SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Muddled signals emanated from the political and security establishment, even as Jharkhand continued to suffer under a Maoist rampage across large parts of its territory. On October 13, 2008, the then Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren said that ‘Naxalism’ (the Maoist movement) was a "minor" problem that can be "solved" by addressing the problems of "humiliation, unemployment and hunger." Earlier, on August 31, 2008, Soren, had invited the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) for talks, declaring, "I want an end to the bloodbath and the Government is ready for talks. If the Maoists have any grievance against the system they should come forward for talks. The Government will talk with them even if they want to come via any agency of their choice."
In the meanwhile, Jharkhand secured the dubious distinction of being second only to Chhattisgarh among the States worst affected by Left wing Extremism (LWE), in a total of 16 afflicted States. On November 21, 2008, the State Police spokesperson, Inspector General of Police (IGP), S. N. Pradhan, told media in State capital Ranchi, "There is a long way to go before eliminating the menace and the security forces are raiding Naxal hideouts almost on a daily basis." He also rued that, unlike other Maoist-affected States, Jharkhand was grappling with six different LWE outfits, most of them breakaway factions of the CPI-Maoist. These included the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT) also known as People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Jansangharsh Mukti Morcha and Sashastra People’s Morcha(SPM).
Jharkhand experienced more violence through 2008 as compared to the preceding year, as also, more alarmingly, a more rapid acceleration than the current epicenter, Chhattisgarh.
Jharkhand- 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.
As compared to 170 killings, including 149 civilians, 13 militants (Left wing Extremists) and eight Security Force (SF) personnel in 482 incidents in 2007, Jharkhand witnessed a total of 227 killings, including 133 civilians, 57 Maoists and 37 SF personnel in 386 incidents in 2008. With a decline in the number of incidents and of civilians killed and the steep rise in casualties among SFs and the Naxalites, it is evident that the SFs are now engaging more actively against the Maoists.
The year witnessed a number of dramatic incidents of violence in the State. In one of the most daring attacks, on July 8, 2008, CPI-Maoist cadres shot dead a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) belonging to the Janata Dal-United, Ramesh Singh Munda, along with two bodyguards and a teenaged boy, at the Sub-divisional town of Bundu in Ranchi District. In another incident on April 8, 2008, nine persons were killed and two others injured when CPI-Maoist cadres fired on a vehicle and subsequently set it ablaze in the Semra Forest area under the Palkot Police Station in Gumla District. Among the victims were Bhado Singh, a member of the Shanti Sena (Peace Force), a Police-backed resistance force formed in 2002, and his family members. Further, in continuation of their campaign against citizens’ resistance movements, CPI-Maoist cadres killed an activist of the Nagarik Suraksha Samity (NSS, Citizen’s Protection Committee), an anti-Maoist body set up by the East Singbhum District Police in 2002-03, at Mucchrisole village in the Ghatshila Sub-division of Jamshedpur District on May 24, 2008. On December 23, 2008, the SFs came across more than a dozen posters in the Murathakra Panchayat area under Ghurabandha Police Station in East Singhbhum District, apparently put up by the CPI-Maoist, warning the NSS with dire consequences if it fostered ties with the Majhi Marwa Sangathan of Bengal.
The extremists also carried out several attacks targeting the SFs. The most fearsome of these was on August 30, 2008, when 12 Police personnel were killed as the vehicle they were travelling in was blown up in a landmine explosion near the Burudih Dam in the East Singhbhum District, by CPI-Maoist cadres. In another landmine blast triggered by suspected Maoists at Pundigiri village in the Bundu area, 50-kilometres from State capital Ranchi, on June 30, 2008, a Deputy Superintendent of Police and four constables were killed. On May 10, 2008, however, Bokaro Superintendent of Police Priya Dubey survived a Maoist bomb attack on her convoy while on a midnight operation at a village bordering Vishnugarh in the Hazaribagh District.
Maoist operations may, indeed, reflect a measure of desperation, as it appears that the SFs have been able to impede the relentless onward march of the organisation in Jharkhand over the past years. It is significant that the CPI-Maoist had vowed on March 19, 2007, to take the ‘revolution’ from its current ‘guerrilla warfare phase’ in Jharkhand to the stage of ‘mobile warfare’ over the succeeding months, but has since failed to carve out its projected ‘liberated areas’. Indeed, several Maoist leaders in the State have been neutralised over the past year. On April 1, 2008, the SFs killed eight CPI-Maoist cadres in an encounter, including Basant Yadav, a ‘sub-zonal commander’ and Rajesh Paswan and Lallan Thakur, both ‘area commanders’, at Bandu village under Ranka Police Station in the Garhwa District. Earlier, on February 14, 2008, seven CPI-Maoist cadres, including Vikash, an accused in the killing of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Member of Parliament Sunil Mahto, were killed in an encounter with the SFs at Phuljore in the East Singhbhum District. On November 28, 2008, Police shot dead Vijay Shankar Bhagat alias Sidhantjee, the chief of the Swantantra Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (SJPC), a left-wing extremist group, at Badri Bacho forest under Chanho Police Station in Ranchi. SJPC was reportedly involved in an earlier incident of the abduction of four railway employees at McCluskieganj.
The SFs also recovered huge caches of arms and ammunition, dispossessing the rebels of their firepower. On September 8, 2008, 70 kilograms of explosive powder, 1,994 detonators and 10,100 metres of fuse wire were recovered and four persons arrested from the Ranchi District. Further, on October 15, 2008, the SFs recovered 50 bundles of Codex wire, a lethal explosive as it cannot be spotted by a metal detector and can cause a blast even inside water, 5,450 detonators and 750 quintals gelatine from the Parasnath Hills. Further, more than 50 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and 15 kilograms of powerful explosives, along with several dozens of Police uniforms and 2,500 posters belonging to the CPI-Maoist were recovered by the SFs from Dinara in the Jhumra Hillocks, about 145 kilometres from Bokaro steel city, on December 9, 2008. SFs also recovered 80 landmines planted on a 1.5-2 kilometre stretch of road in the forest area between DTPS and Nawadih Police Stations in Bokaro during a search operation on April 1, 2008. The Director General of Police V.D. Ram said the recovery of landmines was the biggest ever in Jharkhand.
Another body blow to the Naxalites was the arrest of at least 140 cadres of the different groups. The most prominent among these was the CPI-Maoist ‘area commander’, Tarkeshwar Kanhar, who was arrested by the Police during a search operation at his residence in Ghodbanda village of Hussainabad in the Palamu District on November 21, 2008. He was one of the founder members of the erstwhile Peoples’ War Group (which merged with the Maoist Communist Centre in September 2004 to form the CPI-Maoist). Earlier, on November 19, 2008, the SFs raided the Chouparan area on the Jharkhand-Bihar border and arrested 16 extremists who owed allegiance to the SPM, a breakaway faction of the CPI-Maoist formed some time in 2006. Police also claimed to have arrested 13 extremists, including a top leader, in separate operations on October 25 and 26, 2008.
Despite these setbacks, the Maoists continued their efforts to establish their authority by imposing diktats on civilians through leaflets and pamphlets. In one such incident on November 15, 2008, CPI-Maoist cadres reportedly issued a set of instructions to the villagers of Nawadih block in Bokaro District through pamphlets and posters asking them to return the cycles, torches and other sports materials given to them by the District Superintendent of Police, Priya Dubey.
According to the SATP Database, there were at least 22 incidents in the year in which the Naxalites targeted the State’s economy, as they struck against railway property and personnel on at least five occasions, set ablaze trucks and opened fire at several buses and trucks, blew up petrol pumps, attacked construction companies and their work sites and destroyed mobile phone towers. More significantly, the Naxalites called for state-wide bandhs (general shut downs) on at least nine occasions, bringing the State to a virtual standstill.
The Naxalites also continued their campaigns of loot and extortion. In a daring operation on May 21, 2008, suspected Maoists looted a currency van of the ICICI bank carrying INR 50 million and one kilogram of gold near the Tamar area of the capital, Ranchi. Several Maoists were also arrested while engaged in intimidation and extortion On June 26, 2008, for instance, the Jharkhand Police arrested a Maoist from the Manatu Block of Palamau District with INR 170,000 allegedly extorted from a contractor. Poppy cultivation also provided a continuing source of income to the Maoists. Vinod Kumar, Station House Officer in Ghaghra-Gumla Police Station noted that, "of late, cases of opium farming have come from the militancy-hit areas. It cannot be denied that it is the rebels who benefit from opium plantations." On March 5, 2008, Police had destroyed large amounts of poppy cultivation allegedly maintained by the CPI-Maoist in the Ghaghra area of Gumla District.
In a disturbing development, the Jharkhand Police claimed, on September 2, that CPI-Maoist cadres were being trained in guerrilla and jungle warfare by former Army personnel. Following the arrest of hardcore Maoist ‘sub-zonal commander’ Shankar Bhuiyan alias Sanjay Ram, at Latehar on August 28, 2008, Police recovered a Maoist training manual. The 200-page book, divided into two sections, contained minute details of planning and assault strategy in different terrains. Police spokesperson Pradhan noted, "After going through the books and documents it can be said with certainty that experts having years of experience in military warfare are training the rebel cadre. Because no one can make such a meticulous training programme (sic)."
Meanwhile, on November 21, 2008, the IGP Pradhan, boasted,
Saying that the Police had spent 98 per cent of INR 350 crore allocated for modernisation in 2006-07, Pradhan disclosed that efforts were on to purchase more equipment to aid the SFs in their drive against the extremists: "We have migrated from .303 rifles to automatic or semi-automatic weapons, the security forces have been given night-vision binoculars, bullet-proof jackets, bullet-proof vehicles and mine-protected vehicles." Pradhan also disclosed that a 'bike-platoon' had been set up to enable personnel to move on two-wheelers on certain routes which were not motorable.
The progressive strengthening of the Police Force may be a significant factor behind Police successes, but there remained a deficit of 20.82 percent between actual and sanctioned Police strength in Jharkhand. The State has a ratio of 136 Policemen per 100,000 of population, higher than the national average, but well below any rational assessment of the requirement.
There are variations when one compares the state of policing in Jharkhand with that of the national profile. At the level of Superintendent of Police (SP) Jharkhand has a deficit of 51.17 percent, compared to the vacancy of 20.6 percent at the national level. Jharkhand with 17.89 percent vacancy at the Inspector level, however, fares better than the national vacancy rate of 20.66 percent. However, at the level of personnel below the Assistant Sub-Inspector, Jharkhand has a vacancy of 20.92 percent, compared to the country-wide vacancy of 13.2 percent.
On January 31, 2009, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram indicated that 145 Police Stations out of a total of 351 in the State were Naxalite affected and over 25 blocks did not have Police Stations, adding further, "There is a need to fill the 1,500 vacancies existing in the State Special Branch. The Special Branch of the State Government will now interact with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials of Ranchi to share intelligence." He made a further assurance that he would talk to the West Bengal Government for joint inter-State operations to curb ultra-Left extremism. "West Bengal does not agree with the hot pursuit policy. So it conducts its operation in its territory and Jharkhand conducts operations in its own area, which cannot be called a joint operation. But I have taken up the matter and will speak to the West Bengal Government," the Minister said. Earlier, on February 12, 2008, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) decided to despatch an additional five companies of para-military forces (about 600 personnel) to Jharkhand to tackle the Maoist violence.
Meanwhile, the State’s drive against Naxalites, who have their presence in all but one of the 24 Districts of the State, got a boost as the MHA decided, on February 5, 2009, to sanction a one-time express grant of INR 200 million to Jharkhand to beef up its intelligence network to deal with Maoist extremism in and around the State. Earlier, on September 28, 2008, media reports indicated that the Jharkhand Police had drawn up a list of 60 hardcore Maoist extremists in the ranks of ‘zonal commander’, ‘sub zonal commander’, ‘area commander’ and others, against whom an overall cash reward of INR 15 million was to be announced. The list has been sent to the State Home Department for clearance. An unidentified source in the State Police Department disclosed that "the cash reward varies between INR 150,000 to INR 500,000 depending on the rank of the Maoist rebel."
The SFs now appear to have committed themselves in the fight against the Maoists, with some visible successes. In the past, their efforts have been undermined by political gimmickry, though with the State under President’s rule since January 19, 2009, following the defeat of Shibu Soren in the Tamar by-elections, there has been some hiatus in partisan political mischief. This is, of course, only a temporary phase and it is only a question of time before the State’s politicians resume centre-stage. It remains to be seen whether the current momentum of counter-insurgency measures will survive the eventual return of political opportunism.
Meghalaya has witnessed an almost continuous diminution in trends in militant violence since 2003, with a slight discontinuity in 2006. The years 2007 and 2008 saw the progressive marginalization of militant formations in the State, even as overall fatalities declined by 50 percent. While militancy-related incidents increased almost three fold, there was a complete absence of any civilian fatality in 2008. A total of 12 fatalities, including a Security Forces (SF) trooper and 11 militants, were recorded.
Militancy-related Fatalities in Meghalaya: 2001-08
Source: Data 2001-2007: Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, and Provisional Data 2008: South Asia Terrorism Portal
Militancy related incidents were reported from all of Meghalaya’s seven Districts in 2008. While the East Garo Hills was the most affected District, with 20 recorded incidents, West Khasi Hills had 17 and Jaintia Hills had 15. Recorded incidents in East Khasi Hills, West Garo Hills, South Garo Hills and Ri-Bhoi were 13, 11, 2 and 1 respectively.
The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database records that a total of 105 militants were neutralised in Meghalaya in 2008. Of these, 78 were arrested, 15 surrendered and 11 others were killed.
The proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), the most potent militant group representing the majority Khasi tribe operated in West Khasi Hills, East Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi Districts in 2008. Extortion targeting coal exporters and managers of various cement plants in the West Khasi Hills and related abductions constituted the bulk of HNLC’s activities. The outfit, which has been described as an "organisation of a few vested interests" by the Meghalaya Police, currently has an estimated strength of 70 to 80 cadres, a bulk of whom, along with the group’s leadership, are based in Bangladesh. Surrendered cadres, however, put the number of active cadres at 182.
According to the SATP database, a total of 39 HNLC militants were neutralised in 2008. Of these, 25 were arrested, 11 surrendered and two were killed in an encounter with Meghalaya Police personnel at Umkiang in the Jaintia Hills District on March 27. The surrender of cadres was primarily the result of the hard living conditions in facilities in Bangladesh. On May 16, four HNLC cadres were arrested by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at Joshitilla village in the Dhalai District of Tripura. These cadres had deserted their camp in the Moulavibazaar District of Bangladesh following acute shortages of food and medicine, and were trying to enter India through Tripura.
Deteriorating cadre strength has forced the HNLC to join hands with the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), with which its runs an extortion network in the West Khasi Hills. The HNLC is also believed to have renewed its alliance with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), particularly to retain control over HNLC cadres on the verge of surrender.
Purportedly representing the Garo tribe, the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) is under an extended cease-fire agreement with the Union Government since July 23, 2004. The group, however, continues to engage in extortion in the West Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills and South Garo Hills Districts. Like the HNLC, the ANVC cadres have also established a finance-sharing nexus with the NSCN-IM to target the coal belt areas of West Khasi Hills and East Garo Hills. Such activities peaked towards the end of the year 2008, as a large quantity of coal is exported to Bangladesh during the winter season. While the cease-fire agreement does put some restrictions on the open activities of ANVC cadres, both the ANVC and NSCN-IM, according to Police sources, have used the newly formed militant outfits, the Atong Liberation Army (ALA) in South Garo Hills, and Achik National Security Defence (ANSD) in West Khasi Hills, to sustain extortion drives in coal belt areas. The cease-fire agreement with the ANVC was extended for an indefinite period on July 23, 2008, marking a break from the periodic review of the agreement on earlier occasions.
Since the cease-fire with the ANVC in 2004 and the weakening of the HNLC in 2005, several fringe militant formations have come into existence in Meghalaya, primarily with an intention of carrying on with the lucrative extortion racket. The Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF) in 2008 led the pack. Meghalaya Police estimates that the outfit has a strength of about 50 trained cadres. Confessions of nine senior LAEF cadres, including an ‘area commander’ Sengrang Momin, who were arrested from a newly set up camp at Kadambari near Pilangkata in the Ri-Bhoi District along the Meghalaya-Assam border on November 18, revealed that the total strength of the outfit, including untrained cadres, could be up to 200. The LAEF has retained its linkage with the NSCN-IM, and has forged new alliances with the Assam-based United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Black Widow (BW). The NSCN-IM remains the principal arms supplier to the LAEF, in exchange for a large chunk of its extortion revenues. LAEF cadres have, on the other hand, been employed on occasion by ULFA and NDFB to assemble crude bombs. Some LAEF cadres have also been trained by BW.
The LAEF, however, suffered a twin setback in 2008. On December 7, its ‘commander-in-chief’, Kimrey K. Sangma, was killed during an encounter with SFs at Damit village near Shahlang in the West Khasi Hills District. A Special Operations Team (SOT) constable, R.D. Sangma, also died in the encounter. Previously, on July 1, Police recovered the dead body of the then ‘commander-in-chief’ of the outfit, Nicheng Sangma alias Daria Sangma, who was killed during an intra-outfit clash at Parasin in the East Garo Hills District. Another 25 LAEF militants were neutralised in 2008. Of these, 23 were arrested and two surrendered. On November 18, nine senior LAEF cadres, including an ‘area commander’ were arrested from a newly set up camp at Kadambari in the Ri-Bhoi District along Meghalaya-Assam border.
The Achik National Liberation Front (ANLF), People’s Liberation Front of Meghalaya (PLF-M) and the United Achik National Front (UANF) are the other fringe militant formations operating in the two Garo Hills Districts and are involved in extortion and related incidents of abduction. Of these groups, the UANF has established a nexus with the NDFB, to target coal traders. At least on one occasion, the extortionists have been targeted by an irate public. On March 9, the ‘commander-in-chief’ of the ANLF, Nobin Marak alias Scorpion, and another cadre were lynched by an angry mob while trying to extort money at Cheran village in the East Garo Hills District.
In recent years, the State capital, Shillong, has emerged as a hub for the trade in illegal small arms and explosives and has attracted militant factions both from Meghalaya and the neighbouring States. According to Meghalaya Police sources, Assam based outfits like the NDFB, DHD, BW and ULFA have used Shillong as a transit point for arms deals. Small arms and explosives from Myanmar and Bangladesh continue to flood the Shillong market, either through the Garo Hills or through Mizoram. On September 4, 2008, Meghalaya Police arrested four DHD cadres in Shillong, who had come to the city from Umrangsu in the North Cachar Hills District of Assam to purchase arms.
Meghalaya’s militancy also flows from the activities of militant formations in the neighbouring States. Groups such as ULFA and NDFB in Assam have traditionally used the Garo Hills to travel between Assam and their base areas in Bangladesh. The poor presence of SFs in the vast expanse of the Garo Hills areas has been exploited for years to move men and material, to store arms and ammunition, and to establish transit facilities. Only during chance encounters have the SFs managed to neutralize a handful of cadres in this difficult and sparsely populated terrain. Seven such encounters with ULFA cadres were reported from the Garo Hills region in 2008, in which three militants were killed. On December 22, two ULFA cadres were killed and a woman cadre was wounded in an encounter at Gambil Apel in the East Garo Hills District. Earlier in the year, on January 20, an ULFA ‘area commander’, Madan Koch, was killed at a hideout at Katalbari near Garobadha in the West Garo Hills District.
The progressive weakening of militant formations, especially the HNLC, facilitated the peaceful conduct of the seventh Meghalaya Legislative Assembly elections on March 3, 2008. The call for a boycott by the HNLC had very little impact on the poll process, and 70 per cent of voters cast their ballots to elect a coalition Government led by Chief Minister Donkupar Roy.
Its weakness notwithstanding, the HNLC continues to defy official offers for a negotiated resolution of its armed campaign. On October 24, 2008, the outfit’s ‘publicity secretary’ Sainkupar Nongtraw, in response to a peace offer by the Meghalaya Police, declared, "HNLC has no agenda to hold talks with the State Government or its Police Department as they are only actors of the Indian Puppet Government." He alleged that such offers were merely meant to create "mistrust and confusion among the people."
An unfenced 65 kilometre stretch of Meghalaya’s 443 kilometre-long border with Bangladesh continues to allow the inward and outward movement of militants. This is the principal reason why militancy, albeit at its lowest ebb, continues to survive in the State. The thin presence of SFs in the Garo Hills region, moreover, has facilitated a free run of militants in the area. Unless the security establishment in Meghalaya refocuses its strategy on these militant vantage points, violence will continue to linger in the State.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
480 persons killed in Maoist violence in two years, says Chhattisgarh Home Minister: Addressing the State Legislative Assembly on February 10, 2009, the State Home Minister, Nankuram Kanwar, said approximately 480 people have been killed in 1,190 incidents of violence involving the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) between April 2007 and January 15, 2009 in Chhattisgarh. "277 civilians, 49 SPOs (Special Police Officers) and 154 Policemen were killed in incidents of CPI-Maoist violence during the period," Kanwar said. During the current financial year till January 15, 2009, there had been 556 Maoist related violence in the State, in which 54 Policemen have been killed, he added. In a written reply to a question, he said there had been 450 incidents in Bijapur, 72 in Bastar, 174 in Narayanpur, 262 in Dantewada, 160 in Kanker, 29 in Rajnandgaon, 22 in Balrampur, six each in Raipur and Durg Districts, four in Surajpur, two in Koriya and one in Jashpur District. PTI News, February 11, 2009.
Al Qaeda warns India of more Mumbai-style terror attacks: A top al Qaeda commander, who was reported killed in a US drone strike in 2008, has appeared in a 20-minute video in Arabic received by BBC in London, warning India of more Mumbai-style terror attacks if it tried to attack Pakistan. "India should know that it will have to pay a heavy price if it attacks Pakistan," Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, reportedly to be al Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan and ranked behind Number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. Yazid, who the Pakistani military said may have been killed in August 2008 in the Bajaur Agency, said: "The Mujahideen will sunder your armies into the ground, like they did to the Russians in Afghanistan… They will target your economic centres and raze them to the ground." The al Qaeda leader is said to have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Danish embassy bombings, in Pakistan and had also claimed the responsibility of assassinating former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Times of India, February 10, 2009.
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71 militants among 79 persons killed during the week in FATA: Eight persons, including six Taliban militants, were killed and four injured during an operation launched by the Security Forces (SFs) in the Mamond sub-division of Bajaur Agency on February 16, 2009. According to a private TV channel, the SFs bombed the Taliban hideouts with jet fighters and destroyed several hideouts during the operation. Separately, the Taliban on February 16 killed an Afghan man in North Waziristan Agency, after accusing him of spying for the United States. The body of Imdad Khan, 35, was dumped on a roadside in Karamkot village, 20 kilometres east of Miranshah, the agency’s main town, a local administration official told AFP.
Two missiles fired by the suspected US drones killed 28 Taliban militants, including some foreign nationals, at South Waziristan on February 14. "We lost 28 Mujahideen in the missile attack… The drone fired two missiles and several ‘guests’ are among the dead," Taliban sources in Ladah said. Two Arab nationals, some local Taliban militants and a number of Uzbek nationals were reportedly killed in the strike.
The SFs on February 12 claimed to have killed four militants during a clash following an attack on a check-post in the Shandai Mor area of Bajaur Agency. Military sources said the militants attacked the check-post with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. The SFs deployed at the check-post repulsed the attack and the ensuing clashes between Taliban militants and troops left four militants dead. In addition, a Police officer was killed and another wounded when Taliban militants fired rockets at the Shahbazkhel Police station in North Waziristan Agency early on February 12, Police official Noor Khan said.
Five suspected militants and a soldier were killed and several persons sustained injuries in clashes and bombing by the Pakistan Air Force fighter planes in Bajaur Agency on February 11. Military sources said warplanes targeted positions of militants in Inayat Killay, Bhai Cheena and Mamond subdivision, a stronghold of the militants led by Tehrik-i-Taliban deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Muhammad. Sources said the troops had also cleared major parts of Inayat Killay and Bhai Cheena towns of militants. Independent sources reported fierce fighting between the militants and Security Forces around Inayat Killay in which officials said five militants and a soldier were killed. Militant positions in the Mamond sub-division were also targeted with artillery and mortar guns from the agency’s regional headquarters, Khar. Suspected militants reportedly fired rockets at Khar sub-division, where a mortar fell in a residential area, killing a woman and a child.
SFs, backed by helicopter gunships, on February 10 killed 11 Taliban militants and destroyed many of their hideouts in the Bajaur Agency. The operation was launched on February 9 in the Inayat Qillay town, a suspected stronghold of the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked terrorists, after a rocket attack by the militants, military official Mustaqim Shah told AFP. The rocket attack destroyed a shop but caused no casualties, he said. "Troops backed by helicopters retaliated with artillery and mortar fire, and destroyed several suspected locations today [February 10]. At least seven militants were killed," he added. In addition, four militants were killed in an encounter with the SFs in Inayat Qilay town.
SFs targeted suspected hideouts of the Taliban, killing six suspected militants and injuring several others, including women, in different parts of Bajaur Agency on February 9. Military gunship helicopters targeted suspected hideouts in the Inayat Killay, Bade Samo, Bhai Cheena and Omari villages of the Khar sub-division, killing six militants. In addition, a Taliban ‘commander’ and key aide to Baitullah Mehsud was injured on February 9 in a bomb attack that killed his driver near the Afghan border. A remote-controlled bomb exploded by the side of a road in the Tanga area of South Waziristan when Noor Syed Mehsud was passing in a vehicle en route to Jandola village. "According to reports received here Mehsud was slightly injured, while his driver died in the bomb blast," an unnamed security official in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, told AFP. Further, Taliban militants shot dead an abducted Afghan near Miranshah, accusing him of spying for the United States. The bullet-riddled body of 30-year-old Islamud Din was found dumped by the road in Sheratalla area, 40 kilometres north of Miranshah. Earlier, At least 10 people were killed while an unspecified number of them were wounded during clashes between two rival religious groups in the Terra valley of Khyber Agency on February 9. The groups, Ansar-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Islam, reportedly used mortar guns, small missiles, rockets and other arms in the clashes. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, February 10-16, 2009.
46 civilians among 57 persons killed during the week in NWFP: Four members of a family, including a minor, were killed in the Swat District on February 16, 2009. Sources said a shell fired by the Security Forces (SFs) hit a house in the Hazara area of Kabal sub-division, killing four members and wounding 10 others of a family.
Five persons, including a security official, were killed and several others sustained injuries in Swat on February 13. Sources said the militants attacked the SFs at Zarai Tehqiqati Farm Takhtaband, killing one soldier and injuring many others. In addition, three civilians, Taj Muhammad, Malik Zada and Gul Rahman, were killed and an unidentified person was wounded during shelling by the SFs who targeted suspected positions of the militants in the Bedara area of Matta sub-division. A man, identified as Mulla Jan, was killed when a soldier in a convoy of the SFs opened fire in the Kanju area of Kabal sub-division. Separately, the Taliban on February 13 killed two veil-clad women in the Kohat District and dumped the bodies by a roadside. Police official Riaz Khan said the slain women had a ‘bad reputation’ and were warned by people about a year ago to abandon their ‘immoral ways’.
Five persons were killed and 12 others sustained injuries during the military operation in Swat on February 12. One person was killed in the Shahdara area of Mingora town when SFs opened fire on him. In another incident, a man was shot dead in the Spairdar area of Matta sub-division. Sources said 12 persons were injured during the shelling in Kanju area. A child, peering out of windows of a house, was hit by a bullet, killing him on the spot. The mother of the child, who rushed to pick the body, was also killed in the firing. A trooper was killed in an attack on the Takhtaband area, while several others sustained injuries. The militants claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on SFs, but the latter have rejected this claim.
Alamzeb Khan, a Member of Provincial Assembly from the ruling Awami National Party (ANP), was killed in a remote-controlled bomb blast in Momin Town in Peshawar, the NWFP capital, on February 11. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast so far. Khan was on his way to attend a function in the city when his car was hit by a huge explosion at around 11:20 am on the main road of the Momin Town, close to his residence. "It was triggered through a remote control," Capital City Police Officer Safwat Ghayyur told journalists. Alamzeb Khan was elected a member of the NWFP Assembly from the PF-1 in the general elections in 2008.
Three soldiers were killed and several others were injured during clashes between SFs and militants in the Charbagh area of Swat District on February 11. Sources said the militants besieged and attacked a SFs’ camp in Darul Uloom Charbagh with heavy weaponry. Militants claimed that three SF personnel were killed and several others sustained injuries in the encounter while the camp building was also damaged.
One soldier was killed and 13 persons, including two civilians, were wounded as SFs and militants clashed in different areas of the Swat District on February 10. Nine persons, including five militants, were killed and 11 others sustained injuries in artillery shelling and incidents of violence in Swat on February 9. Five militants and two civilians were killed and five others sustained injuries when gunship helicopters shelled the Engaro Dherai, Takhta Band and Ogaday areas near Mingora city. In another incident, an artillery shell fired by the SFs hit the house of one Fazlullah in Chuprial area, killing his two children and injuring his wife and a child.
26 persons, including 11 children and a soldier, were killed while 38 others sustained injuries when mortar shells hit some houses during clashes between SFs and militants in the Qasimkhel area of Darra Adamkhel on February 9. Sources said militants fired three rockets at the Babozai check-post, killing a soldier, Mirdad, and injuring two others. SFs retaliated and an exchange of fire continued for sometime, during which heavy weapons were reportedly used. Reports said several shells fell at the main gate of the Government Girls Primary School Qasimkhel and nearby houses on the outskirts of Darra Adamkhel. An AFP report said the SFs denied involvement in the shelling. "No military operation is currently underway in the area," an unnamed security official said. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, February 10-16, 2009.
Taliban announces 10-day truce in Swat after Government agrees to enforce Sharia in Malakand: The Taliban of Swat announced a 10-day cease-fire on February 15, 2009 after the Government and the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) reached an understanding about promulgating Sharia (Islamic law), termed ‘Nizam-i-Adl Regulation’, in the Malakand region. "Taliban have declared a unilateral cease-fire for 10 days as a goodwill gesture. Our fighters will not attack security personnel and Government installations," Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said. However, he said, the militants would hold their positions and defend themselves if attacked. He welcomed the move to enforce Sharia regulations in Malakand, but added: "We will see how sincere the Government is in their enforcement."
According to sources, a five-point draft accord was signed after negotiations between the Government and TNSM teams held at the Timergara rest-house where the outfit had set up a ‘protest camp’ on October 9, 2008. A formal announcement about enforcement of the regulations is likely to be made by the NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan in provincial capital Peshawar on February 16 at a meeting. During the talks on February 15, the NWFP Government team was led by Information Minister Mian Iftikhar, Livestock Minister Haji Hidayatullah, the Awami National Party spokesman Zahid Khan and Hazara Commissioner Javed Khan, while the TNSM was represented by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, spokesman Amir Izzat, Maulana Mohammad Alam and Badshah Sardar. Amir Izzat and Sufi Mohammad’s son Rizwanullah said "both sides have signed the accord" and an announcement regarding the enforcement of Nizam-i-Adl Regulation in Malakand division would be made by the Chief Minister after a meeting with a jirga (council of elders) of the TNSM in Peshawar on February 16. "The NWFP government has accepted TNSM’s demand for enforcement of Shariat-i-Muhammadi in accordance with Quran, Sunnah, Ijma and Qias," they said. Dawn; Daily Times, February 16, 2009.
Government admits that the Mumbai terrorist attack was partly planned in Pakistan: Pakistan on February 12, 2009 acknowledged for the first time that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were partly planned in Pakistan and that it has arrested six suspects, including the "main operator." In its first detailed response to the dossier provided by India, Pakistan said criminal cases had been registered against nine suspects on charges of "abetting, conspiracy and facilitation" of a terrorist act. However, it said more evidence is required from India, including DNA samples of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant arrested during the attack, to establish his identity.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Interior Adviser Rehman Malik told the media that FIR No: 01/009 had been lodged with the Special Investigation Group in the Federal Investigation Agency against nine suspects. The Pakistani investigators have identified Hammad Amin Sadiq as the alleged ‘mastermind’ of the whole conspiracy. Malik said the cases against nine persons had been registered under the Anti-Terror Act and the Cyber Crime Act and they would be tried under these two sets of laws. He said six of the nine accused named in the FIR have already been arrested and being interrogated, two have been identified but not arrested so far while investigations are still under way into the possible involvement of the ninth accused. He identified those arrested as Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a LeT ‘commander’ who was arrested from Muzaffarabad soon after the Indian Government alleged that the LeT was responsible for the Mumbai attacks, Javed Iqbal, who was arrested from Barcelona in Spain, Hammad Amin Sadiq, believed to be the main operator belonging to southern Punjab, Zarar Shah, Mohammad Ashfaq and Abu Hamza. The name of Ajmal Kasab is reportedly not included in the FIR.
He also said some of those arrested by the security agencies of Pakistan for possible involvement in the Mumbai attacks belong to the LeT. Malik said Javed Iqbal, who was based in Barcelona, was the person who paid $200 for the ‘Internet Domain’ that was also used for communication and planning for the Mumbai attacks. "Having ascertained the involvement of Javed Iqbal, we somehow lured him into coming to Pakistan and he was arrested on his arrival," Malik said. He also said the e-mail sent by ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ claiming responsibility for the Mumbai attacks was believed to be prepared and sent by Zarar Shah, who was responsible for communication link in the whole operation. Mailk disclosed that the money to fund these attacks was transferred from Pakistan and was received in Italy. This money transaction was made through a Pakistani bank. He also said after thorough investigations by the Pakistani security and intelligence agencies it was learnt that these alleged terrorists operated from two bases — one inside Karachi and the other outside but not very far away from Karachi. He also disclosed that the terrorists used three boats for traveling to Mumbai, one named ‘Al-Hussaini’ and the other ‘Al-Ghaus’. For communication, they used ‘Call Phonic’ system and they also bought Indian cell phone SIMs for communication from inside India. He also pointed out that the satellite phone connection that was used for communication during the Mumbai attack was registered in the Middle East and not in Pakistan. The News, February 13, 2009.
Mumbai terrorist attacks not planned in Austria, says Austrian interior ministry: Austria’s interior ministry said on February 11, 2009 it had no evidence that the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008 might have been planned in Austria, as reported in the media. "We have nothing that would justify our launching an investigation," ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said. "We have not been informed (of these claims) by either Pakistan or India and moreover, we have not received any requests for an investigation," he added. An Austrian newspaper quoted Indian media reports according to which Pakistan’s investigation into the attacks had found that they were planned in Austria and Dubai. An Austrian link to the attacks was also mentioned in December 2008 following reports that the militants had used an Austrian telephone number. Dawn, February 12 2009.
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