SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
A remarkable year for Nepal in many ways, 2008 saw the downfall of the Monarchy and the construction of a ‘new republic’ on its rubble. Even as the infant republic was trying to figure out its basics, confrontational domestic politics, the baggage of the country’s violent past, a deteriorating law and order situation, and frustrated aspirations, created mounting difficulties.
The year saw at least 81 fatalities in extremist-related violence, comprising 55 civilians and 25 militants. Militants killed included Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) cadres as well as insurgents of different groups operating in the Terai region. The major incidents (involving the deaths of three or more persons) included:
October 14: A woman and two minors died on the spot and four others were injured, when a bomb went off at Chandranigahapur Chowk in Rautahat District. Another two persons got injured when the Police opened fire to bring the situation under control after the market became tense following the explosion. Three Terai armed groups, the Terai Tigers, Terai Army and the Terai Sena, have separately claimed responsibility for the incident.
January 23: Cadres of the Young Communist League (YCL) killed three Nepali Congress activists, Satya Narayan Yadav, Neem Chandra Thakur, and Ram Ikbaal Yadav, who were abducted by them on January 20. Police found their dead bodies buried on the bank of Kamala River at Kichana Village Development Committee (VDC) in the Siraha District.Fatalities in Nepal, 2005-2008
Source: Institute for Conflict Management
The formal announcement made on January 11, 2008, that the twice postponed election for the Constituent Assembly (CA) would be held on April 10, had given a perfect start to the year. Despite growing concern about the deteriorating law and order situation 61.7 per cent voters turned out at the polls. The 601 seat CA was filled by a combination of First Past The Post (FPTP) system (240 seats), Proportional Representation (PR) system (335 seats) and nomination (26 seats). After the election, the final standing of the parties was as follows:
Source: Institute for Conflict Management
Though the run-up to the elections was marred by sporadic violence, the polling was, by and large, peaceful. Every party accepted the verdict, even if some of them were shocked at their performances. In its very first meeting, on May 28, the CA declared the country a Federal Democratic Republic and formally announced the abolition of the monarchy. King Gyanendra quietly vacated the Narayanhiti Palace on June 11.
Unmistakeable roadblocks quickly emerged thereafter, in the path of the infant Republic. Though the Constitution drafting process finally started formally on December 16, 2008, there appeared to be little urgency to carry its work forward. The politics of consensus quickly gave way to the politics of confrontation. Growing anarchy through out the country, especially in the Terai region emerged as a major cause of concern. The frequent clashes between Young Communist League (YCL) and Youth Force (YF) cadres, youth wings of ruling CPN-Maoist and CPN-UML respectively, worsened the situation. The Maoists initiated a debate on whether they should push for the establishment of a ‘people’s republic’. To compound matters further, the integration of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the Nepal Army (NA) faced stiff resistance from the Nepali Congress (NC).
Before the election all parties had reached an understanding that they would work together irrespective of the election results. This understanding was bolstered by a provision in the Interim Constitution that politics of consensus should continue. After the election, however, on July 13, 2008, the CA meeting passed the Fifth Amendment to the Interim Constitution, clearing the way for Government formation on a majority basis – a major departure from the three-year-old practice of working on the basis of consensual politics. The amendment also permits election of the President on a majority basis, makes a provision for an Opposition party and makes the Opposition leader a member of the Constitutional Council. The new amendment states that the President, Vice President, CA chairman, Deputy Chairman and Prime Minister would be chosen on the basis of ‘political understanding’. And if such understanding is not forthcoming, they can be elected by simple majority.
Not surprisingly, the NC, MJF and CPN-UML made an alliance to corner the posts of President, Vice-President and Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, respectively. But when the time came for Government formation, these parties failed to muster the courage to keep the CPN-Maoist out. There was a brief attempt to form a national Government with NC, MJF, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist as majority stake holders, but this ended in failure. Finally, the CPN-Maoist managed to muster a Coalition Government under its leadership, with the MJF and CPN-UML as partners, keeping the NC out. The NC, in turn, chose to don the mantle of the Opposition party. In the process, the contours of a confrontational domestic politics progressively crystallized and political trust became the first casualty. The gulf between the NC and the Maoists widened, with the latter talking of transforming Nepal into a ‘people’s republic’. On the other hand, Nepali Congress (NC) President Girija Prasad Koirala proposed the creation of a broader democratic alliance to contain the Maoists. This was opposed, in turn, by the Maoists, and Party Chairman and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda came up with the idea of setting up an alliance of republicans. There were a multiplicity of confrontations through the year, though the two issues that dominated the national agenda remained law and order and the integration of PLA men with the Nepal Army.
The integration of PLA combatants, numbering 19,206 and presently located at UN-monitored camps, with the NA was the cornerstone of bringing the peace process to its logical conclusion. Ian Martin, the head of UN’s Special Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), noted that the ongoing peace process could not be completed as long as two separate armies exist. To take care of the integration process, a constitutionally mandated Army Integration Special Committee (AISC) was formed under Deputy Prime Minister and CPN-UML leader Bamdev Gautam, with provisions for the inclusion of one member each from NC, CPN-UML and MJF, while Maoists have two members. The NC did not join the Committee, demanding that it be given an equal number of seats with the Maoists. The Maoists have reportedly now conceded this demand and the AISC is to have two members each from the four parties.
The integration of Forces is not an NC worry alone. While the Maoists clearly want to push the maximum possible numbers of PLA combatants into the Nepal Army (NA) and other security agencies, the NC argues that the integration of indoctrinated PLA combatants with the NA will compromise the apolitical character of the Army. Unmistakeably, such integration would further consolidate the hold of Maoists on the politics of the nation. Further, an official resolution passed at the Maoist conclave at Kharipati from November 21 to November 26 declared:
Such a resolution was bound to intensify public anxieties, and apprehensions were further enlarged by Prime Minister Prachanda’s remarks glorifying the use of arms declaring that all major changes in Nepal’s history, from the 1950 struggle for democracy, the 1960 royal coup, and the people's war were the result of the use of force.
The atmosphere of political distrust could be gauged by the activities of the youth wings of the two ruling coalition partners. The YCL was formed to retain the Maoist capacity for violence at a time when PLA combatants were restricted to the UN monitored camps and the Maoists were not in full control of the Government. Despite Prachanda’s promise to bring their conduct within the purview of the laws of the state, the YCL has kept up its business of murder, abduction, intimidation of opponents, extortion, forcibly securing contracts, influencing government appointments, etc. Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam of the CPN-UML has done precious little to prevent the YCL from repeatedly taking the law into its own hands, beyond issuing periodic warning to the militant youth, stating that that he has the consent of the Prime Minister to act against them. Instead of using the state power vested in him, the Home Minister’s party has opted to unleash its own youth wing, the YF, to confront the YCL’s lawlessness with its own. Clashes between the YCL and the YF have occurred frequently within a culture of impunity, encouraging other parties to set up youth wings of their own. The state’s inability to maintain law and order has, in the process, been clearly demonstrated.
The manifest reality is that, apart from using the Government for consolidation of their own power, coalition partners have little stake in the present order. The Maoists, instead of fulfilling their promise to return seized properties, have gone on a fresh spree of illegal seizures, with more than ten major incidents of land grabbing attributed to them. In a much publicised case, when Policeman drove out squatters from an illegally occupied property in Siraha, the then Land Reform Minister Matrika Yadav went to the spot with PLA men, asked the Police to leave the location, and ‘recaptured’ the property. The high handed manner in which the Minister used the PLA to capture this property caused an uproar and the Minister had to resign. Crucially, however, the property was not vacated.
The lawlessness that prevails was dramatically demonstrated in attacks on prominent media houses. Himalmedia was attacked on December 21 at capital Kathmandu and the regional office of Kantipur at Biratnagar was shut down for four days from December 24 to December 27.
The situation is much worse in the Tarai region, where at least 14 armed groups continue with their armed struggle in the name of Madhesi aspirations, even after the Eight-Point Agreement signed on February 28, which conceded the demand for an autonomous Terai region subject to the approval of the Constituent Assembly. After the agreement, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Nepal Sadbhavana Party-Rajendra Mahato (NSP-RM) and Terai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) joined the mainstream politics and participated in the elections. In an effort to bring the remaining armed groups into the mainstream, the Government has invited them for talks. So far, however, the first round of formal talks has been held with just two fringe groups, the Madhesi Virus Killers and Samyukta Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha. The Government is struggling to bring the major groups to the negotiating table. While the Jai Krishna Goit faction of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-G) has explicitly rejected the offer of talks, the Jwala Singh faction of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-J) has set out preconditions, which are yet to be met. In the meanwhile, violence continues in the region. Since the beginning of the talks process early in October 2008, there have been 21 killings for which responsibility has been claimed or perpetrators have been identified. There have also been at least 74 cases of bomb blasts, in which 11 persons were killed and another 206 were injured. Crucially, no local administrative bodies have been in place since 2002. Because of widespread fears of extortion and concern over personal security, many Village Development Committee secretaries and civil servants deputed to various Government offices in the Terai Districts fled their duty stations. As a result, most Government offices in the Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Parsa and Bara Districts are either shut down or grossly understaffed.
With little consensus or coherence among parties in the CA, the Constitution drafting process has suffered, and appears to have been relegated to the status of a secondary function. With all provisions of the new Constitution requiring validation by a two-third majority, progress appears impossible, given the prevailing distrust among political parties. The boycott of regular sessions of the CA by different parties over different issues has been frequent and increasing.
Within a broadly disturbing scenario, however, there is a nascent silver lining: apparently realising the futility of confrontational politics, the CPN-Maoist and CPN-UML, on December 25, agreed to enter into a new understanding with the Nepali Congress (NC) so as to take the peace process to a logical conclusion and expedite the statute-drafting process. While Nepal’s troubles are far from over, it is certainly the case that the pervasive violence of the past has halted, and the possibilities – if not the reality – of transformation are everywhere.
Another Year in Strife
Manipur was brought under the Armed Forces (Assam & Manipur) Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, for another year with effect from December 1, 2008, "because of violent activities of various extremists/insurgent groups" as a result of which "the entire state of Manipur is in such a disturbed condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary." Manipur has been under the AFSPA since the late 1970s.
The insurgency in Manipur has, over the years, become increasingly homicidal, and trends in 2008 only demonstrate a further acceleration along this trajectory. While 388 deaths were caused by militancy in 2007, fatalities increased to 484 in 2008. The State, thus, remains most violent in India’s troubled Northeast, leaving behind the much larger Assam (384), and Nagaland (201). Manipur has just 8.52 per cent of the territory and 6.12 per cent of the population of the Northeast, but accounted for as much as 47 per cent of the terrorism related fatalities in the region in 2008.Insurgency related Fatalities in Manipur: 2001 - 2008
The persistent violence in Manipur took an abrupt turn for the worse in year 2004, when terrorism related fatalities tripled, as compared to the preceding year. This steep escalation coincided with the alleged rape and custodial death of a female insurgent, Th. Manorama Devi, at the hands of Assam Rifles personnel on July 10, 2004. While year 2006 saw some improvement, violence has tended to escalate since the Manorma Devi incident. The State registered 388 fatalities in 584 insurgency-related incidents in 2007, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). MHA data indicates that year 2008 saw 465 such incidents, claiming the lives of 314 persons till August 31. According to the SATP database, another 185 persons, including 40 civilians, four Security Force (SF) personnel and 141 militants, were killed in the subsequent four months yielding a provisional total of 499 fatalities in the year, including 136 civilians, 16 SF personnel and 347 insurgents.
At least 24 major incidents of militant violence, involving deaths of three or more persons, took place in Manipur in 2008. The most significant among these included:
December 8: Five suspected People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) cadres were shot dead by Thoubal District Police at Langathel Thongkhong under Kakching Police Station.
November 26: Five workers in the Maphou dam site in Nongdam Tangkhul, at the tri-junction of Imphal East, Senapati and Ukhrul Districts, were killed by unidentified militants.
October 23: Five cadres of the Military Council (MC) faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) and People’s United Liberation Front (PULF) were shot dead by SFs during an encounter at Heingang Heibimakhong Ching under Heingang Police Station in Imphal East District.
October 21: At least 18 persons were killed and over 30 persons injured when a bomb fitted to a motorcycle exploded near the high security Ragailong gate in Imphal. The KCP-MC claimed responsibility for bomb blast.
September 8: Five suspected PREPAK militants were shot dead by SFs during an encounter at Ngakrapat in the Bishnupur District.
June 11/12: Four militants belonging to the Azad faction of the PULF, including one ‘District commander’ Altab Ali alias Sana, were killed when a combined force of Imphal East District Police and troops of Assam Rifles neutralised a hideout of the outfit at the foothills of Urup Kangthak village under Irilbung Police Station.
March 18: Unidentified militants killed seven non-local labourers and injured two others. While five persons were killed at Thumbi foothill in the Kangla Sangomsang area of Imphal East District, two others were shot dead at Kakching in Thoubal District.
March 17: At least seven non-Manipuris were shot dead by unidentified militants at Mayang Imphal Hanglun in Imphal. The victims were sellers of tobacco products, which were ‘banned’ by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
February 22: Five Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) militants, including an old man and four child recruits, were abducted and subsequently killed by suspected militants of the Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) at an unspecified place along the road leading to Thangal Surung from Ekou Bazar under Saikul Police Station of Senapati District. One of the slain militants was identified as Hanpau Chongloi, KRA’s Public Relations Officer.
The escalation in violence is not only reflected in fatalities, but also in the number of bomb explosions triggered by various militant groups. According to the SATP database, 37 explosions were carried out throughout the State, including 27 in capital Imphal, in 2007, killing 14 and injuring another 66. This number went up to 60 explosions, with 35 in Imphal, in 2008, registering 28 fatalities and 60 injured. The worst of these was on October 21, 2008, when at least 18 persons were killed and over 30 injured, when a bomb fitted to a motorcycle was triggered by the KCP-MC near the high security Ragailong gate, close to the rear headquarters of the Assam Rifles and the Manipur Police Commando Complex, in capital Imphal.
The insurgency is spread over all nine Districts of the State including four in the Valley and five in Hill areas. As noted repeatedly in SAIR, the relentless hostility between the Hill tribes and the Valley dominated by a Hindu Meitei population, has provided sustained momentum to the extremist groups. In January 2006, more than 20 women were molested by the Valley-based United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and KCP militants at Parbung and Lungthulien under Tipaimukh Sub-division in the Churachandpur District. A Commission headed by S.P. Rajkhowa was subsequently set up to probe the incident. The Commission submitted its report to the Manipur Government on May 31, 2008. While findings of the report and the status of their implementation have so far evaded public knowledge, the Hill based Hmar People's Convention – Democracy (HPC-D), in July 2008, alleged that the UNLF and Military Council faction of the KCP frequently rape tribal girls and are trying to separate the smaller communities in the State. The Hill based groups also perpetrate violence in the Valley areas, often provoking extra-judicial vigilante action by local people. On December 16, 2008, for instance, the locals of Kwakta lynched a suspected Kuki National Front (KNF) cadre while he was trying to abduct two Muslim elders, identified as Mohammed Ahmad and Mohammed Itao of Kwakta village under Moirang Police Station in the Bishnupur District. Three days later, on December 19, the Military Council (MC) faction of the KNF served a threat of ‘capital punishment’ to seven persons residing at Kwakta village for their alleged involvement in drug smuggling and subsequent violence at same village, involving KNF cadres and villagers, resulting in the death of two persons and injury to four others.
The militants have not confined their influence to the remote corners of the State, but have displayed their full potential in the ‘fortified’ State capital, Imphal, by attacking the offices and residences of political authorities. On March 8, 2008, for instance, PREPAK militants drove up to the heavily guarded Manipur Assembly complex and exploded a bomb, though no fatalities were caused. Again, on April 24, at least five persons, including a woman, were injured when a remote controlled improvised explosive device (IED) fitted on a scooter was detonated by unidentified militants at the Babupara VIP colony near the Chief Minister's bungalow in Imphal. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Further, on May 8, unidentified militants lobbed a Chinese hand grenade at the residence of the State Health Minister Pheiroijam Parijat in Imphal. Later, on July 28, two bombs were hurled by militants at the residence of the State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Y. Erabot at Khurai Ahongei in the Imphal East District, causing damage to a vehicle and the residence. Similarly, on September 26, suspected militants lobbed a hand grenade at the residence of Legislator S. Kunjakishore alias Keba at Tera Sapam Leirak in the Imphal West District. Again on October 19, a grenade was exploded by suspected militants in front of the Chief Minister’s bungalow damaging a vehicle. On December 21, a Chinese hand grenade was exploded by militants belonging to the Lanheiba Meitei group of the MC faction of KCP at the south eastern side of the Governor’s House complex in Imphal, though no casualty was reported. Political authorities were targeted by militants in the areas beyond State capital Imphal as well. For example, on May 21, suspected militants exploded gas cylinders targeting the residence of the State Agriculture Minister N. Loken at Leimapokpam in the Bishnupur District.
Militant attacks are often related to the all pervasive extortion activities in Manipur. Places of worship, educational institutions, health centres, commercial establishments and related economic undertakings have been systematically brought under the extortion net, by almost all the outfits operating in the State. On March 30, 2008, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh stated that militant groups were extorting money out of donations given in the name of God at various temples. Educational institutions are also targeted by the extortionists. On September 12, 2008, the Kanan Devi Memorial School at Pangei in the Imphal East District was closed for an indefinite period due to a demand by the KCP for INR 500,000. Three days later, on September 25, extortion demands forced the closure of two Government colleges in Imphal. Hospitals have similarly been affected by the extortion networks. On January 18, for instance, two private hospitals, Langol View at Lamphel Sanakeithel and Imphal Hospital, in Imphal, were closed down due to extortion demands of INR 500,000 each served on them by a militant group.
Commercial establishments are, meanwhile, worst hit by the ongoing extortion drives. On August 28, hundreds of commercial establishments, including chemist shops, located on both sides of the Tiddim Road along National Highway – 150 from Keishampat to Kwakeithel in the Imphal West District remained closed to protest the unbearable monetary demands served on them by Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) cadres. Later, the shopkeepers along the Dingku Road of Imphal West District revealed that the businesses were divided into three categories by the militants – bigger shops were asked to pay INR 30,000, middle size shops INR 20,000 each, while the small ones were asked to pay INR 10,000. In a similar incident, on October 29, chemist shops in and around the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital at Lamphel in the Imphal West District remained closed for the day in protest against extortion threats. Extortion drives were backed with widespread intimidation of, assaults on and armed attacks against target groups of the population.
The militant groups also demonstrated their power, as has been the trend in previous years, by issuing numerous ‘decrees’. On January 31, 2008, the KYKL reiterated its ‘diktat’ of using Meetei Mayek language on signboards of shops, offices and institutions in the four valley Districts – Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur and Thoubal. Again, on April 23, the KYKL ‘banned’ the thabal chongba (dancing ceremony) at Khongjom in the Thoubal District. Similarly, on April 29, the KYKL and UNLF ordered a halt on the hike in the price of kerosene oil in local markets. The PLA ‘banned’ the export of rice or paddy outside Manipur with effect from December 12, to discourage the growing of cash crops. With the State’s ability to provide security to its citizens virtually non-existent, any refusal to fall in line with these diktats has proven fatal. On March 17, at least seven non-Manipuri traders selling tobacco products and mitha manna (betel leaf), which were ‘banned’ by the PLA, were shot dead by PLA militants at Mayang Imphal Hanglun in the capital.
Media in the State has also been forced to walk the tight rope between presenting an unbiased narrative and becoming a mouthpiece for the militant outfits, who use the Press to announce their ‘party programmes’. Both the English language and the vernacular media are told to carry verbatim Press Releases by the militants and a failure to do so is often accompanied by threats and/or actual reprisal attacks. On August 4, 2008, the Military Council (MC) faction of the KCP imposed an ‘indefinite ban’ on a widely-circulated popular Manipuri daily Poknapham, after the newspaper published a statement issued by the outfit in one of its inside pages and not on its front page, as demanded by the KCP-MC. Poknapham’s publication was suspended for at least a week. On November 17, a junior sub-editor of the English daily Imphal Free Press, Konsam Rishikanta, was killed by unidentified militants at Langol in the Imphal West District. The incident led to the suspension of publication of all newspapers in the State for over a week, as a mark of protest. In the end, however, no outfit apologized or promised not to repeat such attacks.
Manipur’s woes, emanating from ‘indigenous’ militant outfits, have been further aggravated by the overflow of militancy from neighbouring Nagaland – the oldest theatre of conflict in the northeastern region. Major parts of Manipur’s four Valley Districts – Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel – remained affected by the activities of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) in 2008, as in earlier years. The NSCN-IM has not only carried out unceasing extortion and abduction activities in these Districts, but has intermittently engaged in fratricidal clashes with its rival Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). As all routes out of Manipur pass through one or the other of these Districts, the domination of the Naga groups over these areas, virtually translates into an undisturbed domination over the entire State of Manipur.
Counter-insurgency operations have primarily been led by the Army and the central para-military forces (CPMFs), with the State Police playing only a subsidiary and marginal role. The Army, in January 2008, claimed to have dislodged the UNLF from its last bastion inside the State, the New Samtal area spread over 1,000 square kilometres in the south-western Chandel District. Within the next three months, however, the UNLF cadres, who had simply vacated the villages and retreated into the forest areas, or had crossed over into the safety of adjoining Myanmar in the wake of counter-insurgency operations, had returned to the area, and started ambushing SF contingents. Till the month of December, ‘successes’ of the SFs in the area comprised of countering such ambushes and recovering arms and ammunition from the militants.
The Manipur Police’s irrelevance in the counter-insurgency operations has persisted despite the fact that the State boasts a Police-population ratio (Policemen per 100,000 populations) of 627, much higher than Nagaland (475), Assam (176) and the Indian average of 125. Manipur’s Policemen per 100 square kilometer area ratio of 73.2, is far in excess than Assam (66.4), Nagaland (62.2) and the national average of 45.
While the lack of adequate support from the State Police has been the bane of the SF operations in Manipur, the State has consistently failed to take advantage of the popular discontentment against the militants. In May 2008, the State Government, in response to an appeal by the people of Heirok in Thoubal District to arm them against militants, recruited 300 Special Police Officers (SPOs). However, in the face of a clampdown by the UNLF and KYKL militants, who clearly dominated the area, the entire programme was more or less abandoned. The UNLF and KYKL cadres stopped the people of Heirok from moving out from their villages and, on occasion, carried out attacks on them. Public transport services on the Heirok-Imphal and Heirok-Thoubal routes were suspended for days together as a result of militant action. There is no word on the part of the Government on the construction of barracks for the SPOs, nor has there been any move to deploy them. The Government has, moreover, failed to protect the people of Heirok from militant reprisals.
The only silver lining in Manipur has been the August 2005 Suspension of Operations (SoP) agreement between 19 Kuki militant groups and the Union Government. Although little progress has been achieved in terms of solving the problem of Kuki militancy in the Hill Districts, the agreement continues to hold. The three year-long ceasefire agreement, however, has not affected the abduction and extortion activities of these outfits. Three rounds of talks – two in New Delhi (on May 19 and August 22, 2008) and one in Imphal (on December 19, 2008) have been held. The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG), following the third round of meetings, issued "strong instructions" to 19 tribal militant groups to refrain from abduction and other unlawful activities and decided to finalise the process for issue of identity cards to around 1,745 militant cadres.
The neutralization of the all-pervasive threat of militancy in Manipur remained a chimera in 2008. Worse, the conflict dynamics in the State have become the more complex as a result of the intervention of a new player – the Left Wing extremist Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) – in the State. The PLA inked a three-point pact, on October 21, with the CPI-Maoist – the group already known to be active in over 220 Districts in 22 States across the country. Both outfits called for consolidation of "mutual understanding and friendship" to "overthrow the common enemy", the "reactionary regime of India". The actual ramifications of this agreement are yet to be manifested in Manipur, but there is little evidence that peace is a proximate possibility in the State.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 5-11, 2009
15 Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh: 15 cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) were killed and three Special Police Officers (SPOs) were injured during an encounter in the forest areas of Gollapalli of Dantewada District in the evening of January 8, 2009. The encounter took place when the Security Forces (SFs) opened fire on a group of armed Maoists during a search operation. "It’s a big success. The Police are trying to capture several rebels alive, who received bullet wounds in the gun battle and are attempting to run away under the cover of darkness," said Rahul Sharma, the District Superintendent of Police. The Police also recovered a large cache of arms and ammunition from the encounter site. The Hindu, January 9, 2009.
Pakistani agencies involved in Mumbai terrorist attack, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) for the Mumbai terrorist attack and pointed out that there was enough evidence to show that the attack was executed with military precision and also had the support of some official agencies of Pakistan. Speaking at a Conference of Chief Ministers on internal security in New Delhi on January 6, 2009, the Prime Minister said terrorism was largely sponsored from outside the country, mainly from Pakistan, which "utilised terrorism as an instrument of State policy." "We must convince the world community that States that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics. We must engage vigorously in debates to press the point that ‘soft’ support for terrorism cannot any longer be endorsed," Dr. Singh stated. While admitting that India’s problems were compounded by the fact that "we have a highly unpredictable and uncertain security environment in our immediate neighbourhood," he said the Governments in some of our neighbouring countries "are very fragile in nature." He cautioned that the "more fragile a Government, the more it tends to act in an irresponsible fashion. Pakistan’s responses to our various demarches on terrorist attacks are an obvious example. The Hindu, January 7, 2009.
49 civilians among 66 persons killed in NWFP during the week: On January 11, 2009, four persons were killed in separate incidents of violence in the Swat District. On New Road in Mingora town, unidentified gunmen shot dead a person Hakim Siraj while the body of another person, whose name could not be ascertained, was found in Matta Bazaar. In Durushkhela village of Matta sub-division, the body of Ahmad Jan and his son were found at the roadside.
Meanwhile, a cease-fire between rival factions was reached in Hangu late on January 11, after 30 persons were killed and 50 injured in sectarian clashes that broke out on January 9, according to Daily Times. However, The News put the death toll in the three days of sectarian clashes at 40. Clashes between armed groups were reported from Sangarabad, Bahadur Ghari, Saidan Banda, Mardokhel Banda, Kach Banda, Ibrahimzai, Nerobaag, Sheikhan Kellay and Lakhtay Banda. Heavy weapons, including rockets, mortar shells and missiles were used in the clashes between the rival Shia and Sunni groups. The clashes erupted when people from Kohat, who were protesting against the imposition of curfew in Hangu on the eve of Ashura (10th day of Muharram), were attacked by the rival sect. Four people are reported to have died on the first day of clashes.
Further, the relative of a retired Superintendent of Police (SP) was among two persons killed in Swat on January 9. The militants had abducted Ziaullah, a relative of ex-SP Taj Muhammad, some days ago and killed him on January 9 in the Jehanabad area. Another body, which could not be identified, was also found in the same area. Earlier on January 7, the Taliban in Hangu District killed three Policemen and abducted three others when they stormed a Police check-post in Dalan area using heavy weapons. Three persons were killed and eight others, including five Security Force (SF) personnel, were injured in the ongoing military operation in Swat District on January 7. On January 6, six bullet-ridden bodies of Security Force personnel, who had been abducted by Taliban militants a few days ago, were found in the Mingora city of Swat. A day earlier, four persons, including two militants, were killed in separate incidents of violence in the Mingora city of Swat District. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, January 6-12, 2009.
45 militants and 11 civilians among 62 persons killed in the FATA during the week: At least 40 Taliban militants were killed and an unspecified number of them wounded in Mohmand Agency on January 11, 2009, as paramilitary troops repulsed a pre-dawn attack by about 600 militants coming from the Afghan border. The attackers – mostly foreigners, and supported by local Taliban – attacked Frontier Corps (FC) positions in Mamad Gatt at about 2 AM (PST). "Frontier Corps troops repulsed a massive attack by militants on one of its locations in the area," the military disclosed, adding that "severe fighting continued through the night". Six soldiers were also killed and seven sustained injuries in the fighting.
Suspected militants shot dead two Government employees in North Waziristan Agency late on January 8. The ambush took place in Asadkhel village, around 35 kilometres south of agency headquarters Miranshah. Amanullah Jan, a junior administrator in Razmak town, and his security guard were killed, while Jan’s deputy and another guard were injured after gunmen hiding on a roadside shot at their car. The Taliban in the Mirali Sub-division of North Waziristan Agency on January 7 killed two Afghan nationals after accusing them of spying for the United States. Locals found the body of Habibullah at Khadi near the Mirali-Miranshah Road. The body of the second Afghan, identified as Khan Muhammad Babar, was found in Shera Talla area. Notes found near the bodies said that people spying for the US would be dealt with in the same manner. Three Taliban militants were killed and six others sustained injuries as jet fighters targeted their hideouts in various areas of Bajaur Agency on January 7. Six trenches and some underground bunkers built by the Taliban had also been destroyed in the operation. Fighter jets targeted Taliban hideouts in Dama Dola and Khaza Pahar areas in Mamoond, Salarzai and Chargo Kandaw sub-divisions of Bajaur.
Two militants were killed and four others sustained injuries when Security Force (SF) personnel and militants clashed in the Pandyalai Sub-division and Bhai Dag area of the Baizai Sub-division in Mohmand Agency on January 6. Suspected militants killed another four alleged US spies in North Waziristan on the night between January 5 and January 6 and threw their bodies on main roads in various parts of the tribal region. Two of the alleged US spies were said to be Afghan nationals and the other two were identified as local tribesmen. Suspected Taliban militants in North Waziristan also shot dead two Afghan nationals and a resident of the Bannu District of NWFP and hanged the bodies of the Afghans from a tree on the Bannu-Miramshah Road at Naurak village in the morning of January 5. A hand-written Pashto language letter left with the bodies accused them of spying on ‘Mujahideen’ in North Waziristan for the US forces stationed in Afghanistan. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, January 6-12, 2009.
Chief of al Qaeda in Pakistan and lieutenant killed by US drone attack: The chief of al Qaeda in Pakistan and his lieutenant were killed in the past few days, a US counter-terrorism official told AFP late on January 8, 2009. The duo was reportedly struck by a missile fired from an unmanned drone in South Waziristan. The men are believed to be Kenyan national Usama al-Kini, described as al Qaeda's chief of operations in Pakistan and his lieutenant Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. "There is every reason to believe that these two top terrorist figures are dead," said an unnamed source, adding that the duo was killed "within the last week." The counterintelligence source did not say how the men died, but according to Washington Post, which first reported the story, the duo was killed in a January 1, 2009, missile attack near Karikot in South Waziristan. The militants died after being struck by a 45 kilo Hellfire missile fired from a pilot-less Predator drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, Washington Post reported. Officials believe al-Kini was behind the September 2008 car bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel that killed 60 people. He is also linked to a suicide attack on late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's convoy as it travelled through Karachi on her arrival in Pakistan on October 18, 2008. The two men are also on the FBI's most wanted list for links with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa. Dawn, January 9, 2009.
Ajmal Kasab is a Pakistani, says Foreign Office: The Pakistani Government confirmed on January 7, 2009, that Mohammad Ajmal Amir alias Ajmal Kasab – the lone Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant arrested during the Mumbai terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008 – is a Pakistani. "The initial investigations have confirmed that Ajmal Kasab, involved in the Mumbai terrorist attacks, is a Pakistani national. Further investigations are under way," Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Sadiq said. Sources in the foreign ministry said security agencies analysed the information India had gathered and shared with Pakistan, and concluded in a preliminary probe that Kasab is a Pakistani. Pakistan had earlier said its National Database and Registration Authority had no record of the man. Sadiq confirmed that the Interior Ministry had given the information to the Foreign Office. But he denied Pakistan would provide official support to Ajmal Kasab. "Kasab has committed a heinous crime. He will not be provided any official support or consular access," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the Information Minister Sherry Rehman told Daily Times that "Ajmal Kasab is a Pakistani. Further investigations are under way." Earlier, a high-ranking Government official told Dawn that the preliminary investigation had provided enough information to conclude that the man at present in India’s custody was from a Punjab village, and perhaps belonged to a militant group that was bent upon destabilising the region by undermining the peace process. Answering a question about consular access to Kasab, a senior official said the militant had damaged Pakistan ‘like no other’. "We are not yet sure when to ask for consular access. We may not ask for it. He is involved in a heinous crime," the unnamed official said. Dawn; Daily Times, January 8, 2009.
Troops capture more areas, including Elephant Pass, as fighting intensifies in North: Security Forces on January 5, 2009, reached Elephant Pass with the 58th Division troops capturing the entire southern part of the Pass and further advancing towards the North to capture it entirely, Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka said. The troops also captured Thamilamadam, the causeway to the south of the Elephant Pass. According to military sources, 10 soldiers were killed and 23 others injured in the clashes in Elephant Pass and Murusamudai areas. Troops operating in the Jaffna front captured the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) FDLs (Forward Defence Lines) in Kilali and Muhamalai, some 600 metres ahead of the Security Force’s FDLs on January 6, Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. In addition, Task Force-III troops operating in the East of Olumaduwai and Task Force-IV troops operating in the Oddusudan area took control of the Mankulam-Oddusudan (A-34) road. The Military on January 7 claimed to have captured Murasumoddai town on the way to Mullaitivu, amid stiff resistance from the LTTE. In addition, troops advancing from the north and south of Elephant Pass entrapped the militants on the thin strip of land connecting the mainland to Jaffna Peninsula, inflicting heavy casualties upon the militants. The Defence Ministry said troops destroyed several key LTTE command centers, including the Kilaly’s ECHO-9 Base, Muhamalai area command bases GOLF-7, ECHO-3 and DELTA-2 and set ablaze a huge LTTE ammunition dump. The military also said the militants are now confined to an area of 600 square kilometres. In addition, troops advancing from the Kilali and Muhamalai FDLs captured Palali, the main township south of Muhamalai and Kilali FDLs, in the afternoon of January 8. Military sources also said the LTTE had shifted their artillery guns from Jaffna Peninsula to the south, expecting a troop advance. Further, the troops also captured Sorampattu, about five kilometres southeast of Palali, in the same evening. Meanwhile, Murasumoddai town, on the Paranthan–Mullaitivu (A-35) road and about 5.5 kilometres to the east of Paranthan town, was captured by troops of the 58th Division. An unspecified number of militants were killed during clashes that erupted in the area since the evening of January 7.
Security Forces (SFs) captured the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) highway connecting the south with the Jaffna peninsula after 23 years. Troops of the 53rd, 55th, and 58th Divisions captured the strategically important Elephant Pass by the afternoon of January 9, President Mahinda Rajapakse announced. The President said the SFs are now able to connect people in Dondra Head with people in Point Pedro after 23 years, in an environment sans terrorism, making a bridge of peace between the South and North. The 53rd and 55th Divisions, advancing from Muhamalai and Kilali linked up with troops of the 58th Division, who had taken control of Elephant Pass South by January 6. The 58th Division cleared the path for the 53rd and 55th Division to move towards the south of Jaffna Peninsula compelling the LTTE to vacate many of the areas they held in the southern part of the Peninsula. With the capture of Elephant Pass, the troops were able to clear a 96 kilometre stretch of the A-9 road between Omanthai and Muhamalai after two years of military operations in Wanni and in the north. Military officials said this is the first time the A-9 road is open till Jaffna under military control after the SFs lost control of it after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in the late 1980s. Meanwhile, SFs recovered the dead bodies of 12 militants along with five T-56 weapons, one General Purpose Machine Gun and two I-com radio sets from the Murusamoddai area of Mullaitivu District.
Seven Tamil civilians, including two children, on their way to cleared areas (area under Government control) seeking protection, were shot dead by LTTE militants in the morning of January 10. According to military sources, the civilians from Murusamoddai and Kanchipuram areas were on their way to SF controlled areas when they were attacked by the militants deployed on possible escaping routes to prevent civilian movement. Two children, two females and three males are among the victims. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, January 6-12, 2009.
Government bans LTTE: The Government said, on January 7, 2009, that the Cabinet had taken a unanimous decision, in accordance with a memorandum submitted by President Mahinda Rajapakse, to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which continued to engage in blatant human rights violations. The Proclamation of the President proscribing the LTTE under Chapter 40 of the Public Security Ordinance gave several reasons for the proscription. They included, inter alia, committing acts of terrorism and other forms of violence, with the aim of establishing a separate state of Tamil Eelam in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka; engaging in armed conflict with the Security Forces and the Police; assassination of persons in high political office, members of the security forces and the Police and civilians; causing death and destruction to lives and property; threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic; failure to eschew violence, lay down arms and, surrender and participate in the democratic process; keeping civilians in the North and East as hostages and using them as human shields; preventing humanitarian relief from reaching the population; illegal procurement and smuggling of arms, using child soldiers, and adversely affecting international and regional peace. The LTTE was first banned in 1998. The ban was lifted in September 2002, ahead of the peace talks following the Cease-fire Agreement. Daily News, January 8, 2009.