SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
In the biggest ever strike in Assam’s long history of terrorism, on October 30, 2008, 81 persons were killed and over 350 injured, in nine near-simultaneous explosions that went off within a span of one hour in four Districts in the western part of the State, including state capital Dispur and conjoined Guwahati. As many as 45 deaths were reported from Dispur-Guwahati alone, where at least three explosions occurred in crowded places including markets and the District Courts complex. The western-most District of Kokrajhar accounted for 21 deaths in another three explosions and the Barpeta District witnessed two explosions resulting in the death of 15 persons. In the District Headquarters of Bongaigaon, 11 persons, including two civilians and nine Security Force (SF) personnel from the Police and the Army were injured in a single explosion, as they tried moving a motorcycle strapped with explosives to a safer location. The overall death toll is most likely to rise further, as at least 30 of the injured are said to be in critical condition.
All the explosions targeted the State and District headquarters and were set off at crowded public places – including popular markets, courts and Police Stations – with an apparent intention of maximising civilian fatalities. In Dispur-Guwahati, small cars laden with explosives were left in markets, while in the other towns, explosives were planted on motorcycles and bicycles. Forensic examination has confirmed that RDX and ammonium nitrate were used in at least two of the three explosions that rocked Dispur-Guwahati. By all accounts all the explosions were sophisticated, of a high intensity, and were the outcome of meticulous planning and substantial financial resources.
Within hours of the blasts, Assam’s most potent terrorist outfit, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) sent e-mail messages to the newspaper offices in Guwahati denying any role in the blasts. Signed by Aanjan Borthakur of the group's ‘central publicity unit’, the statement offered its deep condolences to the family members of those killed, and wished for the speedy recovery of the injured. The message blamed the Indian ‘occupational forces’ for the explosions, which it said were directed at "derailing the peace process". It is customary for ULFA to send out such denials and claims, especially when attacks claim lives of civilians. Significantly, no ‘peace process’ between ULFA and the Government is currently underway.
On October 31, about 30 hours after the explosions, a Guwahati-based private TV news channel reported that they have received a text message in which the ‘Islamic Security Force – Indian Muzahideen’ (ISF-IM) has claimed responsibility for the serial blasts. The message read, "We ISF-IM take the responsibility of yesterday’s blast. We warn all of Assam and India of situations like this in future. We thank all our holy members and partners. Ameen." The mobile number (9864693690) used to send the message was later traced to the Morigaon District, adjoining the Kamrup District where State capital Dispur is situated. A group called the Islamic Security Force of India (ISFI) was founded almost one and half decades ago and had perished without recording a single action worth note, and no prior information is available on any derivative of this group answering to the title of ISF-IM. The Assam Police has, however, claimed that the ISF-IM was, indeed, floated in the year 2000 in western Assam, basically to confront Bodo militancy.
Immediately after the explosions, a Cabinet Minister in Assam went on record saying that he suspects the role of the ULFA in the attack, an assumption that was, however, rather quickly challenged by others in the State establishment. The denial by ULFA appeared to have convinced even the Assam Police Intelligence chief, Khagen Sarma, who declared, "The needle of suspicion points to jihadi outfits who are behind subversive activities in the State… While investigations will go on, the Police have been zeroing in on Islamist fundamentalist forces which, of late, have been active in the State and the region."
Sarma was not alone. ‘ULFA can’t do this’–theories found ready takers among many analysts who extended their arc of understanding to blame the illegal migrants from Bangladesh and the Harkat-ul Jihad-al Islami (HuJI), which has been accused of orchestrating several terror strikes in urban centres across India, thought there is little evidence of their past activities or potency in the Northeast. Curious explanations exonerating ULFA and displaying a gross lack of understanding of the outfit’s activities over the past three decades and its present capacities, included phrases such as ‘attacks don’t suit ULFA’s interests’, ‘ULFA is much weaker now’, ‘ULFA does not attack civilians’ and/or combinations of these. Experts appearing on the televisions channels were also at great pains to explain how ‘a new group of ULFA’, ‘ULFA group based in China’, ‘HuJI and Jamaat’, ‘Bangladeshi migrants’, ‘external forces’ and even some ‘Bodo tribal groups’ who had been involved in the October clashes in two of Assam’s Districts, could also have played a role in the explosions. Organisations like the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) organised rallies condemning jihadi and fundamentalist forces.
As with terrorist attacks in the past, it is doubtful that a final and credible determination of responsibility will ever be made – Police investigations and declarations notwithstanding. Worse, the current proclivity to carrying out processes of investigation under the glare of the media severely undermines the already deficient credibility of state agencies, as every line of investigation, partial determination of fact, lead and, indeed, at least some wildly speculative nonsense, is reported as the ‘solution’ of the case. The sheer incoherence that is projected at this stage undermines the integrity of the investigative process and, in substantial measure, the sustainability of any prosecution that may eventually be launched.
It must be clear that investigations are, at this juncture, at no more than a preliminary stage. Five persons have been detained in connection with the investigations, but this has no definitive implications regarding culpability. Among these, Nazir Ahmed was arrested from Moirabari in eastern Assam's Morigaon District. It was Ahmed’s mobile phone that was used to send an SMS to a local television channel claiming the serial blasts as an operation executed by the ISF-IM. The mobile phone had reportedly been acquired on the basis of false identity documents. The owners of one of the cars and of a motorcycle used in the serial blasts were also arrested, but reports suggest that these vehicles had not been in their possession for some time. Two further arrests are also related to the acquisition of vehicles for the serial attack. A forensic examination of the explosives used suggests that a mix of RDX and ammonium nitrate variously involved in the blasts, which were triggered by timer devices. That, roughly, is all that lies in the present realm of ‘facts’ in this case.
A large body of precedent information, however, does provide a credible basis for an informed assessment of groups that have the capacity and intent to execute an operation reflecting the coordination and magnitude of the October 30 attacks. One thing is certain in this context: ULFA does not lie outside the circle of suspicion.
Contrary to several media reports suggesting that the October 30 attacks were the first instance of serial explosions in the State, ULFA had organised a chain of seven explosions across five Districts (Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Darrang, Tinsukia and Kamrup) on August 26, 2004, which left five persons dead and over 100 injured. As on the present occasion, ULFA had issued a note of denial at that time as well. More recently, ULFA is believed to have lent its hand in the serial explosions that rocked Agartala, State capital of neighbouring Tripura, on October 1, 2008, which injured over 70 persons. HuJI had emerged as the primary suspect immediately after the blasts, but subsequent investigations revealed that ULFA cadres in Bangladesh had trained All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) militants to carry out the explosions.
ULFA has been involved in numerous explosions in Assam since the very inception of the group. Indeed, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and grenades have been established as the dominant mode of attack by ULFA cadres. With a visible decline in its numerical strength, ULFA has, since 2005, also resorted to employing mercenaries for planting explosives in crowded places. The outfit has used sophisticated explosives like the RDX in a number of its attacks and is also known to have a sizeable stock of TNT (Trinitrotoluene) and a variety of plastic explosives, stored mostly in the Bangladesh, along India’s international border. ULFA has used explosive laden bicycles, motorcycles and cars to set off blasts on previous occasions. The first instance of a car bomb explosion set off by ULFA was on February 4, 2007, near the Pan Bazaar Police Station in Guwahati. In January 2008, two ULFA cadres responsible for the attack were arrested by the Assam Police. A sizeable majority of ULFA’s terror attacks have been directed against civilian targets, in complete contravention to the claims of the outfit and its overground advocates.
Significantly, all the four Districts that were chosen for the serial attacks on October 30 are known ULFA strongholds. Moreover, almost all the locations where explosives were detonated, including the specific locations in Dispur-Guwahati, barring the High Court premises, have been targeted by ULFA in the past. The Ganeshguri flyover, in the proximity of the State Legislative Assembly and the Secretariat, has been the scene of at least 30 explosions, in the past five years. Portions of the space below the flyover are used as a parking area for cars and two wheelers, as well as by street hawkers, and are an easy location to plant a car bomb.
Too much emphasis has been placed on the present debility of ULFA to argue that the outfit, being at its weakest since its inception, is operationally incapable of carrying out an attack at this scale, particularly after the defection and surrender of two companies of its principal strike force, the ‘28th battalion’ (one of the three active military formations of the outfit). While it is certainly the case that the ‘28th battalion’s’ defection and engagement with the Government has impacted significantly on ULFA’s capacities, it remains the case that other formations, including the ‘27th battalion’ [active in the Karbi Anglong and North Cachar (NC) Hills District] and the ‘709th battalion’ (active in the western Assam Districts), are almost intact. Crucially, the weakness of the ‘28th battalion’ has led to a significant reduction of the outfit’s activities in the eastern-most (Upper Assam) Districts of the State. But, no visible decline in the capacities of the other two battalions has been noticed. The ‘27th battalion’s’ activities have primarily remained confined to the hill Districts of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills and this formation is not known to have carried out any attacks in Dispur-Guwahati or any of the other locations which witnessed explosions on October 30. On the other hand, the ‘709th battalion’ has, in the past, has executed past operations both in Dispur-Guwahati as well as in the Districts of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Barpeta, where the recent serial explosions occurred. It is, thus, possible that the 709th battalion, which operates with steady support from Bangladesh where the top ULFA leadership is based, was the primary executing agency behind the present serial blasts, which have been concentrated significantly in its areas of operation. A major strike was, moreover, almost a dire necessity for ULFA, to demonstrate its surviving capacities in the eyes of both sympathisers and detractors, who are increasingly inclined to write the outfit off.
The finger of suspicion has also been directed at the role of the Bangladesh-based HuJI, which does share operational linkages with the ULFA (despite vociferous denials by the latter). HuJI, in the past, has managed several of ULFA’s training camps located in Bangladesh, especially in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), where cadres of both outfits have trained together. Intelligence sources in July 2008 have indicated that both outfits have reached an agreement to operate jointly in Assam. Both ULFA and the HuJI have remained closely linked to the Bangladeshi Directorate of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). However, while HuJI has been a common factor in many of the terror attacks in urban centres across India, its activities in Assam or across the Northeast have been negligible. A HuJI presence in Assam has, of course, been noticed in the recent past. Seven HuJI cadres were killed in the Dhubri District on September 26, and another two in Goalpara District on October 16, while entering Assam. The group has often used Assam’s porous borders with Bangladesh to gain entry into India, but there is little to suggest that it has the capacities to execute an operation of the magnitude of the October 30 attacks without significant local support. Lacking its own networks, it would need to rely on an existing local group with sufficient understanding and penetration of the target areas.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the State Government is presently exploring the possibility of a HuJI-ULFA link in the serial blasts, even as it examines the authenticity of the SMS claiming responsibility of the ISF-IM. Since this serial attack occurred in India’s perennially troubled and neglected Northeast, its impression is already receding in the national (read, Delhi’s) consciousness. Routine statements of sympathy with the victims and determination to ‘fight terrorism’ have, of course, been issued by suitable authorities on Raisina Hill, and Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, on October 31, promised that "stern action" would be taken against those involved in the serial blasts. It is useful, however, to recall that, just two days before the serial blasts, officials of the Assam Home Department, which is headed by Chief Minister Gogoi, were pleading with the Union Government to go soft on the ULFA and end Army operations so that more ULFA cadres could be brought into the ‘peace process’. As the dust settles further, Assam will, inevitably, revert to ‘politics as usual’. The October 30 bombings – the largest in Assam’s history, no doubt – are only the latest in an unending chain of terrorist attacks under a succession of inept administrations that have vacillated, deceived, politicized and undermined responses, but consistently failed to define and execute a coherent strategy to neutralize this unrelenting threat.
A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) propeller-drive two-seater light aircraft dropped two bombs targeting the Kelanitissa Power Station in Capital Colombo in the night of October 28, 2008. One employee at the Power Station died after the attack, possibly as a result of shock. Earlier, on its route to Colombo, the same aircraft had dropped three bombs on the Mannar Army Headquarters in Thalladi, injuring three soldiers. Though the explosion at Thalladi caused insignificant damage to the Army Headquarters, the blast at the Kelanitissa Power Station, a vital installation that supplies power to the entire Colombo city, did cause damage – though minimal - to the FIAT (GT7) Gas Turbine Power Generator and Combined Cycle Power Plant.
Soon thereafter, asserting that there would be no obstacle to producing power and supplying electricity in the future, Power and Energy Minister W. D. John Seneviratne stated, "The GT7 machine was used as a spare machine which can produce 110 MW. This machine had been used when there is a necessity or requirement. This machine can be repaired in Sri Lanka and it will take for six months. Since it is a spare machine used on requirement, the CEB will purchase a new machine in the near future." Power and Energy Minister (non-Cabinet), Mahindananda Aluthgamage, added further that some 530 mega watts (MW) of electricity was produced at the Kelanitissa Power Plant and the GT7 was producing only 110 MWs.
Media reports, however, suggest that the damage may prevent the Ceylon Electricity Board from generating the necessary power according to their scheduled requirements for at least three months, until the damaged equipment is repaired, and the daily loss incurred could reach SLR 24 million. Notwithstanding the fact, Reports indicated that the damage caused to the Power Station would lead to a severe deficit in the country’s electricity supply. Quoting unnamed Kelanitissa workers, the reports suggested that, while the GT7 generated 110 MWs the Combined Cycle Power Plant generated 165 MWs; the severe damage caused to the Combined Cycle Power Plant would deny the country the capacity to generate 55 MWs almost free of charge. This does not augur well for a country which, according to an October 15, 2008, report, is shouldering an increased defence budget to continue the fight against terrorism. According to sources, the Government has spent SLR 6,840 per minute in the war during over the past months and an increase of SLR 11,160, to reach SLR 18,000, was anticipated towards the end of October.
The more worrisome aspect of the attack, however, is the Sri Lanka Air Force’s (SLAF’s) failure to shoot down a single LTTE aircraft despite timely detection by the 2D radar installed by the Government of India at the SLAF base at Vavuniya and a Chinese 3D radar station located in the Western Province. Despite the fact that the 2D radar gave the direction and distance of the target and the Chinese radar even defined its altitude, interceptors failed to locate and neutralise the slow-moving LTTE aircraft. As one defence analyst noted, "The aircraft would have travelled at least 600 kilometres both ways and remained in the air space for at least 80 minutes. It is a mystery as to how and why the military failed to bring it down. It is a major security lapse at several levels." The main opposition United National Party Member of Parliament, Dayasiri Jayasekara, addressing the media on October 30, 2008, observed that the LTTE has managed to infiltrate the air-defence system for the seventh instance and attacked Colombo, adding, "It is the Government who identified these primitive flying machines and claimed to have destroyed the airfields in several locations. Yesterday these so-called primitive flying machines were up in the sky for almost two hours but the air-defence system was unable to find any of it (sic)."
Significantly, a heat-seeking missile fired by an SLAF interceptor had brought down one of the two LTTE aircraft returning to their base after attacking the Vavuniya Air Base on September 9, 2008. Although the LTTE had denied the SLAF claim, a senior military official pointed out that the outfit deployed only one aircraft to carry out the latest operation, while each previous raid directed at military and economic targets had involved two aircraft. Military sources had claimed that the LTTE had three two-seater Czech-made Zlin-143 aircraft fitted with homemade bombing equipment.
However primitive the LTTE’s air power may be, it is evident that Government installations and economic targets remain vulnerable to this nascent air capacity, despite the SLAF’s continued onslaught targeting identified air strips and bases deep inside the Tiger heartland.
That said, however, it must be evident that this ‘adventurous’ act of terror will have little impact on the LTTE’s continuous decline on the war front in the North. The LTTE has always struck in the Sinhala heartland whenever it has been under extraordinary pressure on the war front, and reports suggest that at least 10 LTTE suicide cadres are presently in Colombo city, waiting to hit strategic targets when ordered by their leaders. Media reports also claimed that 30 LTTE intelligence cadres had entered Colombo city to gather tactical and strategic information for their next – and inevitable – act of terror.
The Tigers have, so far, carried out eight air raids targeting Government installations since March 26, 2007. When the LTTE carried out its first successful aerial attack in Colombo, analysts had claimed that the air attack by the rebels would open a ‘new dimension’ in the Island nation’s decades-long ethnic conflict, and there was disproportionate agitation in the ‘international community’ about the new LTTE ‘Air Force’.
Instead, Government troops have continued to clear the ‘un-cleared’ areas (area not under Government control) and are now knocking at the doors of the Tiger’s Headquarters in Kilinochchi. The military captured Nachchakuda, the last stronghold of the LTTE on the Western coast short of Pooneryn, where the LTTE has stationed its artillery, by the evening of October 30, 2008. "With the capture of Nachchakuda the LTTE is left with only Pooneryn on the Western coast as the rest of the area between Nachchakuda and Pooneryn is covered with jungle patches," commander of ‘Task Force I’, the 58th Division, Brigadier Shavendra Silva disclosed. The LTTE had suffered two consecutive blows within 24-hours on the western edge of the Kilinochchi District as they lost two strategically important villages, Jayapuram and Nachchakuda, he added. The troops completely captured the 15-kilometre-long LTTE defence line in the form of a massive earth bund surrounding the Nachchakuda fishing village. Brigadier Silva asserted, further, "The LTTE strongly held Nachchakuda with the construction of this massive earth bund giving depth to Pooneryn, the last township left with the LTTE on the Western coast. With the loss of Nachchakuda the LTTE will have to resort to the Eastern coast for their logistics supplies.".
But Colombo has come under increasing pressure from another direction. As the LTTE intensified pressures on its sympathetic political formations in India, particularly in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK), an alliance partner in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at Delhi, threatened to withdraw support, unless Delhi "ensured a ceasefire" and the ‘safety of Tamil civilians’ in Sri Lanka. The campaign created surprising tensions in New Delhi and Colombo, as a fragile UPA coalition struggled to contain political tempers in the DMK. Eventually, however, after two weeks of uncertainty, the storm clouds blew away rather tamely, after India’s Minister for External Affairs and senior Congress leader, Pranab Mukherjee, met with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK party boss, M. Karunanidhi, to apprise him of "Sri Lanka’s assurance that it would not only provide humanitarian aid to distressed Tamils in the war-torn northern region of the country but also agreed to accept Indian aid", and that India could do nothing to ‘restore’ the cease fire, since it was not a party to the Norway-mediated cease fire in the first place.
This subdued resolution of the crisis in India notwithstanding, it was clear that Colombo was rattled. Pressure was evidently compounded by the LTTE’s media campaign claiming heavy civilian casualties in the war in the North, which had raised international concerns, and provoked India;s National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan to summon, on October 6, Sri Lanka's Deputy High Commissioner in India to convey New Delhi's "grave concern and unhappiness at the growing casualties of unarmed Tamil civilians as a result of the military action."
In response, a statement revealed, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse assured Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a telephonic conversation on October 18, 2008, that "Security forces are under strict instructions to avoid causing any civilian casualties during this operation."
Nevertheless, the pressure appears to have pushed Colombo into a corner, and into committing a decisive gaffe in suspending the release of casualty figures on the fighting in the North of the country in an obvious effort to suppress the magnitude of the conflict and fatalities. The Government’s explanation, articulated by the Director General of the Media Centre for National Security, Laxman Hulugalle, speaking on October 24, was that this intended to avoid ‘conflicting figures’ on casualties. Hulugalle argued, "Casualty figures varied depending on the source. I accept that they are all Government sources but they do not always have the same figures. This can be damaging when quoted by the media. In a war situation like the one we are in at the moment, it is important to be selective about what can be revealed. In a battle it is important to concentrate on the territory we gained rather than the amount of men we lose." The reason for this decision was the contradictory figures relating to military casualties during clashes in Kilonochchi, which started on October 18, 2008. According to a Defence Ministry release on October 20, 33 soldiers had been killed in the conflict. Other Government agencies denied the high Army casualty figure.
Colombo’s decision to suppress information flows from the war front (there has been little independent media corroboration since the escalation of violence in the North) chokes off virtually the only credible source now in existence. LTTE sources have provided only very fitful data over the recent past. Clearly, given the heightened tensions and rising international concerns regarding ‘collateral damage’ the information gap will inevitably fuel the worst of rumours and apprehensions – and an intensification of international pressure, and further mobilisation of Indian Tamils and the Tamil Diaspora in favour of the LTTE. If Colombo loses the war of perceptions, its victories in the North will become increasingly tainted and more ineffective in securing the decisive resolution of the ‘Tamil problem’ in Sri Lanka.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 27- November 2, 2007
Political party of the HuJI-B denied registration by Election Commission: The Election Commission (EC) On October 28 rejected registration applications of around 40 political parties, including that of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) formed by leaders of banned militant outfit Harkat-ul Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), as they neither comply with the country's Constitution nor the registration conditions. A letter to this effect was issued to the IDP on October 28. As many as 107 organisations have applied for registration, now mandatory for seeking election to Parliament. Of these, 22 are religion-based parties. According to the registration criteria laid down in the electoral laws, a party must have won a seat, or polled five percent of the votes in a constituency in any of the Parliamentary polls since independence. It must have headquarters and offices in at least 10 Districts or 50 sub-Districts. Besides, it must disclose its sources of funds etc, and its constitution must not contradict the national Constitution. Daily Star, November 2, 2008.
81 persons killed and 300 injured in serial bomb explosions in Assam: 81 persons were killed and about 300 injured in nine near-simultaneous blasts in Assam capital Dispur and adjoining city Guwahati and three other Districts – Kokrajhar, Barpeta, and Bongaigaon – on October 30. The first of the explosions was triggered at around 11.30 am near the Ganeshguri flyover near the high-security capital complex housing the Assembly building in capital Dispur, followed by explosions at Paltan Bazar and Fancy Bazar in Guwahati city within five minutes. Around the same time, bombs also exploded in crowded market places of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Barpeta Districts of lower Assam. Of the six blasts in Guwahati, RDX was believed to have been used in two of the explosions. At least 45 persons were killed in the blasts in Guwahati. While at least 21 persons were killed in three serial blasts in Kokrajhar, 15 persons were killed in twin blasts in the Barpeta Road town of Barpeta District. 11 persons, including nine security force personnel, were injured in the solitary blast in Bongaigaon. While 66 persons were killed in the blasts, till November 2, another 15 persons succumbed to their injuries in various hospitals.
The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) denied its hand in the blasts in an e-mail statement and alleged that blasts had been carried out by the ‘occupation forces’ to derail the peace process with the outfit.
On October 31, the little known outfit Islamic Security Force – Indian Mujahideen (ISF-IM) claimed responsibility for the blasts. In an SMS sent to a local television channel, from mobile number 9864693690, which was later traced to Morigaon District, the group threatened to carry out more attacks in future. Assam Tribune; The Hindu; Telegraph, October 31-November 3, 2008.
Black Widow kills seven Police personnel in Assam: Black Widow (BW) militants killed at least seven Police personnel at Langlai near Thujuari of North Cachar Hills District. Three militants were also killed in the retaliatory firing. Police sources said that the BW militants opened fire on the Police party who were carrying the body of a Dima Halim Daogah (DHD) leader, Naklai Dimasa, who was killed by the BW militants on October 29 from Haflong Civil Hospital to Diyongmukh after the post mortem. Out of the seven slain police personnel, four were constables in the 8th Battalion of Assam Police, two were from the District Armed Police, and one was a Home Guard. Dinob Dimasa, spokesman of Black Widow, however, denied the outfit’s involvement in the ambush. Sentinel, October 31, 2008.
32 Al Qaeda and Taliban militants killed in US missiles strike in North and South Waziristan: 20 Arab fighters of the Al Qaeda were killed when two suspected US missiles struck a pick-up truck and a house, west of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan area of FATA on October 31. Security officials said Abu Akash al-Iraqi, an ageing Al Qaeda leader, was suspected to be killed in the attack. He was living in the rented house. On the same day, in South Waziristan, at least 12 suspected Taliban militants were killed as a US drone fired two missiles at a militant hideout near Wana. An unnamed senior security official said that top Taliban commander Mullah Nazir was also wounded in the strike. Daily Times, November 1, 2008.
Anti-Taliban offensive continues in Bajaur: At least 15 Taliban militants and eight civilians were killed in the past week in a continued air and land offensive between the SFs and the Taliban militants in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On October 28, four Taliban militants were killed in fighting with the security forces (SFs) as raids were carried out in the Mamoond, Nawagai and Khar tehsils (revenue divisions). The SFs claimed to have strengthened their position in Loyesam and surrounding areas of Khar. Two persons were killed and another injured when a shell accidentally hit a house in the Bai Cheena area of Khar tehsil. On October 31, six persons were killed and five others, including two women and three children, were injured in the shelling by fighter planes in Sapri area of the Mamoond tehsil. The SFs claimed to have captured a strategically important mountain in Dabar in the same area, which militants previously used for targeting the SFs. The volunteers of the Mamoond tribal lashkar (militia) captured the headquarters of the Taliban militants in Sewai area of the Mamond tehsil and deployed several of their colleagues there. They also arrested four important commanders of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). On November 1, eight Taliban militants were killed and 10 others injured as helicopter gunships targeted Taliban positions in the Damadola and Mataro Sha areas under Mamoond tehsil. On the same day, the Mamoond tribe lashkar reportedly captured several check posts abandoned by the Taliban in different areas. On November 2, three Taliban militants were killed and four others were injured in air strikes and artillery shelling in different areas of the Agency.
On October 31, Maulvi Omer, spokesperson for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), speaking to Press persons over telephone for the first time since the beginning of the military operations in August, made an offer to the Government to settle the dispute through negotiations. "We will not refuse to talk to the Government," Omer said. Daily Times; Dawn, October 28-November 3, 2008.
13 Taliban militants killed in Swat: Security forces, backed by helicopter gunships and artillery, killed 13 Taliban militants and injured nine in clashes in various areas of Swat valley of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on November 1. Two security force personnel were killed during the clashes that took place when the Taliban attacked a patrolling party in Matta tehsil. Troops retaliated and killed four Taliban. Separately, the Taliban militants fired two rockets at a SF camp in Kabal tehsil and troops killed four Taliban and injured two in the clash that followed the attack. Troops also pounded suspected Taliban hideouts in Sardara and Shamozai areas, killing five of them and injuring three others. Taliban also abducted four Policemen from Swat’s Nangolai area. Daily Times, November 3, 2008.
Abortive LTTE air raid on Kelanitissa Power Station in Colombo and Mannar Army headquarters: A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aircraft dropped two bombs targeting the Kelanitissa Power Station in Colombo in the night of October 28. However, no casualties were reported. According to military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara the blast caused a minor fire at the power station which was doused by fire-fighters. A civilian injured in the bombing succumbed to his injuries on October 29. Prior to this incident, on October 28, an LTTE light aircraft dropped three bombs on the Mannar Army Headquarters in Thalladi. Brigadier Nanayakkara said no damage was caused to the camp or any other military logistics facility in the area. Three soldiers were injured in the attack. Daily News, October 29, 2008.
16 Sea Tigers killed as Navy foils LTTE attack in the seas off Jaffna: The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) foiled an attack by a flotilla of Sea Tiger (sea wing of the LTTE) boats between Nagarkovil and Point Pedro in the Jaffna District, destroying at least four boats and killing more than 16 militants aboard in the morning of November 1. The sea battle started when sailors on a reconnaissance mission spotted a fleet of suspicious boats. A Navy Fast Attack Craft (FAC) pursued the suspicious movement and engaged the boats. Five sailors also sustained injuries in the encounter. The pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net, however, claimed that the Sea Tiger boats sunk an SLN Dvora FAC and a hovercraft. The website reported that seven Black Sea Tigers (suicide squad members of the LTTE's sea wing) were killed in the operation. Sri Lanka Army; Tamil Net, November 1-2, 2008.