SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
With the fall of Pooneryn, the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) ‘military headquarters’ located on the North-Western coast, Sri Lankan troops have launched a three pronged attack towards their final objective, Kilinochchi town, the Political Headquarters of the Tigers.
Though the capture of Pooneryn far from the end of the war, it has deprived the LTTE of access to the entire Western coast, cutting of its supply lines via the sea, and has also neutralised all Sea Tiger (the sea wing of the LTTE) bases. How much this will affect the LTTE’s military supply is yet to be seen. Janes’s Defence Weekly, in a November 16, 2008, report, stated that it was in a position to confirm that the LTTE made at least one attempt to transport a consignment of artillery rounds by air to rebel-controlled areas in the Wanni. Commercial satellite imagery obtained by Jane's also confirmed that, between 2004 and 2007, the rebels constructed two airstrips that could handle aircraft capable of transporting weapons’ cargo from Central or Southeast Asia.
The Tigers have now been confined to the areas east of the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) Road. The Security Forces (SFs), having launched their operations from the Mannar-Vavuniya Road, have advanced nearly 90 kilometres, and have brought Pooneryn – which fell to the LTTE in November 1992 after one of the fiercest battle fought ever between the SFs and the Tigers, with more than 300 troops killed and over 300 troops missing – under their control.
Infantrymen of the 12 Gamunu Watch and the 10 Gajaba Regiment attached to the 58th Division or Task Force 1, negotiating the marshlands south of Pooneryn and cutting off the Pooneryn-Paranthan (B-69) Road close to Nallur, marched about 10-kilometres along the B-69 and entered Pooneryn town at dawn on November 15, 2008. "Task Force 1 troops, having liberated Pooneryn, are now engaged in mop-up operations in Pooneryn. Troops are now clearing their way towards Kalmunai Point (K-Point) along the 20 kilometre-long narrow land stretch where the LTTE terrorists used to station their artillery and mortar batteries," the Defence Ministry stated. At the time of writing, the troops were moving towards Parantan, the key junction located on the A-9 Road in the north of Kilinochchi and are currently at a striking distance of about 1.6 kilometres from Kilinochchi town. According to military officials, the LTTE had constructed a 10 to 11 kilometre-long earth bund (embankment) covering Kilinochchi town and the A-9 Road from the western front, along which the 57th and 58th Divisions are targeting Kilinochchi.
Addressing the nation following the fall of Pooneryn, President Mahinda Rajapakse declared that the military victory at Pooneryn reiterated his commitment to a political solution to the conflict in the country and called on the LTTE leader to lay down arms and come to negotiations. The President declared, "I inform the people in this country that our heroic soldiers have been able to liberate the full stretch of the A-32 Road (Mannar-Pooneryn) and the Pooneryn area this morning. Now, we can open a land route to the Jaffna Peninsula after many years; I think we can say, it was after the Second Eelam war (sic). At this moment, I very clearly call Prabhakaran of LTTE to immediately lay down your arms and come to the negotiation table. It is the greatest service that you can do to the people in the Wanni."
Earlier, on November 12, 2008, troops had captured the entire triangular Devil’s Point to the west of the Mannar–Pooneryn (A-32) Road. Before this, troops of the 58th Division had moved towards Pooneryn after capturing the LTTE’s Valayakudiyurippumoddai Forward Defence Line (FDL) in the Kilinochchi District, killing over 30 militants and recovering five militant dead bodies on November 11, 2008. On the same day, the SFs had captured the Palavi fishing village in the west of the A-32 Road. Similarly, on November 10, troops attached to the 58th Division took control of Kiranchi, one of the Sea Tiger bases on the North Western coast. Kiranchi, located northwest of Nachchakuda, which fell to the SFs on October 29, was captured by the 58th Division as troops completely cut off the land area from the north of Nachchakuda to the south of Chempankundu on the A-32 Road, up to the seventh Mile post.
Pooneryn’s strategic location made it vital for the SFs to gain control over the area before a final assault could be mounted against Kilinochchi town and Mullaitivu. As troops stationed at Jaffna are crucial to the final outcome of the war, the Forces will need an unhindered supply of men and material when the war intensifies in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. The fall of Pooneryn will enable the SFs to open the A-32 Road, paving the way for a land route to Jaffna, since the only other route, the A-9 Road, has remained closed since the outbreak of the war. The opening of the A-32 Road provides the supply route to Jaffna, and will embolden the Forces stationed there, and will also help stranded civilians. The troops can, consequently, now move their artillery in Jaffna to launch pads against the Tiger’s FDLs in Jaffna. Control over Pooneryn will also safeguard Jaffna town and Jaffna Islands, since Pooneryn was the LTTE’s artillery base for bombardments on these areas. The foremost gain of this military success, however, has been the SF’s ability to neutralise the LTTE’s FDLs in Jaffna and march southward towards Kilinochchi opening a new front in the battle for Kilinochchi.
On November 20, Sri Lanka Army’s (SLA’s) 53rd Division and 55th Division, operating on the Muhamalai and Kilali FDLs in Jaffna, took full control of the LTTE’s heavily fortified first defence lines north and south of the A-9 Road, after five days of fighting and inflicting heavy damage to the LTTE. Troops, which advanced some 500 to 800 meters from the original SF FDL to attack the LTTE’s first defence line, killed more than 75 Tiger cadres during the operation. The Army also suffered a number of casualties in the battle within the first few days due to heavy volumes of LTTE artillery and mortar attacks coming from Sorampattu area in the south of Muhamalai. The pro-LTTE website Tamil Net on November 20 claimed that at least 130 Sri Lanka Army soldiers lost their lives and more than 450 were wounded in the offensive, within the preceding three days, on the Kilali and Muhamalai fronts. Military sources claimed that the troops were now confronting LTTE cadres who had withdrawn to their second defence line, located some 600 meters behind the first defence line, and the third defence line located nearly one kilometre south of the first defence line. The LTTE has created huge earth bunds and heavily mined the area to impede the advance of the troops. The LTTE had withdrawn to the second defence line after the SFs had captured their original first defence line during fighting that broke out on August 11, 2006.
Troops have also recently inflicted heavy damages on the LTTE on other war fronts. On November 17, 2008, the SFs captured the strategically important Kumulamunai village south of Mullaitivu. The troops entered the village, located 12-km south of Mullaitivu, after capturing 21 LTTE bunkers located between Tannimurippukulam and Kumulamunai. According to military officials, Kumulamunai is the first built-up area after crossing the Andankulam Forest Reserve south of Mullaitivu. On the same day, troops captured the strategically important town of Mankulam on the A-9 road. The town is a key junction on the A-9 Highway, with roads leading to Mullaitivu to the East, Vellankulam to the West, Kilinochchi to the North and Omanthai to the South. On November 5, troops had overrun the Akkarayankulam built-up area in the Kilinochchi District.
Addressing the weekly Cabinet Press Briefing in Parliament on November 20, 2008, Media and Information Minister and Cabinet Spokesman Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, refuting certain media reports and allegations, reiterated that the LTTE has been completely defeated and driven out of Pooneryn and Mankulam with absolutely no possibilities of a come-back. Yapa categorically stated, "This is in no way a ‘tactical pull-out’ as some critics strive to portray. They used all means at their disposal, such as the construction of bunds and various other obstacles on our path, to prevent us from reaching there. Losing the A-32 route has been a major blow to them." Stressing that control over Pooneryn and the A-32 route had paved the way to open up a roadway from Colombo to Pooneryn and then to the Jaffna peninsula, Yapa added, "We are in a very strong position now, with LTTE’s hopes and aspirations of re-gaining their lost territory a myth."
Prior to these developments, Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, on November 3, 2008, had declared that over 80 per cent of the war against the LTTE had been completed after regaining 80 per cent of the areas under them, and killing over 12,000 of their cadres. The Army Commander stated, "At the inception of the war they did not have a 12,000-strength, but we are confident that 12,000 of their cadres were killed during the past two and half years as they recruited a large number of cadres to the outfit to strengthen their depleting ranks. We are sure that we will be able to see an end to this war soon though we cannot give deadlines to reach this task (sic)." General Fonseka’s term was extended on November 17 for another year, effective from December 18, 2008.
Though the advance of Government troops has, so far, been unexpectedly speedy, progress may now slow down. With casualty figures already reaching at least 9,316 (98 civilians, 836 soldiers and 8,382 militants) on the Northern Front since January 1, 2008, according to the data complied by the Institute for Conflict Management (reflecting severe underestimates of fatalities since Colombo suspended the release of casualty figures on the fighting in the North of the country since October 24), the war is now expected to be bloodier. More collateral civilian casualties cannot be ruled out, as the LTTE has moved most civilians in its areas of control between Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi. In the absence of any credible source of information from the warfront, more confusion inevitable, adding to Colombo’s woes as the international community – prominently including India – increases pressure on the President Mahinda Rajapakse Government to ensure the security of civilians.
As LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran prepares to deliver his Mahaveer Day (Heroes’ Day) speech on November 27, 2008, he will come under excruciating pressures to deliver some results that can shore up his cadres’ flagging morale. That can only mean more bloodshed, but the LTTE is now no more than a shadow of what it once was. The relentless advances of the SFs over the past months have already culminated in their direct assault on Kilinochchi, and survival – rather than pride or dominance – is going to be the principal imperative dictating LTTE action from this point on.
A suspected US drone fired two missiles on a residential compound in the Janikhel area of Bannu District in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in the night of November 18, killing four persons and injuring four others. This was the first incident in which a drone intruded as much as 70 kilometres inside Pakistani territory and struck a target in the settled area of the NWFP. One Arab, two Turkmen and a local militant were killed in the pre-dawn attack. Janikhel is adjacent to North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where all reported missile strikes by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles had, thus far, occurred. Media reports quoted a security official in the provincial capital, Peshawar, as saying that an important Arab al Qaeda operative was among those killed in the missile strike. Security sources identified him as Abdullah Azam Al-Saudi, who American intelligence had identified as the main link between al Qaeda’s senior command and the Taliban networks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). "He was the man coordinating between al Qaeda and Taliban commanders on this side of the border, and also involved in recruiting and training fighters," an unnamed official said.
The missile strike in the NWFP implies that the scope of US engagement in Pakistan has now been altered drastically. While any subsequent missile strikes by the US in NWFP (and in FATA) will severely test the framework of relations with Pakistan, these are indications that high-value targets from the Taliban-al Qaeda combine are holed up in the violence-wracked Frontier. More significantly, however, the drone attack in the Frontier will expectedly augment public uproar against the American presence within Pakistan. Apprehension has been expressed on the extent to which the US can be allowed to operate within Pakistan. "[The US] can come to Hayatabad (in Peshawar) tomorrow to hit a target and will say they have intelligence that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was hiding there," unnamed senior Government and Army officials told Daily Times in a series of interviews reported on November 23. "These attacks should end. They are not stopping al Qaeda attacks, nor will they help Pakistan's campaign against this organisation," one official said.
The US has reportedly carried out more than two dozens aerial strikes in the FATA in 2008. On its part, the Taliban has already indicated that it will avenge the latest missile strike. There could, consequently, be an increase in militant attacks, including suicide bombings and assassinations, in the urban areas not only of the NWFP but also elsewhere in Pakistan. A spokesman for the North Waziristan-based militant leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur warned that his group would carry out attacks outside the FATA if there were any new US attacks: "It has been decided that if there are any drone attacks in our territory after 20 November, we will attack targets in Pakistani territory outside the tribal areas."
On the ground, the NWFP continues to be afflicted by levels of violence that have gradually transformed it into an ungovernable space, as is the adjacent FATA. During 2008 (data till November 21), some 2,002 persons, including 749 civilians, 255 security force (SF) personnel and 998 militants, were killed and at least 1333 others were injured in 2,016 militancy-related incidents, across the NWFP. In comparison, in year 2007, which witnessed the sweeping transformation of the Frontier as a major battleground for radical Islam, at least 1,190 persons, including 459 civilians, 538 militants and 193 SF personnel, lost their lives. The breakdown and chaos in NWFP has been rather swift. In fact, throughout 2006, a comparatively small number of people – 163 – were killed in the province in just about 84 incidents. Significantly, 27 of the 53 suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2008 (till November 21) have occurred in the NWFP. With the exception of April and June, there have been suicide attacks in every single month of 2008. Similarly, in year 2007, 27 of the 56 suicide attacks took place in the NWFP. NWFP Provincial Police Officer Malik Naveed Khan stated on November 20, 2008, that during the preceding 10 months, Police had foiled 75 terrorist attacks and arrested 36 accused involved in these attacks, besides recovering large quantity of explosive materials, 39 explosive jackets, 636 hand grenades/dynamites and 295 rocket launchers.
Within the Frontier, the militancy has gradually become dispersed and the conventional distinctions between settled and tribal zones (of the Province’s 24 Districts, 17 are settled and seven are tribal) have diminished, with the result that the whole Province bears striking resemblance to the FATA. With the trajectory of militancy in NWFP closely linked to the state of play in neighbouring FATA, there is bound to be more focused attention by the U.S. on the former.
Even as violence continues in the Swat District and other locations, the provincial Government has stated that it was ready for a dialogue with the Taliban. The NWFP Government Peace Envoy, Afrasiab Khattak, held a meeting with a jirga (tribal assembly of elders) from Swat Valley in Peshawar on November 18. Haji Inamur Rehman, who led the jirga, reportedly informed the Government that it had the mandate from the Taliban in Swat to negotiate peace with the provincial Government. The Government reportedly told the jirga that it would take part in a dialogue with the militants led by Maulana Fazulullah only if they eschew violence and accept the state’s writ, a precondition that the Taliban will not accept.
The Pakistani state has continually negotiated with the Taliban in NWFP, generally through jirgas. However, the dialogue has failed time and again. Temporary cease-fires have, in fact, allowed the Taliban-al Qaeda combine to regroup and rearm, while the state capacity has gradually diminished in the region. Even with continual military operations in Swat, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Peshawar, Bannu, Hangu, Malakand, etc., the state has not been able to hold the territory regained. The militants are, consequently, able to return with renewed facilities after momentary displacement. One of the fundamental reasons for the state’s inability to hold territory and enforce peace agreements in the Frontier is the lack of a mechanism for governance on the ground. Any regaining of territory by the armed forces has consequently proven transitory, since efforts to hold and sustain territorial gains rely almost exclusively on the presence of the armed forces.
A closer scrutiny of the military operations in the NWFP indicates that Islamabad has not only delayed counter-insurgency action on occasion but also, more importantly, consistently resorted to short-term strategies. In May 2008, for instance, the Government successfully negotiated with the Taliban to keep the strategic Indus Highway open between Peshawar and Kohat. On that occasion, the Government had assured the Taliban that the military would stop operations in Darra Adamkhel and, in return, the Taliban would stop their activities on the stretch of Indus Highway passing through Darra Adamkhel. There was, as a result, no intent or long-term strategy to neutralize the Taliban infrastructure in Darra Adamkhel.
Compounding the problem is a severe deficiency in the fighting capacity of enforcement agencies in the NWFP. It is the Pakistan Army which is the lead agency in the counter-terrorism campaign in FATA and NWFP, backed by the paramilitaries and the Police. In urban areas, the roles are reversed, with the Police and para-militaries piloting CT responses. While the Army is a relatively well equipped force, hamstrung Police forces face a grim challenge of constituting the first line of defence against urban militancy. In the NWFP, the Police struggle with severe shortcomings, according to the National Police Bureau’s Annual Report, 2006, operating under significant constraints including paucity of funds (only 12 per cent of the annual budget is available to meet Police development requirements); shortage of Police strength (50 per cent deficit against sanctioned strength); half of the existing Police Stations lack their own buildings; half of the Districts are without proper Police Lines; less than half of the required/sanctioned authorized transport is available. In attempting to make amends, the Awami National Party-led provincial Government has proposed the creation of an elite police force of 7,500 personnel, which could be deployed on short notice in militancy-affected areas.
Faced with an enduring insurgency, the constrained Police force is demoralized. Hundreds of Police personnel have quit their jobs after being threatened by the Taliban in Swat. A November 13, 2008, report said that approximately 350 policemen have so far resigned from their posts, subsequent to a Taliban threat to either leave their jobs or get ready for "dire consequences." Indications are that this figure may increase as many Police personnel have reportedly refused to work in the violence-affected Swat Valley. The Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws, TNSM) had issued a warning to policemen in Swat in October 2008 to resign from their posts rather than "fight their own people." The militants had "advised the Policemen who quit their jobs to advertise their names in local papers so that they would not be attacked in future. As a result, the local newspapers have been publishing ads on behalf of those who have quit. There have been about 1,200 policemen's names printed in the Swat area." Some 102 policemen have been killed by militants in Swat and its adjoining areas during the past 10 months, according to one estimate. Some were reportedly abducted and later slaughtered by suspected Taliban militants while some of them were said to have committed suicide. Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman in Swat, stated: "We have warned the Policemen a month ago to quit their jobs… Those who have followed our instructions are safe, but those who still stick to their jobs should get ready for the consequences."
An index of the bleak circumstances in the Frontier is visible in the vulnerabilities of the provincial capital, Peshawar. Strategically significant Peshawar hosts the headquarters of the Army’s 11th Corps, the paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary and the Police. In June 2008, as the Taliban advanced towards the city, NWFP Police Chief and top administrators warned that, unless the Government took decisive action, Peshawar would fall. These warning, however, do not appear to have secured the desired effect. Peshawar currently faces a grave threat from militants barely five months after a military operation apparently ‘cleared’ them from its outskirts. A month-long operation by the security forces in July 2008 had pushed the militants beyond the capital’s periphery. As has been the case elsewhere, however, the militants have returned in full force and are currently pounding at Peshawar’s doors once again. In November alone, there have been 10 terrorism-related incidents in Peshawar. While the Peshawar Airport has been attacked with rockets four times in November, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a packed Qayyum Stadium in the capital, killing four people, including a policeman and three civilians, on November 11. Taliban militants operating in Darra Adamkhel claimed responsibility for the attack and said that senior NWFP minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour was their target. One November 12, a USAID official, heading a project of the FATA Development Authority, was killed along with his driver near the American Club in Peshawar town. Stephen de Vance, the chief of the USAID-funded FATA Livelihood Development Programme, was en route to his office when unidentified attackers ambushed his car at around 9:00 am on the Ataturk Road. Further, on November 13, unidentified militants abducted an Iranian diplomat in Peshawar’s Hayatabad locality after killing his police guard. Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, Third secretary and Commercial Attaché at the Iranian consulate in Peshawar, was yet to be traced at the time of writing. Since September 2008, at least three Afghan officials have reportedly been kidnapped by suspected Taliban militants, including Abdul Khaliq Farahi, the Afghan consul-general in Peshawar. None of them has been recovered so far. Earlier, on August 26, the vehicle of Lynn Tracy, principal officer at the US Consulate in Peshawar, was fired at in the city’s University town. She was unhurt in the attack. There have been three suicide attacks in Peshawar in 2008, in which 58 persons were killed and 108 injured. According to Ismail Khan, a Peshawar-based journalist, from January to the second week of November 2008, there have been 124 reported cases of abduction in the Province, including 60 for ransom.
Subsequent to the spate of high-profile abductions and increased subversion in the provincial capital, the United Nations has increased security levels in Peshawar and ordered its international staff to leave the province. UN sources stated that, following a series of suicide blasts and killing of foreigners, the UN had raised the security level in Peshawar to phase four, adding that all UN projects in Peshawar might be closed. The international staff will be relocated outside the Province and shifted to Islamabad, sources said, adding that only the staff concerned with emergency or security operations would remain in the area.
Faced with a rapidly worsening law and order situation in the capital, the provincial Government ordered security agencies to shoot at sight suspected militants in the areas connecting capital Peshawar with the Khyber Agency, to control terrorist activities and rising incidents of abduction for ransom. Further, the Police have reportedly proposed setting up of a diplomatic enclave in Peshawar, like that of Islamabad, where security can be maximized for offices and residences of foreigners.
According to Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the NWFP, the militants had responded to military operations by "launching pinprick attacks" in Peshawar to "pull the military from the frontline." He said the authorities had failed to respond quickly enough to the militants’ change in tactics, adding "Unfortunately I do not see any action on the security plan. For example, enhancing Police capacity to deal with armed militants is happening in a sporadic, piecemeal fashion." According to journalist Ashfaq Yusufzai, "Not one of Peshawar’s 30 Police Stations stays open after 8 p.m. Police in rural Peshawar have stopped night patrols after a patrol was blown up in a grenade attack on May 29."
The Taliban’s targeting of Peshawar is unsurprising. They have always had a significant presence in the capital and adjacent regions, including the Khyber Agency, Darra Adamkhel, Mohmand Agency, Shabqadar, Michni and Mardan. For decades and under successive regimes at Islamabad, they enjoyed state patronage, leading to a deep consolidation of influence and capacities.
According to "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World", the fourth unclassified report prepared by the US National Intelligence Council in recent years that takes a long-term view,
There appears to be little in current state policy that can obstruct the emergence of these scenarios, and if current circumstances are any indication, the American projections may crystallize even earlier than anticipated.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 17-23, 2007
Two phases of Legislative Assembly elections held in Jammu and Kashmir: Two phases of Legislative Assembly elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir on November 17 and 23. Defying the boycott call given by separatists, a large number of people turned up for the second phase on November 23. The overall polling percentage in Rajouri and Ganderbal districts was put at 59.09 per cent. Ganderbal District is reported to have recorded 62 per cent polling. Briefing journalists, Divisional Commissioner Masaud Samoon said elections in the two Districts were held smoothly. He said 60.02 per cent exercised their franchise in Kangan constituency while 44 per cent voted in Ganderbal constituency. This was a much higher than the turnout in the 2002 elections, which recorded 52 per cent and 35 per cent in Kangan and Ganderbal respectively. Rajouri District, he said, recorded a poll percentage of 70.50 per cent.
Earlier, 63.75 per cent voter turnout was recorded in ten constituencies that went to the polls in the first phase on November 17. Polling took place amid stringent security measures, a complete strike and the boycott call given by the Coordination Committee spearheading an anti-election campaign. "By and large polling was peaceful, though there were some minor incidents which are part of the democratic exercise," Chief Electoral Officer B.R. Sharma told a News Conference. According to official figures, Gurez segment with 15,330 votes recorded a turnout of 74.10 per cent, while Sonawari and Bandipora segments with 84,726 and 86013 voters respectively registered 46.05 and 57.08 per cent. In Ladakh region, Nobra seat had a turnout of 66.16 per cent while rest of the three constituencies - Kargil, Leh and Zanskar - polled approximately 60 per cent. In Poonch district, Poonch, Haveli and Mendhar segments recorded just over 73 per cent, while Surankote recorded 68 per cent turnout. The Hindu, November 24 and 18, 2008.
Prime Minister moots 100-day plan to deal with terrorism: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 23, 2008, called for a 100-day plan under a high-level central task force to develop an integrated mechanism to fight terrorism. Speaking at a Conference of State Police Chiefs and Heads of Paramilitary Forces in New Delhi, Dr. Singh said a Task Force chaired by the National Security Adviser should come out with a road map within 100 days detailing steps to be taken immediately and over the next several months to evolve a properly networked security architecture. The Prime Minister also mooted the setting up of a standing committee of Directors-General of Police, comprising five State Police chiefs on a rotation basis, to advise the Government on Police and related legal matters. Although Dr. Singh did not elaborate when work on the 100-day plan would begin, the Task Force will come out with a centralised institutional mechanism for coordination among different agencies and State Police for concerted action against terrorists, Naxalites and insurgents. Times of India; The Hindu, November 24, 2008.
Over 47,000 people killed in two decades of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir: Over 47,000 people were killed in militancy-related incidents in the past two decades in Jammu and Kashmir, the State Chief Secretary S. S. Kapur said on November 20, 2008. Of this, 20,000 were civilians, 7,000 were Police personnel and Special Police Officers who died in different terrorist attacks during the period, Kapur said during an inaugural session of a week-long vertical interaction course, sponsored by the Bureau of Police Research and Development at Sher-i-Kashmir Police Academy in Udhampur. He added that administrative action by the State Police and Security Forces had also seen elimination of 20,000 terrorists. Times of India, November 21, 2008.
111 persons killed in NWFP: At least 111 persons were killed in militancy-related violence in the NWFP during the week November 17-23, 2008. Five people, including two children, were killed when a bomb exploded at the Sewa Gul mosque in the Tull tehsil (revenue division) of Hangu District on November 22. A day earlier, an angry mob torched shops and vehicles and pelted Police with rocks in Dera Ismail Khan after a bomb exploded at the funeral procession of a Shia cleric killed in the night of November 20. 10 persons were killed and approximately 40 others were wounded in the blast. Deputy Superintendent of Police Sanaullah Khan said a remote-controlled bomb exploded during the funeral of Syed Iqbal Shah at 11am. Further, fighter jets targeted Taliban hideouts in the Ghat Piocher area of Matta tehsil in Swat on November 20. AFP quoted security officials as saying that 20 militants were killed in the bombing. Meanwhile, in the Khwazakhel tehsil, at least eight civilians, including six women, were killed and 33 injured as the troops tried to target Taliban positions in the Alam Ganj area.
Nine persons, including five militants, were killed and dozens of others sustained injuries in the ongoing military operation in Swat Valley on November 19. Sources said gunship helicopters shelled hideouts of the militants, killing five of them and injuring several others. Separately, two women were killed when mortar shells fired by the security forces (SFs) landed at a house of one Manzaray in Khwazakhela. It was also reported that two persons were killed and as many injured when a mortar shell hit a house in Kabal tehsil.
A suspected US drone fired two missiles on a residential compound in the Janikhel area of Bannu District in the night of November 18, killing four: one Arab, two Turkmen and a local militant. Five militants were killed while nine persons, including five militants, sustained injuries during a gun-battle in the Shabqadar sub-division of Charsadda District on November 18. Separately, two women were killed when a shell hit a house in Norano Kellay. 15 militants were killed and several others wounded in military operations in the Swat Valley on November 18. Helicopter gunships shelled alleged militant hideouts in Akhund and Zora Kellay in the Kabal Sub-division, killing seven militants. APP reported that eight militants were killed in an encounter with the SFs in the Gashkor area of Khwazakhela. On November 17, SFs killed 12 militants and arrested eight others in the Shabqadar area of Charsadda District. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, November 18-24, 2008.
75 militants and 10 civilians killed in Bajaur: At least 75 militants and 10 civilians were in military operations in the Bajaur Agency during November 17-23, 2008. Five militants were killed and several others sustained injuries in air raids and artillery shelling in different areas of the agency on November 23. Security forces (SFs), backed by jet fighters, gunship choppers and artillery, moved towards the headquarters of Nawagai tehsil (revenue division) and adjoining villages and took control of the area. The area, which was once a stronghold of the militants in Bajaur, fell to the SFs for the first time after the launch of ‘Operation Sher Dil’ against the militants on August 6, 2008. Earlier, four militants and three women were killed in bombing by fighter aircraft in the Bajaur Agency on November 22. Officials said the aircraft attacked suspected hideouts in Kas, Gatki and Kharki areas of Mamoond tehsil (Revenue Division).
22 militants were killed and five others sustained injuries when the SFs targeted hideouts of suspected militants in the Damadola area on November 21. SFs targeted hideouts in Damadola, Tanikhwar, Sapray, Charmang, Kotki, Zorbandar, Glokas Shenkot, Kharkay and Gutki areas of Mamoond and Nawagai sub-divisions. At least 24 Taliban militants, including 11 foreigners and one local commander, were killed in the military operation on November 20. The slain foreign fighters were suspected to be Uzbek nationals, Frontier Corps sources told Daily Times. They said the Taliban casualties came when security forces targeted militants in the Darbari, Saparai, Gatki, Bagori and Zorbandar areas of Mamoond and Nawagai Sub-divisions. A day earlier, 12 militants died and several others were injured when SFs targeted their suspected hideouts in different areas of Bajaur Agency on November 19. The SFs, with artillery and gunship helicopters, targeted suspected hideouts in the Damadola, Saparay and Shinkot areas of Mamond tehsil and Charmang, Zorbandar and Sagi areas of Nawagai sub-division.
At least 10 persons were killed in clashes between the Taliban and pro-government tribal leaders on November 18. The Taliban on November 17 intercepted a convoy carrying 12 pro-government elders of the Mamoond tribe, local Government official Israr Khan told AFP. The tribesmen opened fire and killed three Taliban militants, including their commander, he said. The elders later took refuge in a guesthouse belonging to a local tribal chief, but more militants arrived, who besieged the house and demanded the local chief hand over the elders. "They opened fire and lobbed hand grenades inside, killing four elders and three servants of the tribal chief," Khan said. Earlier, five Taliban militants were killed on November 16 when the SFs targeted their hideouts in the Bajaur region. The five were killed in Siprai village, where the SFs have been engaged in fierce clashes with militants for the past three months. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, November 18-24, 2008.
Tribal militia chief among nine persons killed in suicide attack on mosque in Bajaur: The chief of a tribal Lashkar (militia) and eight other persons were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in the Badan village of Bajaur Agency on November 20, 2008. Eyewitnesses said the bomber succeeded in entering the mosque on the premises of the house of one Malak Rehmatullah during prayers. Rehmatullah, a tribal chieftain and head of the Mamond militia, and eight of his close relatives, including a nephew, were killed. Dawn, November 21, 2008.
Four soldiers among 10 persons killed in suicide bombing in Swat: Ten persons, including four soldiers, were killed and 17 others were wounded in a suicide blast in the Khawazakhela area of Swat District in the NWFP on November 17, 2008. A military statement said the suicide bomber struck the security forces' check post in an explosives-packed vehicle at 11:15 a.m. near Gashkor. The bomber was believed to be a teenager. Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that attacks against Security Forces would continue if military operation in Swat continued. Daily Times; Dawn, November 18, 2008.
211 soldiers and 146 LTTE militants among 363 persons killed during the week: At least 211 soldiers, 146 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and six civilians were killed in separate incidents between November 17 and November 23. More than 50 LTTE militants were killed and an unspecified number of them injured as troops in Jaffna in the morning of November 20 overran the first FDL (Forward Defence Line) of the outfit in the strategic bottleneck and lagoon to the north and south of the A-9 Jaffna-Kandy Highway. An unspecified number of soldiers were also killed in the fighting that lasted for a few days. On the same day, 18 dead bodies of the militants, including seven female cadres, who were killed in the clashes in Mannar and Vavuniya areas, were handed over to the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Vavuniya. Troops on November 21 overran the LTTE’s Entry/Exit point at Omanthai in the Vavuniya District after clearing the defence lines of the LTTE in the area, the military said on November 23. The Defence Ministry said that troops of Task Force 2 are now consolidating defences at Omanthai. More than 40 LTTE militants were killed in the operation.
Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net on November 20 claimed that at least 130 Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers lost their lives and more than 450 were wounded in the offensive push over the preceding three days on Kilali and Muhamalai fronts in the Jaffna District. 29 SLA soldiers died sustaining sniper fire and several others were killed while they were trapped in LTTE minefields. The LTTE, however, is yet to release details on the fighting in Northern Front. Further, on November 23, the Website claimed that at least 43 SLA soldiers were killed and more than 70 wounded in the latest fighting that broke out at Nallur on Poonakari-Paranthan Road. Sri Lanka Army; Tamil Net, November 18-24, 2008.