SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
On February 1, Markegaon village in Maharashtra’s eastern District of Gadchiroli became the most recent site of an enormously successful operation by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). The meticulously planned attack involving over 150 Maoist cadres drawn from three dalams (squads) resulted in the killing of 15 personnel of the Maharashtra Police, including a sub-Inspector. The Policemen were en route to a site where the Maoists had torched a road-roller and a tractor pressed for work on a bridge, when they were ambushed on January 30. After an hour-and-a-half-long exchange of fire, the Maoists fled, looting eight AK-47s, some self-loading rifles (SLRs), one pistol and a substantial cache of ammunition from the slain Policemen. Initial reports suggesting that the Maoists mutilated the bodies of the Policemen have been denied by the Police authorities. However, civilian eyewitness accounts do confirm that a number of Policemen had indeed been overpowered and killed at close range. Police sources initially claimed that seven to eight Maoists had been killed in retaliatory firing, but no dead body of these extremists were recovered.
The Maoists had ensured that the Security Force (SF) personnel were trapped in the village with little help from outside. Even the SF relief party sent to rescue the first team were fired upon, preventing immediate reinforcement. A combing operation involving almost 2,000 SF personnel did lead to the arrest of 13 Maoist cadres from three villages adjoining the attack site. The attack, however, remained a source of shock and embarrassment for the Maharashtra Police, who had made no secret of their successes against the Maoist in recent years.
Maharashtra- LWE related fatalities 2004-08
*2004 - August 2008 data: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,
**Provisional Data: (September-December 2008)- Institute for Conflict Management.
Available data does testify to the efforts of the Nagpur based Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) unit of the Maharashtra Police. While there was little respite from the Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) attacks in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkahd and Orissa, Police operations in Maharashtra have resulted in a drastic decline in LWE related activities and resultant fatalities. Between 2007 and 2008 LWE-related incidents dipped by over 56 percent. While civilians killed decreased by over 45 percent, there was a marginal increase among SF and Maoist fatalities. The lone major incident (involving three or more deaths) of 2008 in LWE violence occurred on October 26, when CPI-Maoist cadres ambushed a Police patrol and killed four personnel near Korepalli village under Rajaram Khanla Police Station in Gadchiroli District.
Seven out of the eight LWE affected Districts in the State – Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondia, Nagpur, Yavatmal and Nanded – out of a total 35 Districts in the State, are located in the eastern part of Maharashtra [Nasik is the only affected District in the west], in the economically backward Vidarbha region, sharing borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
The Maoist engagement in Maharashtra is two-and-a-half decades old. State Police sources indicate that, at one point, the CPI-Maoist had established more than 22 units in Gadchiroli, comprising 200 office-bearers, of whom 162 were male and 38 female. These units, reporting directly to the party’s politburo, functioned through a further 325 village units, which, together, had 7,825 members. Such domination is, however, a thing of the past, largely due to the process of neutralisation of Maoists, principally through a combination of surrenders and arrests.
The surrender scheme for the LWE cadres, in place in Maharashtra since August 29, 2005, had resulted in as many as 320 surrenders in the State till the end of 2008. As many as 145 of these cadres surrendered in 2008, accounting for 3.8 times the number of surrendered cadres in 2007. A further 123 Maoist cadres were arrested in 2008. Five Maoists camps were destroyed and 270 kilograms of explosives were seized during the year. Clinical operations have reduced LWE incidents in the affected areas, with just 24 encounters between the Maoists and SFs reported in 2008, compared to 34 such encounters in 2007. During the first month of the year 2009, only two incidents were reported in Maharashtra. These involved a lone encounter with the SFs in the Gondia District and another incident in which Maoists stole a Police vehicle in Nagpur District.
In a bid to cut the extremists off from their potential support base within the rural areas, the State Government runs an incentive programme for those villages in five Districts (Nanded, Bhandara, Gondia, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur) which deny entry to the Maoists into their areas. In July 2008, the Maharashtra Police had approved an INR 51.6 million proposal to grant incentives of INR 300,000 each to 172 such villages in the Gadchiroli and Gondia Districts. So far 565 villages in the five Districts have benefited from this scheme.
Not surprisingly, three weeks before the February 1 attack, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan sounded both confident and convincing at a meeting of Chief Ministers of LWE-affected States convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. On January 7, Chavan declared emphatically, "I am happy to say that Maharashtra has been able to contain Naxalite-related activities in the Districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia. The number of attacks on Policemen and civilians has declined. The State follows a twin policy of conventional Police action of arrests and encounters, coupled with one to win the hearts and minds of the local population."
The February 1 attack, while it can hardly constitute a complete rebuttal of the measures adopted by the Government and the consequent gains, nevertheless makes it clear that even the seemingly best of efforts are bound to be inadequate unless anti-LWE policies address the enduring strengths of the extremists and the persisting weakness of the State.
Geographical contiguity with, and the ‘spill over’ from, the Maoist affected Districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar and Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, as well as Rajnandgaon, Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, have been described as the principal reason for the extremist mobilisation in eastern Maharashtra. This remains an undisturbed phenomenon. As a result, the periodic ‘sanitisation’ of Maharashtra’s territory secures, at best, temporary gains, with fresh incursions from neighbouring States into Maharashtra following inevitably. Investigations conducted thus far into the February 1 attack at Markegaon have revealed the role of the Maoists from Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Media reports in early January 2009 had, in fact, indicated a CPI-Maoist Central Committee decision to strengthen the outfit’s influence in Maharashtra by merging its Maharashtra State operations with those of the larger and stronger Dandkaranya Committee, active in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. This tactical decision aimed to carry over the Maoist successes, particularly in Chhattisgarh, to Maharashtra. Maharashtra Police reports confirm the movement of large numbers of armed extremists from Chhattisgarh to Maharashtra. In November-December 2008, the Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh Police did organise a joint anti-Maoist combing operation in the inter-State border areas. While there is no information currently available on the impact of this exercise, such operations have remained intermittent and incapable of securing long-term results.
Maharashtra boasts of a Police population ratio (Policemen per 100,000 population) of 141, the best among the LWE affected States (though well below levels regarded as desirable even for peacetime policing). However, a bulk of the State’s 149,571 Police personnel are deployed in the Mumbai megapolis and other important urban concentrations such as Pune and Nasik. A mere nine percent of the Maharashtra Police Force is allocated to the ‘Armed Police’ category – which could engage in counter-insurgency and other law and order operations in extreme situations. The comparable ratio for Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are 16 and 37 per cent, respectively, in the Armed Police. According to officials in the Maharashtra Home Department, there is not only highly inadequate manpower in all the LWE affected Districts of the State, but the existing personnel lack access to sophisticated weapons.
Even as the vulnerabilities of the State and the inadequacies of the response mechanism were demonstrated in the November 26 multiple Islamist terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Markegaon attack has exposed the insufficient preparedness of the Police in Maharashtra, despite a series of successes against the Maoists over the past years. It is significant that the airlifting of bodies of personnel killed at Markegaon at 11.30 AM on February 1 to Nagpur could only take place late in the evening, after a helicopter had been requisitioned from a different Department. The chopper allocated to the ANO had not been flight-worthy for the past several months. Maharashtra Home Department officials have now questioned the rationale of locating the ANO Headquarters at Nagpur, and not in either Gadchiroli or Gondia, which have been the hotbeds of LWE activity. Gadchiroli and Gondia are at a distance of 170 and 160 kilometres respectively from the ANO headquarters at Nagpur.
Fire fighting measures in the aftermath of the attack include a host of measures announced by the State Government. On February 4, just three days after the attack, the Maharashtra Government approved an INR 138.6 billion Special Action Programme for LWE-affected areas in the State. The programme, scheduled to cover six Districts – Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Gondia, Nanded, Yavatmal and Bhandara – is to focus on infrastructure and other development projects. A detailed report on the projects to be carried out in these Districts is being prepared by the State Home Secretary. The State Government has approved the construction of an airport at the Amaravati District Headquarters at an expense of INR 2.79 billions. The Government has also approved an airstrip at Gadchiroli.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has promised a ‘befitting reply’ to the Maoists. But an adequate response depends, not only on the sincerity and efficiency with which Maharashtra acts, but also on the prevailing state of affairs in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, where the Maoists continue to enjoy a virtual free run.
Fissures in Red
Two dramatic developments in Orissa towards the end of 2008 and overflowing into the early months of 2009 have been the source of confusion regarding the Communist Party of India – Maoist’s (CPI-Maoist) future in this State on the India’s eastern coast. The first was the ‘split’ within the outfit along religious lines, leading to the birth of a new outfit; the second was the expulsion of Sabyasachi Panda, ‘general secretary’ of the Orissa unit of the CPI-Maoist. Although there has been some speculation regarding these developments, since both the ‘split’ and the ‘expulsion’ came to light through posters and a ‘press release’, it is more than certain that there is something deeply amiss within the group, and that this could create a serious challenge for its future activities in Orissa.
Intrinsically linked with both these developments was the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, an activist of the Right Wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), on August 23, 2008, an incident that sparked widespread communal violence in the Kandhamal District. An earlier attack on the Swami in December 2007 had also sparked clashes in the area. The Swami’s anti-conversion activities, targeting the Christian population mostly belonging to the Pana caste, brought him closer to the Kui tribals in the region, who constitute almost 51 per cent population of the District; this had, however, brought him into direct confrontation with the Pana Christians, who account for just 18 per cent of the population, of which some 70 per cent has converted to Christianity. Both the Pana Christians and Kuis fought pitched battle in August and September 2008, leading to the deaths of at least 38 persons in the area and the displacement of thousands from their villages. Due to their sheer numerical disadvantage, the Pana Christians were the primary victims in the conflict.
Initially, there was utter confusion regarding the identity of the killers of the Swami. But Sabyasachi Panda claimed responsibility for the incident in October 2008, even writing an article in a local magazine "Manishara Bartabaha Swabhimana" justifying the killing and accusing Lakshmananda of creating sectarian divisions among the poor of the Kandhamal District. Panda wrote "After the December 2007 communal violence in Kandhamal, we threatened to kill him if he and his supporters did not refrain from harassing tribals and Dalit Christians to change their religion."
This declaration in ethnically polarized Kandhamal was seen as an open stance in favour of the Christians and appeared to have sparked off an immediate division within the CPI-Maoist’s Orissa unit, which comprises significant tribal cadres. A new outfit calling itself ‘M2’ released posters on December 20, indicating that the group represented a breakaway faction of the CPI-Maoist, consisting of its Hindu cadres. The M2 renamed itself ‘Idealize of Democrat Guerrilla Army–Maoist’ (sic) (IDGA-Maoist). However, the shorter ‘M2’ has stuck, and M2 posters denouncing the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) of the CPI-Maoist and Sabyasachi Panda for the VHP leader’s death have claimed that, while the Swami was opposed to proselytisation and killing of cows, he was not opposed to the Maoists. It accused the CPI-Maoist under Panda’s leadership of unnecessarily straying from its original objective of ‘class struggle’, towards a communal conflict in exchange for money from the Christian missionaries. An M2 sympathizer thus stated in a media interview: "Maoists don’t have any religion. Their religion is to safeguard the vulnerable people and fight exploitation and oppression. But those under Panda are acting like a mafia." On January 3, the day M2 was formally constituted, the outfit called for a bandh (general shutdown) in the Kandhamal, Gajapati and Ganjam Districts.
The bandh call evoked a spontaneous response across the Kandhamal District, and had partial impact in the two adjoining Districts – Gajapati and Ganjam. M2 has, since, enlisted the support of the Kui Samaj Samanwyay Samiti (KSSS), a body of Kui tribals in Kandhamal District. "We do not know who the leader of M2 is. But we support the outfit on the basis of the content of its posters. They have announced plans to fight for the interest of tribals who are exploited by others,'' KSSS leader Lambodar Kanhar said. The Maoists have traditionally enjoyed significant support among the Kui tribals and the Kui tribal organization, Kui Labanga Sangha (Kui Youth Association) has been proscribed since 2005-06 for serving as a front organization of the Maoists.
Close on the heels of the M2’s rather successful general shutdown call, the CPI-Maoist’s Central Committee announced the expulsion of Sabyasachi Panda. In a faxed message on January 16, 2009, to two Oriya language newspapers – Sambad and Dharitri – the outfit accused Panda of "anti-party activities" and threatened him with dire consequences for his "anti-people activities". It also held him squarely responsible for the communal violence in the Kandhamal District. The CPI-Maoist claimed that, though fighting against "Hindu fascist forces" has been its policy, ‘power hungry’ Panda never sought permission or clearance from the Central Committee before executing such a crucial decision as that of eliminating Swami Lakshmananda. Because of Sabyasachi Panda’s ‘ego’, "poor people suffered" and the "outfit got blamed in public", the fax message read. The Maoists went further to accuse Panda of embezzlement of ‘donations’ collected in the name of the CPI-Maoist and passing on the funds to help his close relatives. As a result, some of Panda’s relatives have come to amass huge fortunes, the party alleged. The Fax further warned Sabyasachi to refund the money collected in the name of the outfit or else be ready to face the same consequence that other ‘traitors’ have faced. The Central Committee claimed to have received information about Panda’s plans to join the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) party and contest elections. It also claimed that Sabyasachi, who is only a member of the State Organizational Committee of the Maoists, had made false claims of being the Secretary of the Committee as well as a member of the Central Committee. Bhaskar currently heads the Orissa unit of the outfit, intelligence sources indicated. Posters informing the public of Panda’s misdeeds were also found pasted in the headquarters town of Rayagada District, adjoining Kandhamal and Gajapati Districts.
Sabyasachi Panda had joined the Naxalite movement in 1991 and is credited with rejuvenating its activities in Orissa by 1996. He had formed the Kui Labanga Sangha to spread Maoist activities among the Kui tribals. Panda had gained notoriety for masterminding the Nayagarh armory raid in February 15, 2008. His involvement in the June 29, 2008, attack on the elite anti-Maoist Greyhounds personnel in the Chitrakonda reservoir was also strongly suspected. More than 20 cases of murder, extortion and dacoity are currently registered against Panda. The son of the late Ramesh Panda, a former three-time Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), who had later joined the BJD and was acting as the Nayagarh District President of the Party till his death in 2003, Sabyasachi Panda is also alleged to have links with several influential persons in the State’s power centres. Sabyasachi Panda’s mother-in-law is also a member of the BJD.
While Panda had been a source of significant strength for the CPI-Maoist in the past, his autocratic and corrupt ways of functioning are said to have led to at least three of his close associates – Abraham Gamang, Buddha Gamang and Hitringa Majhi – parting ways with the group. The trio now runs the Loka Sangrama Mancha (People’s Revolution Front), a non-violent group working for the removal of backwardness and poverty.
Intelligence sources informed SAIR that Sabyasachi’s expulsion also had to do with his refusal to be transferred out of Orissa, a policy that the CPI-Maoist follows to prevent cadres and leaders from developing vested interests in one area of operation. Towards the middle of 2008, Sabyasachi had been asked to move to the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh by the CPI-Maoist Central Committee, a move that he chose to resist. Sources also indicated that it was Panda who provided the Police with the tip-off that led to the arrest of two officials of the Gandhi Institute of Engineering and Technology at Gunupur in Rayagada District on December 29, 2008, and the recovery of INR 1.2 million from them. The two officials were going to make a ‘donation’ to the Maoists. There are also references to an internal power struggle within the CPI-Maoist. Sabyasachi’s recent moves are said to have been propelled by Orissa’s non-representation in the 14-member CPI-Maoist Central Committee, which is dominated by nine leaders from Andhra Pradesh.
There is significant evidence that suggests that the Maoists have undergone a split in Orissa, and that Panda’s ‘expulsion’ is an attempt by the outfit to camouflage the consequent weakness that has temporarily set in, in its Orissa State unit. It remains to be seen whether the rebels’ vulnerabilities will persist, or whether the State’s enforcement agencies possess the capacities to take advantage of this transient infirmity to inflict further damage on the Maoists.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
February 2-8, 2009
Government cannot arm people in left-wing extremist affected areas, says Supreme Court: While perusing the Action Taken Report (ATR) filed by the Chhattisgarh Government, the Supreme Court said on February 5, 2009 that the Government cannot arm common men or those associated with the Salwa Judum (anti-Maoist vigilante movement) to curb violence perpetrated by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). "We do not underestimate the enormity of the problem (Naxalism). But State should not encourage the common man by arming them to fight Naxalites (left-wing extremists)," a Bench comprising Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam observed. The Bench said, "...arming common men will create a dangerous situation... unless legal powers are vested, you can't arm people. Common men are under dilemma whether to support the Government or Naxalites." The Bench was of the view that instead of arming common men, the State Governments should properly utilise the funds granted to them under schemes sponsored by the Centre for the economic upliftment of the villagers and tribals. Times of India, February 6, 2009.
killed 241 people
in Chhattisgarh in
the past one year,
Home Minister: The
Communist Party of
killed 241 people,
in Chhattisgarh between
January 1, 2008 and
January 12, 2009,
said the Home Minister
of Chhattisgarh, Nankiram
Kanwar, in a written
reply to the State
on February 3, IANS
reported. Kanwar also
said the Police killed
82 Maoists during
the same period and
arrested 164 insurgents
besides 431 village
level cadres called
153 militants and 24 civilians among 183 persons killed in NWFP during the week: 11 civilians and three Security Force (SF) personnel were killed in fierce clashes between the SFs and militants in different areas of the Swat District on February 7, 2009. A group of militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah ambushed a SF vehicle in the Aligrama area of Kabal Sub-division and killed three soldiers on the spot. Four persons were killed in heavy shelling and gunfire between the SFs and militants in Takhtaband area in the outskirts of Mingora city. Helicopter gunships were reportedly used to target militant positions. Three people were killed and ten injured as mortar shells hit houses in the Shewar area of Matta sub-division. Further, a father and his son were killed and a woman was injured as mortar shells hit their house in the Sekhbanr area of Matta Sub-division. In addition, the decapitated body of Habibullah was recovered in the Alam Ganj area of Khwazakhela Sub-division. A motorcyclist was killed in firing in the Dherai area of Kabal.
One passenger was killed and two others were injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a passenger coach near Gandiyali area in the Kohat District. Sources said that a Rawalpindi-bound coach was attacked when it reached Gumbat area, leaving one Muzammil Hussain dead while Muhammad Shafique Ahmed, a Frontier Corps soldier, and driver Ahmedullah Khan were injured.
Three women were killed in Swat on February 5 as the Taliban continued their attacks on people they consider to be pro-government. The women, Zarmina, Zarbibi and Farzana, were killed and three men were kidnapped when militants stormed their house in Dagai village and accused them of supporting security personnel manning the nearby Wenai bridge post. In another incident, a suicide attacker detonated an explosive-laden car near a Police Station in the Mingora town, injuring a dozen officers and destroying part of the building, said Dilawar Khan Bangash, the Police Chief. Bangash said militants also fired three rockets before the attack and one damaged a nearby hotel.
Nine members of a Bara-based militant group were killed in an encounter with the Police and the Qaumi Lashkar (militia) comprising armed villagers when they allegedly attempted to kidnap the chief official of Bazidkhel union council near Peshawar, the NWFP capital, on February 4. Three Policemen sustained injuries in the first incident of its kind in which the Police and villagers jointly countered the militants operating in Peshawar. Police and villagers said that members of the Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam entered the Bazidkhel village in two cars and a motor cycle in a bid to kidnap Faheem, the local union council chief. In the ensuing encounter, seven attackers were killed. A source said another two militants were killed near Badaber when they were escaping on a motorcycle. A man was killed and 18 others injured in a hand grenade attack on a Sunni mosque at Mohallah Joginwala in the Dera Ismail Khan District in the evening of February 3.
Over 70 militants were killed by the SFs during clashes in the Swat District in the night of February 2 and February 3. A group of Taliban militants were attacked and dispersed by troops in the Alam Ganj Waliabad area of Charbagh in the night of February 2. In the evening of February 3, the militants gathered again and were reported to be planning an attack when the SFs cornered them. At least 64 militants were killed and several others were injured. In another incident, militants surrounded the Shamozai Police post manned by about 30 personnel on February 3. Six militants and three SF personnel were killed and 10 persons, including five militants, were injured in an exchange of fire. Further, suspected militants attacked a military convoy on the Mingora bypass. Troops subsequently cordoned off the area and launched an operation, killing four militants.
The military, on February 2, claimed it had killed 70 Taliban militants and injured several others during its assault on a village in the Chaharbagh Sub-division of Swat. According to a private TV channel, officials said residents had already vacated the village on February 1 before troops launched the operation. On the same day, Swat Police recovered eight bullet-ridden bodies from the region. An unnamed Police official blamed the killings on the Taliban militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, February 3-9, 2009.
91 militants among 98 persons killed in FATA during the week: Security Forces (SFs) killed 22 Taliban militants during a military operation in the Bajaur Agency on February 8, 2009. According to a private TV channel, SFs targeted Taliban hideouts in the Inayat Qilay area of Khar Sub-division on a tip-off, killing the 22 men. Another three deaths were reported from other areas of the agency, locals said.
Eight Taliban militants were killed during shelling by helicopter gunships in Bajaur on February 7. The troops targeted Taliban hideouts in the Dama Dola, Mataro Sha, Umrai and Shinkot areas of Mamoond Revenue Division. Residents said the troops advanced from the Agency Headquarters in Khar and gained control of Siddiqabad, Rehmanabad and Anayat Qalay. They said the Taliban offered no resistance during the Army deployment.
Army helicopter gunships killed 52 Taliban militants when they targeted hideouts in the Chapri and Feroz Khel areas along the border of Orakzai and Khyber Agencies on February 6. "Fifty-two militants were killed and a huge ammunition depot and eight vehicles were destroyed in an attack by Army helicopters," Khyber Agency Political Agent Tariq Hayat told Reuters.
Separately, on February 6, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a trailer carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan and injured seven persons in the Tedi Bazaar area of Jamrud Sub-division. Eyewitnesses told Daily Times the bomber was heading for Landikotal when the troops signalled him to stop. They said that he rammed his car into the trailer instead of stopping. Fida Bangash, a senior political administration official, said the bomber’s likely target were the Army engineers repairing a bridge in Landikotal, which was blown up on February 2. Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Taliban killed two tribesmen on February 6 for allegedly spying for the US in North Waziristan. The bullet-ridden bodies of Alam Pir and Muhammad Khan were found at Razmak Ada in Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan. Separate notes found near the bodies claimed both men had been ‘US spies’ and anyone spying for the US would meet a similar fate.
Eight Taliban militants were killed in a clash between two rival factions in the Orakzai Agency on February 4. Sources in the political administration said the militants were killed in fighting between Taliban commanders Gul Bahadar and Tariq factions in Shan Khel area. They said that all of the casualties were from Bahadar’s faction. The sources also claimed that a power struggle between Taliban factions was underway in Orakzai. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, February 3-9, 2009.
Nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan freed by Islamabad High Court: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on February 6, 2009, declared the detained nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan ‘a free citizen’, and disposed of his writ petition following a ‘mutual agreement’ between him and the federal Government which – according to the Court – cannot be made public in line with a request by the petitioner and the respondent. During an in-chamber hearing, Syed Ali Zafar – representing AQ Khan – argued before the IHC Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Aslam that his client’s detention was unjustified, as "he was not involved in nuclear proliferation." He asked the court to declare his client a free citizen ‘with due state protection’ in line with the terms of the mutual agreement between A.Q. Khan and the Government. According to the Court’s one-page verdict, Dr Khan’s counsel voluntarily accepted the terms and conditions offered by the Government in exchange for ending the detention of the scientist. According to AP, Government prosecutor Amjad Iqbal Qureshi said that ‘security measures’ for Khan would remain, suggesting that authorities may still limit his movement. Daily Times, February 7, 2009.
32 persons killed in suicide bombing outside Shia mosque in Punjab: 32 persons were killed and 48 others wounded when a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up amidst a crowd of Shia worshippers outside a mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan in the Punjab province on February 5, 2009. Police said the blast targeted dozens of people converging on the Al Hussainia Mosque after dark, shortly before a religious gathering. Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, Police blamed sectarian extremists for the incident. "Ninety-nine percent it looks like a suicide attack… The explosion occurred just 50 feet short of the mosque. It is a terrorist attack aimed at Shias to create unrest," Shaukat Javed, the Inspector General of Punjab Police, told AFP. "It seems like a suicide blast… If something is planted or hurled, it leaves a crater. There is no crater at the site of the incident," Javed told a TV channel. "According to eyewitnesses, nothing was thrown from outside… It looks as if someone was standing at the site of the blast and waiting for the procession and he blew himself up as the procession came close to him," District official Jawed Mehmood Bhatti told Reuters. Daily Times, February 6, 2009.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announces UN commission on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination: The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on February 4, 2009, announced the establishment of an independent commission to probe the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. "I intend to establish an independent commission of inquiry to be headed by a distinguished person who will be appointed very shortly," he said while speaking at a dinner reception hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad. The state-run APP news agency reported that Chile’s UN Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz would head the three-member commission. It said Indonesia’s Marzuki Dar Usman will be a member of the commission, but no decision has been made on its third member, likely to belong to Sweden or Norway. Daily Times, February 5, 2009.
Lashkar-e-Toiba is a global security risk, says CIA: Supporting India’s assessment that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) is a security risk for the international community, the US Central Intelligence Agency believes that the terrorist group is among the top security threats for the US. The outgoing CIA chief Michael Hayden concluded that the LeT was among the top security challenges for the US. Hayden said in a television interview that al Qaeda has been increasing its links with terror organisations around the world and this was pushing the LeT to expand its scope of operation from India to Israel and America. "There was a migration in Lashkar-e-Toiba thinking over the past 6, 12, 18 months, in which it began to identify the United States and Israel as much as being the main enemy as it has historically identified India… That is a troubling development. And this migration of Lashkar-e-Toiba to a merge point (with al Qaeda) is probably taking place," he said. Economic Times, February 5, 2009.
386 civilians and 164 LTTE militants among 550 persons killed during intensified fighting in North: 386 civilians and 164 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants were among 550 persons killed during the week in the North. At least 35 LTTE militants were killed in separate clashes between the troops and militants in the Mullaitivu District on February 1, 2009. The day-long fighting erupted between the two sides in the area west of the Nanthikandal lagoon and the Udayarkattikkulam near the declared civilian safe zone. In addition, the Security Forces (SFs) clashed with militants in the area north of Visuamadu, killing at least 11 of them while injuring eight others. At least 12 civilians were killed and another 20 were injured when a hospital in the LTTE-controlled area of Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaitivu District came under artillery attack three times on February 2. The SFs recovered the dead bodies of 12 LTTE militants following clashes in the Murusamoddai and Ettakokkavilkulam north areas of Mullaitivu District on the same day. At least 52 civilians were killed when the Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital in Mullaitivu District was shelled in the evening of February 3 for the fourth consecutive day, this time by a cluster bomb, forcing authorities to evacuate patients from one of the last functioning medical facilities in the war zone, said the United Nations (UN). The SFs, on February 5, captured the LTTE’s last Sea Tiger (sea wing of the LTTE) base of Chalai in the north of Mullaitivu after five days of fighting, killing at least 12 Sea Tiger cadres, including some top leaders. Meanwhile, the 57th Division took complete control of Visuamadu by capturing the southern part, while the 58th Division captured the northern part. With the capture of Visuamadu and Chalai, the SFs have been able to confine the LTTE to an area less than 200 square kilometres. "In actual terms they have been confined to 16 by 6 kilometres area in the Mullaitivu District," an unnamed military official said. The LTTE is now left with only areas in the North, East and West of Puthukuduiruppu.
The Sri Lanka Army (SLA), on February 5, fired more than 6,000 artillery shells inside the safety zone, not allowing people to come out of bunkers throughout the day in the Chuthanthirapuram and Iruddumadu areas of Mullaitivu District, killing 16 people, claimed the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net. Two of the 16 civilian dead bodies brought to hospital had gunfire injuries, according to medical sources. Troops overran the LTTE’s ‘Radha Regiment’ headquarters at Visuamadu in the morning of February 6. This base was considered to be a main training and operational facility of the LTTE. Training had been conducted especially for the LTTE’s ‘Victor Anti Tank unit’, a sub unit of the ‘Radha Regiment’. They were responsible for providing security to LTTE chief Prabhakaran and to its Air Force wing. The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), on February 7, said its fighter jets destroyed a hideout of the Sea Tiger chief Soosai, located one kilometre northeast of Puthukuduiruppu junction in Mullaitivu District and claimed that he could either have been killed or wounded in the attack. The SLAF spokesperson Janaka Nanayakkara said 11 militants, including a senior leader, were killed in the attack. More than 120 civilians were killed in SLA shelling inside the safety zone in Chuthanthirapuram, Iruddumadu, Udaiyaarkaddu and Theavipuram in Mullaitivu District within the preceding 48 hours, Tamil Net reported on February 8. At least 59 civilians were killed on February 6 and more than 62 were killed on February 7. In addition, the SLA continued an indiscriminate barrage of artillery shelling on the safety zone, killing more than 80 civilians and causing injuries to 200 on February 8. Most of the casualties were reported along the roads. Another 61 civilians were killed in SLAF shelling in Puthukuduiruppu. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, Febraury 3-9, 2009.