul Khaliq Laskar alias Kuti, a Congress party candidate for the Baldabaldi Panchayat (Local Self Government) President post. Abdul Khaliq was later released on the same night with a note addressed to the candidate demanding INR 1,000,000 for the release of the remaining two. Earlier, on June 21, 2004, the ULFBV had reportedly served extortion notes worth INR 250,000 on three persons belonging to Betarbandh village in the Karimganj District.
The Barak Valley based insurgents had been targeted by the Police action in the wake of their activities. Two of its cadres were, for instance, killed in the year 2002. Later, on September 2, 2003, the outfit’s ‘commander in chief’ Pancharam Reang and his bodyguard, Dulal Singh Reang, were arrested in the Karbi Anglong District. During interrogation, Pancharam confessed that the group’s attempt to establish a nexus with the NSCN-IM for the supply of arms fell through after the latter reportedly demanded an ‘exorbitant price’. On December 14, 2003, a ULFBV hideout located at Senapunji hamlet under Kalicherra block in the Hailakandi District was neutralised and four of its cadres were arrested. Again on April 24, 2008, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel arrested four militants, including a ULFBV cadre, from Killarbak area under Jamira Police Station of Hailakandi District along the Asom-Mizoram border. Eventually, on June 7, 2008, the outfit was compelled to declare a unilateral cease-fire.
The surrender of a militant group, which is low key in its operation yet not inconsequential in the conflict dynamics of the Northeast, is part of the wider trend towards negotiated settlements currently evolving in Assam. On June 24, 2008, a unilateral cease-fire was declared by leaders of the ‘A and C companies’ of the ‘28th Battalion’ of the ULFA, a frontal militant group that has, over the decades, enormously undermined the security milieu of the State. Meanwhile, State Police Chief Mathur disclosed that the Black Widow (BW) group and Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), which are infact anti-talk break away factions of the DHD and United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), respectively, and which entered into extended cease-fire agreements with the Government, have also expressed their willingness to engage in negotiations.
Nevertheless, the entire episode of a 305-strong group ‘joining the mainstream’ at one go has left some space for suspicion regarding the actual strength of the ULFBV at the time of its surrender, given the reality of the very small number of incidents involving the insurgent group. Following the arrest of its ‘commander-in-chief’ in the year 2003, the group’s cadre strength had been estimated at around 50. The obvious doubts surrounding the sudden increase in cadre strength are deepened by the allure of the rehabilitation package associated with the surrender. These apprehensions are the more troubling since disguised insurgents – including those who have surrendered – are frequently involved in offences such as extortion and abduction in the Northeast. Further, the act of laying down arms is not the end, but rather the beginning of the process of ‘normalisation’. Past experience suggests that subsequent rehabilitation of armed cadres in the region has been far from smooth. The issue of rehabilitating surrendered Reang militants in the neighbouring State of Mizoram is a case in point. On April 17, 2008, the former Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM) ‘foreign secretary’ Edwin Chorky, threatened that his cadres would return to refugee camps in Tripura rather than wait for their full rehabilitation in Mizoram.
The ULFBV surrender was accompanied by a six-point charter of demands, including the creation of a separate Zila Parishad for the Reangs and other tribals living in the Barak Valley, restoration of land to the tribal people, compensation and settlement of the surrendered cadres, general amnesty for cadres, and initiation of peace talks involving the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). In the past, peace deals with insurgent groups have crumbled as a result of the failure of the Government to sustain the impetus of the initial agreements and to initiate processes of implementation within a meaningful timeframe. Peace in the Barak Valley will depend on taking the event of the Reang insurgents’ surrender forward to its logical conclusion, and ensuring that official neglect does not create conditions that will militate against, and eventually neutralise, the present gains.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 29-October 5, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Four persons killed and 70 injured in blast in Maharashtra: Four persons were killed and more than 70 were injured when a bomb went off at a hotel at busy Bhikhu Chowk area in Malegaon on September 29. Two of the four dead were identified as Sayed Zaheer Sayed Nissar and Rafiq Mustafa. Police sources said that a silver coloured motorcycle was found parked near the site of the blast and the explosives might have been placed on it. Curfew was imposed in the eastern part of the Malegaon town after the blast and stone-pelting by a mob. Five policemen, including Additional Superintendent of Police Viresh Prabhu, were, among those injured in stone-pelting. The Hindu, September 30, 2008.
Maoists kill four security force personnel in Chhattisgarh: Four personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), including a Deputy Commandant, were killed in a landmine explosion on a road leading to Chitrakoot in the Bastar region on September 29. The blast is suspected to have been triggered by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). Official sources said that the blast took place when two jeeps of a Road Opening Party (ROP) carrying 12 CRPF personnel were heading towards Chitrakoot. While Diwakar Mahapatra, a Deputy Commandant of the CRPF, and the driver of the vehicle died on the spot, two of the injured personnel succumbed to injuries in the Government Hospital in Bastar. The condition of the three others was reported to be critical. President Pratibha Patil was visiting the Bastar region at the time of the incident. Times of India, September 30, 2008.
Two persons killed and 16 injured in blast in Gujarat: In the night of September 29, two persons were killed and 16 others injured in a bomb blast in the minority-dominated Tuka Bazar at Modasa town in Sabarkantha District. Three of the injured are in a critical condition. In almost a re-enactment of the September 27 bomb blast at Mehrauli in Delhi, two persons riding a motorcycle through the Tuka Bazar — a market full of eating houses – dropped a bag outside a restaurant around 9.30 p.m. A resident, Jainuddin, picked up the bag and just as he was checking its contents, the bomb exploded, killing him on the spot. Ayub Ghori, who was injured in the explosion, succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
Earlier in the morning, 17 low-intensity crude bombs were recovered from the Kot-ni-Rang area at Kalupur in the old city of Ahmedabad. A bomb squad defused them. The bombs with shrapnel and other discarded materials were kept in small tins in a bucket, which was left in a dustbin. The Hindu, September 30, 2008.
70 militants killed in 30 infiltration bids along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir in 2008: 70 infiltrating militants were reportedly killed in 30 bids by security force personnel along the Line of Control (LoC) in 2008. "Three-tier border fencing along Indo-Pak border has virtually turned into a death trap for ultras, as 70 infiltrating militants were killed in 30 bids in 2008", said Northern Command Public Relations Officer Col. D. K. Kachari. He mentioned that the effectiveness of the fencing along the LoC led to a decline in the rate of successful infiltration bid by militants. The Hindu, October 6, 2008.
13 militants and a soldier killed as week-long gun battle ends in Jammu and Kashmir, says Army: The Army, on October 3, said that the fierce gun battle between the Army and militants that had begun on September 25 in the Kagnan area of Kashmir ended after a week, killing 13 militants and a soldier. The Army had begun mop-up operations after the firing stopped on October 2 in what is said to be the longest gun battle in recent years. Reuters, October 4, 2008.
CRPF seizes over 7,000 kg explosives in 2008: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in its operation across 18 states of the country in 2008 has seized over 7,000 kilograms of explosives with the highest being reported from Naxal (Maoist) infested states, according to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Home Affairs. According to the report, while over 6,000 kilograms of explosives were recovered in Bihar, 893.5 kilograms were recovered from Jharkhand. Both States, which occupy the top two positions in the list of States, from where explosive seizures were made, have a heavy Naxalite presence. In Jammu and Kashmir, the CRPF recovered explosives to the tune of 186.5 kilograms. While the CRPF recovered 57,460 rounds of ammunition and 1,557 arms from across the country, it lost 1,143 rounds of ammunition and 18 weapons.
The CRPF also received the maximum losses of personnel in Naxal infested States, than in the rest of the country. Of the total of 49 casualties reported by the Force, 37 were reported from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. But, with regard to the maximum kills generated by the Force, Jammu and Kashmir tops the list with 80 militants killed, followed by Jharkhand (30), Assam (20) and Chhattisgarh (17). The highest number of personnel injured was in Jammu and Kashmir at 699, which officials said was largely a result of the violence over the Amarnath land row. The Force took part in 62 shootouts in Chhattisgarh, followed by 48 in Jammu and Kashmir and 44 in Jharkhand, among others, taking the total to 189. The Hindu, October 6, 2008.
305 ULFBV militants including their leaders surrender in Assam: A total of 305 armed militants of the United Liberation Front of Barak Valley (ULFBV) led by its ‘president’ Pancharam Apeto, surrendered at the ITA Cultural Complex in Guwahati in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and top personnel of the Police and Army on September 30. The militants also laid down arms and ammunition, including three AK-47 rifles, an M-16 rifle, 60 Twelve Bore guns, four grenades, two mortar shells and 158 rounds of AK series ammunition. Assam Tribune, October 1, 2008.
Government invites Terai armed outfits for dialogue: Following a Cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister’s office at Singha Durbar on October 3, the Government invited the armed groups active in the Terai region to come to the negotiating table. It also formed a three-member committee led by Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Janardan Sharma to hold dialogue with the armed outfits. Responding to the offer, the armed groups operating in Terai announced that they would hold talks with the Government. They also declared a cease-fire during Dashain festival, reports Nepal News. Kantipur online, September 25, 2008.
Five persons killed as ANP chief escapes suicide attack in Charsadda: A suicide bomber blew himself up as he tried to enter a house owned by the Awami National Party (ANP) chief, Asfandyar Wali Khan, in the NWFP on October 2, killing four, officials said. Khan, the chairman of the Pakistani Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, however, escaped unhurt in the attack. The incident took place in the town of Charsadda outside a hujra (guest house) belonging to Khan, a member of the ruling coalition. The bomb exploded as Wali was visiting a guest in a room attached to the house during celebrations for the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, police and party officials told AFP. ‘Four people were killed in the suicide blats. The target was Asfandyar Wali but he is safe,’ Mian Iftikhar, the Information Minister for the NWFP, told local television. Provincial Police chief, Malik Naveed, told AFP that guards shot the bomber before he blew himself up. "The suicide bomber tried to pass from the security scanner avoiding a physical search. Two security guards grabbed him but he tried to get away," Naveed said, adding, "Then he was shot and as soon as he fell on the ground he blew himself up." Police said the other victims included a Policeman and a bank manager who was visiting to pay his respects to Khan. Meanwhile, Haji Adeel, a senior ANP member told Dawn, "The incident happened outside the hujra (guest house). One suicide bomber was trying to enter, he was stopped but the bomber blasted himself. The guard was killed." Dawn, October 3, 2008.
US drone strikes kill 20 persons in North Waziristan: United States air strikes on three villages in North Waziristan in FATA killed at least 20 people on October 1 and October 3. Intelligence officials said a pilot-less drone aircraft launched an attack on the Mohammad Khel village, 30-kilometres west of Miranshah, at around 9:30pm (PST) on October 3. An unnamed intelligence official said at least 12 people had been killed in the attack, including some foreigners, although Taliban sources in the area later told Reuters that eight persons were killed and seven others wounded.
Separately, Pakistani intelligence officials reported another US air strike earlier on October 3 on Datta Khel village, situated closer to the border with Afghanistan, in which at least three persons were killed.
On October 1, five people had been killed in a US strike, eight kilometers south of the town of Mir Ali. Reports said that a US pilot-less drone fired two missiles at a house in the area. Daily Times, October 4, 2008.
Anti-Taliban offensive continues in Bajaur: At least 64 Taliban terrorists were killed in the past week in a continued air and land offensive by the security forces (SFs) against Taliban militants in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While five Taliban militants were killed in the Rashakai area, the SFs killed at least four others at Tang Khatta on September 28. On September 29, 13 people, including nine tribesmen and four Taliban militants, including a Taliban commander, Abdul Muttalib, were killed following a clash in the Darra area of Salarzai Tehsil (revenue division). Meanwhile, residents said Government helicopters dropped leaflets in various parts of the Agency calling for support. Also, thousands of Charmang tribesmen following in the footsteps of Salarzai and Utmankhel tribes announced the formation of a grand laskhar to launch a massive crackdown against militants in the Agency and vowed to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistan Army. The Charmang tribes have announced the launch of the campaign from the Fourth Day of Eid-ul-Fitr. Four Taliban militants were killed and two others were wounded in the shelling of a vehicle at Mamoond town, when tribesmen backed by Army helicopter gunships fought the Taliban on September 30. Troops killed another five Taliban militants after they launched an attack on a military checkpost in the same town, leading to a gun battle that lasted nearly an hour. Separately, at least 13 Taliban militants were killed and 10 others injured when a Qaumi lashkar (nationalist army) of the Salarzai tribe launched an operation against the militants in the Dara, Mullah Syed and Banda areas of Salarzai tehsil on October 1. An elder of the tribe was also killed in the operation. Troops backed by artillery killed 25 Taliban militants in the villages of Rashakai, Tang Khata, Bai Cheena and Khazana on October 2. The residents of Mamoond also decided to form a lashkar to combat the Taliban. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees started leaving Bajaur Agency following a three-day deadline given by the local administration for them to vacate the Agency, locals said. Earlier, the local Government had ordered Afghan refugees in Bajaur to leave the area within three days, said a Government official. There are an estimated 70,000 Afghan refugees in Bajaur, who have been living there since the late 1970s after fleeing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Dawn; Daily Times, September 30- October 6, 2008.
US cites laws, UN Charter to justify FATA raids: The United States (US) Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that international laws allow the US to take unilateral actions inside Pakistan. In two separate statements and during a hearing at a Senate panel, the top US defence official made it clear that the US considered insurgency in FATA the greatest danger confronting the West and was willing to send its troops to root out extremism if it felt the need to do so. At the Senate panel hearing, Gates agreed with Democratic Senator Jim Webb who had told him that the United Nations Charter — under which the US operates in Afghanistan — gave the US the right of self-defence where a foreign government was either unable or unwilling to take care of international terrorist activity inside its borders. Gates said: "The authorities we have been granted were carefully coordinated over a protracted period of time in the interagency." He told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I would simply assume that… appropriate international law was consulted by the State Department." In a written statement before the Committee, Gates said that "insecurity and violence" in the Afghan-Pakistan region "will persist… until the insurgency is deprived of safe-havens" in Pakistan’s tribal areas. And, the US Defence Chief told the National Defence University in Washington that the US had to act against terrorists hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan because it could not afford to fail. Earlier, Gates explained that Pakistan could not defeat terrorism on its own. "Pakistani Government doesn’t have the capacity to launch unilateral operation against militants inside its borders," he said. He noted that the US depended on Pakistani road links to send 80 per cent of its supplies and 40 per cent of fuel into Afghanistan. He said that while the US was looking for alternative channels, it could not afford to ignore Pakistan.
Meanwhile, US military commander David Petraeus said that Pakistan must deal with the threat from the Taliban. "This is a threat to Pakistan’s very existence and it is one with which they must deal. Now, they can deal with it in a comprehensive manner," he said after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that the Government will never give in to terrorism. Chairing a meeting to review law and order, he said it was a positive move on the part of tribesmen to join the Security Forces to expel the Taliban from the FATA. Separately, in an interview with Newsweek magazine, he said Pakistan was on his (President Asif Ali Zardari’s) side in the fight against terror. Further, on October 1, he condemned the US attacks inside Pakistani territory and termed them 'terrorism', according to Dawn. Regarding the ongoing military operations in north-western Pakistan, he reiterated that the war against terrorism was Pakistan’s own war. Dawn; Daily Times, September 30- October 2, 2008.
No timeframe to call off operation, say military sources: Operations against militants had been a mixed bag of success and setbacks and no timeframe could be given about the ongoing campaigns, sources in the military said in a media briefing on September 29. "It is a continual operation. It is not going to end in 2008 and it is not going to end in 2009. Don’t be optimistic, as far as the timeframe is concerned. It is a different ground and it will take some time," military officials said. These sources were optimistic that Operation Sherdil (Lionheart) was well on course to achieving its objective of gaining control over the Bajaur tribal region. In Bajaur, they added, the militants had been putting up stiff resistance, improving tactics and communications, reinforcements and heavy weapons from across the border. The security forces had lost 69 men and 230 men had been wounded since the beginning of the operation in Bajaur last month. The sources declined to give an exact figure for militant casualties, but hazarding a guess, put the toll in the region of 600.
The Swat District was a different story altogether as Operation ‘Rah-i-Haq II’ (Path of Right) had its setbacks following the NWFP Government’s peace agreements with militants in May, the sources said, expressing regret that gains made in last year’s operation in Swat had been wasted after elections. "We believe the agreement of May 21, 2008, was signed from a position of weakness," sources added. "We can finish the Swat operation in a week if there is no consideration for collateral damage," he said.
Sources further disclosed that the security forces had suffered a total of 1,368 casualties in the war on terror since 2001, while 3,348 personnel had been wounded. Meanwhile, 2,825 Taliban, including 581 foreigners and 2,244 locals had been killed. 1,400 Taliban were injured over the same period, which included 311 foreigners and 1,089 locals. Dawn, September 30, 2008.
235 LTTE militants and 23 soldiers among 258 persons killed during the week: 235 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 23 soldiers were among 258 persons killed in separate incidents between September 29 and October 5. At least 39 LTTE militants were killed and 52 others injured as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Palamoddai, Akkarayankulam, Andankulam, Vannavikulam and Kariyalanmodai areas of Kilinochchi and Vavuniya Districts on September 29. Five soldiers were also killed. At least 13 LTTE militants were killed and four others injured as clashes erupted between the security forces (SFs) and the militants in the areas of north of Maniarkulam, Palamoddai, Podunkanpila, Wemankallu and Pandiyankulam in the Vavuniya and Kilinochchi Districts on September 30. One soldier was also killed. On October 1, at least 18 LTTE militants were killed and eight others injured as the troops captured another three LTTE bunkers after the clashes in the Akkarayankulam, west and south of Iranamadu tank, Vannavikulam and Maniarkulam areas in the Kilinochchi District. Separately, another 14 militants were killed and 28 others wounded as clashes erupted between the SFs and the militants in the Andankulam, Palamoddai, Nauve East, Thandiyankulam and Podunkanpila areas of Vavuniya District. One soldier was also killed. On October 2, the troops killed at least 18 militants while injuring 14 others as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Andankulam area of Vavuniya District. Six LTTE cadres were also killed and more than 20 others injured during clashes with the SFs in the Paraikandamadu, Madam and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District. Four soldiers were killed and three others sustained injuries during the fighting. On October 4, the troops captured a section of the bunker line constructed along the Nachchakuda – Akkarayankulam Road at Panniwedikulam in the West of Vannerikuma in the Kilinochchi District, killing 20 militants. Four soldiers were killed in the operation. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 30-October 6, 2008.