SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
The war in the North appears to have stalled, with the surviving leadership and cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) using the substantial civilian population trapped in Mullaitivu as human shields. With rising civilian casualties, the United Nations (UN) and other international agencies, as well as a number of foreign Governments, have issued increasingly urgent calls for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire from ‘both sides’, though all these agencies squarely blame the LTTE for the current crisis.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in its report titled "Sri Lanka: Civilian casualties Wanni Overview – March 2009" stated that there had been 2,683 deaths between January 20 and March 7, 2009, inside the No Fire Zone (NFZ) at Mullaitivu. While these figures were claimed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, on March 13, 2009, they were not supported by the UN as ‘verifiable’. Admitting this, Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator stated in New York on March 24, 2009, "The reason we have not come out with this as our figure is because, as I have said before, we cannot verify it in a way that you want to be able to verify, if you put it as your public figure."
The Voice of Tigers, the LTTE’s ‘official radio’ claimed, on March 1, 2009, that the Sri Lankan armed forces had killed 2,018 Tamil civilians in January and February 2009 in Wanni, and that 700 of the victims were children. According to an April 3, 2009, BBC report, Mike Foster, a senior official with the United Kingdom Department for International Development, "There are credible reports that up to 100 civilians are dying and being injured every day, including in the [government-designated] no-fire zone." Data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) put the casualty figure for civilians inside Mullaitivu at 2,972 till April 5, 2009. A total of 1,959 militants and 931 soldiers have also been killed in the fighting. (SATP data is primarily based on figures released by the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net, since the Government is not releasing any figure regarding the civilian and SF casualties in the region. There can be no independent confirmation, as media access is denied in the conflict zone).
According to another March 26, 2009, report, Sir John indicated that there may be between 150,000 and 190,000 civilians still trapped in the Wanni area, contrary to the Government’s estimate of 30,000 to 40,000, and urged both sides to call for a ‘brief cease-fire’: "Our first appeal is to the LTTE to let the civilians out in a safe and orderly fashion. We are also concerned that the Government of Sri Lanka should do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties, to do as they said they will do and not to use heavy weapons in this area, and we also call them to respect international humanitarian law in every area… And we have suggested again some kind of humanitarian pause to allow that to happen and to allow the civilian population to leave."
The demand for the "humanitarian pause" has been rejected outright by the President Mahinda Rajapakse Government, which has been reiterating that it is following a ‘Zero Civilian Casualty Policy’. According to a March 29 report, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, H.M.S. Palihakkara, asserted the Security Forces (SFs) were not using heavy weapons in the NFZ, adding, "There is no military sense in firing at such short range heavy weapons, because one remains in kind of a house-to-house combat situation. As you know LTTE is firing from the No Fire Zone. There may have been occasions. I don’t know, I am speculating. There may have been occasions, where this automatic return fire may have (taken place, by the Sri Lankan forces). But forces are not firing deliberately."
Further, while speaking at the weekly press briefing, Brigadier Nanayakkara on March 26, stated that the LTTE has now been restricted to an area of one square kilometre, excluding the 14 square kilometres NFZ. He noted, consequently, that the SFs had to liberate another 21 square kilometres in Mullaitivu. However, 20 square kilometres of this consists of the NFZ, lagoon and wetlands. Three years ago, the LTTE controlled 15,000 square kilometres of land.
On April 5, 2009 the military captured the entire Puthukkudiyiruppu region, the LTTE’s last stronghold and ended the long siege on the last square kilometre held by the LTTE. More than 420 militants, including Northern area leader Theepan, the female wing leader Vidusha and her deputy Durga, Batticaloa leader Nagulesh and Gadafi were killed, and military wing leader Bhanu was critically injured, in about three days of fierce fighting in the area. Another five senior leaders, identified as Seelambarasan, leader of the LTTE’s Radha Regiment; his deputy Anbu, the militant in charge of the mortar section Gopal; Asmi, in charge of mines section; and a leader of LTTE’s ‘Sodia Regiment’, Mohana; were among the other top leaders killed. According to military sources the LTTE Chief, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, has taken refuge in the NFZ, mingling with civilians, along with remaining top rung leaders, including intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman, Sea Tigers (sea wing of the LTTE) leader Soosai, and Velavan, another top Sea Tiger leader. It has now been confirmed that Prabhakaran also had a narrow escape as he fled the area a day before the troops encircled the last kilometre held by the LTTE. Puthukkudiyiruppu and Iranapalai were the last strongholds held by the LTTE, and the toughest battle in the Wanni liberation operation was fought in Puthukkudiyiruppu. This is the first time that the SFs have taken full control of Puthukkudiyiruppu during the three-decade long conflict in the North East. Troops are now poised to encircle the NFZ with the objective of rescuing the civilian population detained there by the LTTE. The Defence Ministry, meanwhile, said that all senior LTTE leaders ‘are now hiding in the no-fire-zone holding the civilians as protective shield’. Noting that the troops were locked in ‘man-to-man combat’ in Mullaitivu, the Ministry said that the remaining LTTE cadres ‘still forced to fight the Sri Lankan Army in the no-fire-zone are facing total annihilation’.
Earlier, by the evening of April 1, 2009, the military had captured the Puthukkudiyiruppu town and Iranapalai area in Mullaitivu District and encircled more than 200 LTTE cadres in the surrounding terrain. The SFs encircled this last LTTE area in north-east Puthukkudiyiruppu after capturing the Pachchaippulmoaddai junction, the last supply route connected to the NFZ from the mainland.
Reports also indicate that the LTTE was, of late, deploying its senior-most cadres on the war front to thwart the military’s final offensive. Intelligence chief Pottu Amman was believed to be active on the ground as fighting raged in Puthukkudiyiruppu. It is reported that he had even called for urgent assistance from other LTTE leaders, requesting more weapons to the Puthukkudiyiruppu battlefield. According to ground military information, the Army had monitored a conversation between Pottu Amman and another unknown senior leader over radio communications on Friday March 26. In that conversation, Pottu Amman had sought replenishments of small arms as LTTE forces came under heavy military attack. It is also reported that Pottu Amman was leading the battle in the Iranapalai area, north of Puthukudirippu. Earlier, reports said all second level LTTE leaders had been called to the battlefront, with most senior leaders already having been killed by the military. Civilians, who fled the Puthukkudiyiruppu area few days ago, told the military that, on February 4, they had seen Pottu Amman in the Matalan area in Mullaitivu, recruiting people.
Charles Anthony, the eldest son of the LTTE chief, Prabhakaran, was injured during a military operation in Puthukkudiyiruppu on March 31. Two top LTTE leaders, Amirthap alias Amuthab and Kobith alias Gobith, were killed during these clashes at Puthukkudiyiruppu. Amirthap was the leader of the LTTE’s ‘Charles Anthony Regiment’. He became the leader in 2008, after serving as the special leader for the ‘Imran Pandiyan Regiment’ in 2006. Kobith, a popular senior military leader in most of the ‘Charles Anthony Regiment’-led LTTE operations against the Army, was formally the ‘special leader’ of the ‘Charles Anthony Regiment’ in 2007.
Despite dramatic gains for the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), a great deal remains to be done to finish off the war. The intensity of fighting can be gauged from a March 17 Voice of Tigers claim in its evening broadcast that 604 Sri Lanka Army soldiers had been killed during three days of heavy fighting in the Puthukkudiyiruppu area, while several hundred soldiers wounded. These figures have, however, not been confirmed either by official or independent sources. Sporadic fighting and small-scale door-to-door operations are continuing in the area, targeting LTTE pockets and resistance positions. "Despite its successive setbacks at the Mullaitivu battlefront, LTTE is continuing shelling artillery barrages and mortar from the Government-declared No Fire Zone," according to a Defence Ministry statement. Reports also indicate that the LTTE had set up gun positions in the NFZ, as demonstrated by the March 25 missile attacks from the NFZ on Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) helicopters evacuating military casualties.
Significantly, on February 20, 2009, two LTTE light aircrafts had been shot down by the SFs in Colombo and Katunayake following an attempt to bomb Colombo city. One of the aircrafts did manage to drop a bomb on the Office of the Inland Revenue Department, injuring at least 50 persons and destroying the building. Another two injured persons later succumbed to their injuries. LTTE cadres were also executing suicide attacks targeting the SFs in the battlefield, though they failed to cause significant casualties among the troops. Broadly, it remains the case that the LTTE still has the wherewithal to delay the inevitable.
On April 1, however, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake boasted, "The Government can finish off terrorism completely within half an hour if it acted in an inhuman manner. Driving out terrorists (LTTE) from a very small bastion in the north has been time-consuming because the Government is acting most humanely, considering the safety of civilians held by the LTTE as a human shield." Consequently, the Government, on March 31, rejected the LTTE’s offer of a cease-fire, saying that the Government would not accept a truce under any circumstances. President Rajapakse declared, "We will not cave into pressures from any international quarters locally and internationally and will not stop until the war was completely over." Earlier on the same day, the LTTE’s new head of international diplomatic relations, S. Pathmanathan, said in an interview on Tamil Net that the outfit did not believe war was the only means to achieve their aspirations, and urged the global community to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to enter into a cease-fire. Pathmanathan added, further, "Laying down arms before any political solution is unrealistic. It is wrong to assume that the versatile and resilient LTTE is in a weakened position." Responding to accusations of using civilians as human shields, he claimed that the Tamils in the LTTE-held areas were staying there of their own free will.
Defence Affairs spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, however, indicated, on April 1, that the Government was ready for a ‘pause in firing’, if the LTTE freed the civilians trapped inside the NFZ, but that this would not constitute a cease-fire with the LTTE at any point. He said that a cease-fire could become valid only when the LTTE agreed to lay down arms and renounce violence.
Clearly, the LTTE hopes that international pressure and the growing anxiety over the loss of civilian lives will force Colombo into some compromise. However, any backslide at this juncture would jeopardise the gains of the SFs over the past months, and bringing this protracted war to a logical and decisive conclusion remains an imperative for the Sri Lanka Government.
The Naga insurrection constitutes a major facet of the multiple insurgencies in Manipur, which remains the most violent State in India’s troubled Northeast. The overflow of militancy from neighbouring Nagaland – the oldest theatre of insurgent conflict in the region – aggravates Manipur’s woes, which emanate substantially from its ‘indigenous’ militant outfits. Major parts of four of the nine Districts of Manipur – Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel – have, in fact, figured in the projected territory of Nagalim (Greater Nagaland) as conceived of by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), a frontal militant formation that purports to champion the Naga cause. Since the four Districts have sizable Tangkhul Naga populations and have influence in several Naga community groups, including the Naga Hoho (the apex tribal council), sympathetic to the NSCN-IM’s agenda, these areas have become a hunting ground for insurgent operation. The NSCN-IM’s activities in Manipur become much easier since the Naga-inhabitated areas are located in the Hills, the region that has remained largely immune to the direct control of the Valley-centric Manipur Government.
The NSCN-IM has been in a cease-fire agreement in Nagaland, with the Union Government, since 1997. The group’s demand for extending the cease-fire to all Naga majority areas in the Northeast was later briefly accepted by the Centre on June 14, 2001, evoking violent protests in Manipur. The State Legislative Assembly building was set ablaze and 13 protestors were killed on June 18, 2001. A united mass movement was organised by Meitei, Kuki and Muslim civil society organisations in protest against the decision, which was seen as a precursor to the creation of Nagalim, and a threat to the integrity of other States in the region, including Manipur. The United Committee, Manipur (UCM) was formed as an umbrella of six socio-political organisations in the State to spearhead the agitations against the Naga cease-fire extension. With protests mounting, the Union Government was forced to reconsider its decision and, on July 27, 2001, it had revoked the ‘territorial extension of cease-fire’ arrangements.
The restoration of the "status quo ante of a territorially restricted cease-fire with the NSCN-IM in Nagaland" was seen as a signal by the insurgent outfit to escalate its activities in Manipur. In January 2009, the Assam Rifles revealed that three unauthorised NSCN-IM camps had been established in the State: Bonning in Senapati District, Ooklong in Tamenglong District and Phungchong in Chandel District. These camps were reportedly established prior to the 1997 cease-fire agreement with the NSCN-IM, and were described as "camps taken Note of" by the Government. On January 18, 2009, the Assam Rifles laid siege against armed cadres of the NSCN-IM spotted at Siroy in Ukhrul District. A stand-off ensued, with the Naga outfit belligerently insisting on opening a camp at Siroy, or else being provided ‘safe passage’ to another nearby village, instead of its designated camp in Nagaland. A meeting of the Unified Command on the issue was held on January 29, 2009, and the Manipur Government submitted a note to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, categorically refusing to have any ‘designated camps’ of the NSCN-IM in Manipur. The intervention of community groups subsequently made the Naga group accept safe passage out of the State offered by the Assam Rifles.
After securing safe passage, the NSCN-IM declared that its armed wing, the Naga Army of Kiusumong Battalion, vacated its camp at Siroy, having held it for more than 15 days defending its stand that it was not on the wrong side of the cease-fire ground rules.
There was, meanwhile, an agitation by people belonging to the Naga community in Manipur, demanding extension of the cease-fire in all Naga-inhabitated areas in the Northeast, including Manipur. Responding to the agitation, the Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, on February 4, 2009, stated that, since the Manipur Government was not party to the cease-fire signed between the Union Government and the NSCN-IM, the cease-fire ground rules could not be enforced in Manipur, and no designated camps of the militant group could be allowed within its jurisdiction.
The State Government’s declarations have done little to contain the activities of NSCN-IM cadres in Manipur, who have managed to kill grass-root level political executives as well as Government officials at will. On March 30, 2009, for instance, three suspected NSCN-IM cadres killed the Chairman of the Ukhrul Autonomous District Council, Kathing Jagoi, at Rayotang in the same District. Kathing had also been an executive member of the Tangkhul Naga Long (apex tribal body of Tangkhul community) for a long time. The NSCN-IM militants involved in the killing were reportedly also linked to a relatively new armed group, the Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front. In an earlier incident, on February 13, 2009, the Sub-Divisional Officer of Khasom Khullen in Ukhrul District, Thinam Kishan, and his two colleagues were abducted by the NSCN-IM, with the alleged connivance of the Deputy Commissioner of the District, and were later killed. Giving a detailed account of the incident, Thinam Kishan’s wife, Romita Devi, revealed that the Deputy Commissioner called a meeting at his office complex, and that her husband, along with the other officials, was taken captive by the NSCN-IM militants at the end of that meeting. She also said the Deputy Commissioner did not inform anyone even after the abduction took place in his presence. She again stated that, while her husband was alive, the Deputy Commissioner used to mingle with NSCN-IM militants frequently and had a link with them. The Deputy Commissioner had even joined in the work of distribution of rice at schools, which was undertaken under the control of the NSCN-IM, the victim’s wife claimed.
Extortion is the dominant insurgency-related offence carried out by the NSCN-IM in Manipur, since all routes out of the State pass through one or the other of Naga-dominated Districts. Gas tankers are the prime targets of the Naga group’s extortion drive in these areas. On January 2, 2009, 15 empty gas tankers on the way to Assam to collect cooking gas were turned back by some persons claiming to be NSCN-IM cadres at Maram in Senapati District. However, the Chairman of the Cease-fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Mandhata Singh, while speaking to Manipur Government officials, denied the involvement of the NSCN-IM in levying a 'tax' of INR 1.5 million from the Sekmai Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Bottling Plant as well as from LPG distributors. Earlier, on December 22, 2008, the Manipur unit of the Assam Oil Corporation Contractual Labour Union at Sekmai in Imphal West District said that, due to threats from the NSCN-IM, the bulk of LPG tankers had suspended services from December 10, 2008. The filling of cylinders also stopped with effect from December 16, 2008, resulting in scarcity of cooking gas for two weeks, before the services were restored.
In addition to its unceasing extortion activities in Manipur, the NSCN-IM has also intermittently engaged in fratricidal clashes with its rival Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). On April 11, 2008, for instance, three NSCN-K cadres and one cadre of the NSCN-IM were killed in two separate factional clashes at Dikiuram and Duivagailong areas of Tamenglong District. Meanwhile, the Manipur Hills have witnessed the formation of another Naga outfit, the United Naga People’s Council (UNPC). The group’s formation was formally announced by a splinter group of the NSCN-IM before the media at an unspecified place in Senapati District on May 19, 2008. The ‘president’ of the group, S.S. Max, declared its objective to restore peaceful co-existence amongst the people living in both the Hills and Valley, and to safeguard the ‘territorial integrity and sovereignty’ of Manipur. Nevertheless, on September 19, 2008, the UNPC claimed to have killed an NCSN-IM cadre at Chingmeirong in Imphal East District, for his alleged role as a security informer.
The valley-based Meitei groups are, on occasion, roped into the ongoing Naga attritional war in the Hills. In one such incident, on February 18, 2009, four militants were killed and three others wounded in a clash between cadres of the NSCN-IM and combined cadres of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), a Meitei insurgent group, and the Naga National Council (NNC), at Thanagong village under Nungba Sub-Division in Tamenglong District. The slain and wounded militants were from the combined PREPAK and NNC outfits.
The ethnic rivalry between Naga and Kuki communities adds another dimension to the turf wars in the Manipur Hills. While the large scale massacres of the early 1990s have not recurred, the fault lines of a simmering conflict have remained intact. In March 2007, the apex community group of the Kuki tribe, the Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), dispatched a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding the trial of NSCN-IM cadres for various criminal acts of murder, uprooting and displacing of the Kukis, before negotiating with the outfit. The KIM has, since long, alleged that the NSCN-IM had murdered over 900 innocent Kukis, uprooted over 360 Kuki villages and displaced over 100,000 Kukis during the Naga-Kuki clashes. The KIM’s appeal for disengagement of the Union Government from the Naga outfit has, however, had no impact on the trajectototy of ongoing official conflict management processes in Nagaland. On the other hand, on September 3, 2007, at least 12 Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) militants were killed by the NSCN-IM in a forest near Tangkhul Hundung Khunou under the Litan Police Station in Ukkhrul District. KLA cadres had earlier hijacked two passenger vehicles from the Maphou dam area. The clash ensued following the KLA militants’ violation of an ‘understanding’ among the outfits not to intrude into each others’ area of operation without prior information. In retaliation, on September 8, 2007, five NSCN-IM militants were shot dead by suspected KLA cadres at an unspecified place between Jotsoma and Khonoma in Kohima District of Nagaland. Again, on March 26, 2008, one Kuki National Army (KNA) cadre was killed by NSCN-IM militants at Chassad in Ukhrul District. Further, on March 30, 2009, one suspected militant of the Military Council faction of the Kuki National Front (KNF) was killed by NSCN-IM militants at Tinjang village under the Loktak Police Station in Tamenglong District.
The NSCN-IM has not confined its influence to the Hills of Manipur, but intrudes into the Valley as well, to facilitate the transportation of arms and ammunition, and provide safe haven to cadres. At least eight of its cadres were arrested by the State Police in Imphal West, Imphal East and Thoubal Districts in 2008.
Theviolent ‘cease-fire driven normalcy’ in Nagaland coupled with the fragile counter-insurgency mechanism in Manipur, has provided free run to the Naga groups to engage in area domination exercises, capitalising on ethnic and sub-ethnic faultlines across provincial border. There is little prospect for the spillover of the Naga insurgency in Manipur to be neutralized unless the source of conflict in Nagaland is fully resolved, and the ‘armed peace’ that currently prevails between insurgent groups and the state’s Forces is brought to a more meaningful concord.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 30-April 5, 2009
Intercepts suggest Taliban presence in Kashmir valley: According to Press Trust of India, wireless and satellite intercepts suggest the presence of a group of nearly 15 Taliban militants in the higher reaches of Kupwara District in north Kashmir. Sources in the Union Home Ministry said wireless messages of a group of militants holed up in Chowkibal area of Trehgham in Kupwara were intercepted. Another such communication was heard in Lolab area, also in Kupwara, they said. The intercepts, the sources claimed, were enough to "shock" the security agencies as one group identified itself as being part of the Taliban which had crossed the Line of Control using Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled maps. The sources said a gun-battle was already on in the area for last five days and even the Army was encountering tough resistance from the group believed to be numbering between 10 and 15. PTI News, April 6, 2009.
Taliban warn of suicide attacks twice a week: The Taliban on April 5, 2009 vowed that they would carry out two suicide attacks per week in Pakistan. Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud’s deputy Hakimullah told Associated Press that the Taliban had carried out the April 4 suicide attack against a paramilitary camp in Islamabad and vowed more assaults unless the US shelved drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He also said Pakistani troops should withdraw from parts of the northwest. "The Islamabad attack was in retaliation for a drone attack in Orakzai," Hakimullah told AFP.
Meanwhile, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on the Interior, Rehman Malik, has said that those involved in the suicide bombings are Pakistanis and that they are playing with the lives of innocent people for the sake of a few pennies. Talking to the media after the suicide attack at Chakwal on April 5, he said that "the price of a suicide bomber is from Rs 0.5 million to Rs 1.5 million while the family of the bomber gets Rs 0.5 million". The News; Daily Times, April 6, 2009.
24 persons killed in suicide bombing at Shia place of worship in Chakwal: A suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of an Imambargah (Shia place of worship) at Chakwal in Punjab province on April 5, killing 24 people, including three children, and injuring 140 others, at a religious gathering, The News reported. The target was a gathering of about 800 people, who were attending a Majlis-e-Aza (a gathering to mourn Imam Hussain) at an Imambargah in Muhallah Sarpak. The Majlis ended at 12:15 pm and the people were preparing to leave the Imambargah when a 15-year old boy, who looked to be an Afghan, stormed into the crowd and blew himself up, after private security guards tried to stop him. The Inspector General of Police Shaukat Javed confirmed that the suicide attacker was a single person and said the incident was in continuity with the recent wave of terrorist attacks. He also said the suicide bomber appeared to be a 15-year-old boy whose legs and head, with damage to the face, had been found at the blast site. Daily Times, April 6, 2009.
Eight persons killed in Miranshah suicide bombing: Seven civilians, including two schoolchildren, and a soldier were killed when a suicide attacker blew up his explosives-laden vehicle after being intercepted near a security check post and an approaching military convoy at Miranshah in the North Waziristan Agency of FATA on April 4, 2009. "Five private cars were also damaged in the suicide attack. Security forces opened fire in all directions, pre-empting a possible follow-up attack by the insurgents," said a doctor at the nearby state-run hospital. 12 schoolchildren and six soldiers were among 39 persons injured in the suicide attack. Daily Times, April 5, 2009.
Eight Frontier Constabulary personnel killed in suicide attack in Islamabad: Eight Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel were killed and seven others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at an FC check post on the Margala Road in national capital Islamabad on April 4, 2009. The blast, which took place at 7:35 pm, was followed by an exchange of fire between FC personnel and unidentified accomplices of the suicide attacker. The crossfire continued for around 20 minutes, said an eyewitness. However, Police denied any exchange of fire, saying security officials had been firing in the air to scare away other attackers. Daily Times, April 5, 2009.
Baitullah Mehsud threatens attack on White House: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief, Baitullah Mehsud, on March 31, 2009, claimed responsibility for a series of recent terrorist attacks, including the March 30 assault on a Police Training Centre in Lahore. He also threatened to show his power to the world when his people would attack the US capital as a reaction to frequent drone attacks in the tribal areas and the reward on his head. "By the grace of Allah Almighty, I am claiming responsibility for the attack on the Police training school in Lahore with eagerness, honour and love and will continue similar strikes across the country, if the US drones were not stopped from killing innocent people in the tribal areas," Baitullah Mehsud said in his telephonic conversation with reporters. Baitullah also claimed responsibility for two other suicide attacks, including one on a military convoy near Bannu in the NWFP on March 30 and another on the Police intelligence office in Islamabad on March 23. Baitullah said his men were out to target Government installations against its failure to protect tribesmen against non-stop drone attacks. About the recent reward of $5 million on his head by the US State Department, he said that he would love to be martyred, but threatened that his men would soon attack Americans in their own country, not in Afghanistan. He said his men would soon teach a lesson to the Americans in Washington and the White House. An Associated Press report added that Baitullah said his group was planning a terrorist attack on the White House that would "amaze" the world. "Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," said Mehsud. The News, April 1, 2009.
Eight Police recruits and a civilian killed in attack on Police Training Centre near Lahore: Eight Police recruits and a civilian were killed when a group of 10 terrorists attacked the Police Training Centre in Manawan near Lahore with guns and grenades on March 30, 2009. Security Forces regained control of the facility in an operation that lasted for more than eight hours. About 93 cadets and civilians were injured. One of the attackers was arrested, another was able to flee after being hit by a bullet and three blew themselves up to avoid arrest, Punjab Police Inspector General Khawaja Khalid Farooq said. He believed the other attackers might have fled unhurt in the densely populated neighbourhood. There were about 1,000 Police personnel in the facility at the time of the attack. Later in the day, a Taliban operative who identified himself as Omar Farooq told The Associated Press by telephone that a little-known group called Fedayeen al-Islam was behind the attack and that he was speaking on their behalf. "As long as the Pakistani troops do not leave Tribal Areas, these attacks will continue," he said. Interior Adviser Rehman Malik told journalists that the terrorist attack was planned in South Waziristan. Addressing a Press Conference, he said the arrested attacker belonged to the Paktika province of Afghanistan and preliminary interrogation revealed he is linked to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Daily Times, March 31, 2009.
Seven persons killed in suicide bombing in NWFP: Seven persons, including five Army soldiers, were killed and nine others sustained injuries when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a military convoy near a filling station on the Bannu-Miranshah Road on March 30, 2009. The dead also included an Assistant Engineer of Radio Pakistan’s Razmak station, Basharat Afridi, and a woman travelling in a passenger coach. However, military spokesman and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Major General Athar Abbas said the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device planted in a roadside car. The News, March 31, 2009.
712 persons killed in the North-East during the week: 357 civilians, 354 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and a sailor were killed in the North-East during the week. Heavy ground battles between the Army and LTTE on March 29 left 29 militants dead. The fighting erupted after Security Forces (SFs) broke through a fortification built by the LTTE to defend their last strip of land. A senior Sea Tiger leader, identified as Uththaman, who commanded the ground battle, was also killed. On the same day, the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) continued artillery, mortar and long-distance gunfire killing at least 53 civilians and injuring 119, claimed the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net. On March 30, the SLA shelling claimed the lives of 70 civilians. In addition, gunfire from the SLA positions across the lagoon killed 18 civilians on the road which links the makeshift hospital with Internally Displaced Person settlements. Separately, naval troops following a pre-dawn sea encounter off the seas at Chalai in Mullaitivu District, killed 26 Sea Tigers [cadres of the sea wing of the LTTE], including one of its top leaders identified as Maran, and submerged four Sea Tiger boats. A sailor was also killed in the battle. A ‘huge stock’ of LTTE armaments also perished with the boats. On March 31, the SLA shelling killed 45 civilians and injured 120 others within the ‘Safety Zone’ in Mullaitivu District throughout March 31, Tamil Net reported. 19 militants were killed and more than 200 others encircled as the entire Puthukkudiyiruppu town and Iranapalai area in Mullaitivu District came under SF control by the evening of April 1. The SFs surrounded the last LTTE-held territory in north-east Puthukkudiyiruppu after capturing Pachchaippulmoaddai junction, the last supply route connected to the No Fire Zone (NFZ) from the mainland. During the search operations conducted in the area, the SFs recovered dead bodies of 32 militants.
31 militants were killed by the SFs during clashes in Puthukkudiyiruppu in the morning of April 2. In addition, 13 militants, including an explosives expert identified as Kandaiah Sarawanandam alias Paramanadam Master, were killed when Special Task Force (STF) commandos ambushed them in the morning of April 3 at Kongahahela in the Ampara District. 18 Sea Tigers were killed when the Sri Lanka Navy, on April 3, engaged a flotilla of 10 LTTE boats in the north-eastern sea off the coast of Alampil, destroying three of the boats. The military said three naval craft received minor damage and two sailors suffered injuries in the incident. 93 LTTE militants were killed in fierce clashes with the SFs in the Puthukkudiyiruppu East area on April 4. On the same day, Sri Lanka Army (SLA) attacks inside the NFZ killed at least 71 civilians and injured 143 others. Heavy shelling was reported from Maaththalan, Pokkanai, Valaignarmadam, Iraddaivaaykkaal and other areas of the NFZ.
5, the military captured the entire Puthukkudiyiruppu region,
the LTTE’s last stronghold and ended the long siege on the
last square kilometre held by the LTTE. More than 450 militants,
including Northern area leader Theepan, female wing leader
Vidusha and her deputy Durga, Batticaloa leader Nagulesh
and Gadafi, were killed and military wing leader Bhanu was
critically injured, in about three days of fierce fighting
in the area. According to military sources, LTTE chief Velupillai
Prabhakaran has taken refuge in the NFZ, mingling with the
civilians, along with remaining top-rung leaders, including
intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman, Sea Tigers leader
Soosai, and Velavan, another Sea Tiger leader.
Lanka Army; Daily
Page, March 31- April 6, 2009.