SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Of the last thirty turbulent years, Afghanistan has seen active Soviet (Russian) involvement for about ten, US for about 18 years (in two spells), India for about ten (in two spells up to 1992 and presently) and the Pakistanis for all three decades.
The Soviets used 10 million landmines, caused 200,000 civilian fatalities and left behind 750,000 amputees, while a majority of the mines have still not been cleared. By 2001 about 8.26 million Afghans had fled to other countries, mostly to Pakistan, of whom some 4.64 million had already been (principally forcibly) repatriated to Afghanistan by that year.
The Americans sponsored the jihad, with help principally from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, in the 1980s and later dropped 1,228 cluster bombs between October 2001 and March 2002, which released 248,056 ‘bomblets’ of which 12,400 are estimated to be lying around unexploded. Yet, Osama bin Laden has not been found, while American legitimacy has plummeted.
The Pakistanis gave Afghanistan the gift of the Taliban and all that this has signified, from the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas, religious obscurantism of the worst kind, the spread of narcotics, and endless misery on both sides of the Durand Line.
India contributed a billion dollars of humanitarian aid focused on national capacity-building and today, according to recent ABC opinion polls, 74 per cent of Afghans see India favourably, while 91 per cent see Pakistan unfavourably (up 11 points from last year) and 86 per cent see Pakistan as playing a negative role in their country. And yet, the US, in a reflection of its incongruent policies, continues to be solicitous about assuaging Pakistan’s ‘sensitivities’. There was a time when US diplomats were interceding on Pakistan’s behalf to reduce India’s role in Afghanistan; even today, there are voices in Washington that seek to diminish India’s role in Afghan reconstruction. It is a measure of Pakistan’s brittle state that four Indian consulates, manned by not more than two dozen men, are a source of ‘insecurity’ to that country. It is also a measure of the imbalance of US policy that seeks to eliminate virtually the only success story in Afghanistan.
The Taliban are estimated to have achieved a permanent presence in 72 per cent of Afghanistan, up from 54 per cent last year, according to the International Council on Security and Development. These figures may be open to interpretation, but the general drift is not in question. The fact however is that the manner and speed of the takeover only suggests that unless the Taliban are stopped, rolled back and defeated, they will eventually secure themselves in the entire country. This will happen, not because the Taliban are popular in Afghanistan – they are not – but because the opposition to their depredations is neither cohesive nor sufficiently strong. As Andrew Cordesman says in his study, "The Afghan-Pakistan Conflict: US Strategic Options in Afghanistan" – the Afghan Pak war "has been a war that the US has allowed to slip from apparent victory into serious crisis."
One of the major problems is that the Americans, in search of quick policy options, are considering opening negotiations with a section of the Taliban described, for the sake of expediency, as ‘moderate’ Taliban or ‘good’ Taliban. Should this happen, this would amount to a strategic defeat for the US, as it would be negotiating with weaker adversaries from a position of weakness, having failed to militarily defeat them. Pakistan, by being truculent and duplicitous with its main benefactor, will have achieved its strategic ambitions. If that were to happen, India would be the biggest geo-strategic loser in the Hindu Kush region.
The situation that prevails is the result of mismanaged wars fought since October 7, 2001, when the Americans went in with their cordite swatters, which only allowed the flies to escape in all directions. Nothing at all was tied up with the Pakistanis to prevent this from happening; in fact, the Americans assisted General Musharraf in allowing him to have his Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Army and irregular contingents, active in Afghanistan, airlifted back to safety and deniability in Pakistan. From then on, to the premature diversion to Iraq followed by a general downgrading of the Afghanistan theatre, a situation has been allowed to evolve that shows the trends in all security and socio-economic development parameters in Afghanistan to be adverse. Kabul is more and more like the Green Zone of Baghdad. Only the northern road through the Salang Tunnel to Panjshir and Mazar-e-Sharif is considered safe; the one to Kandahar through Wardak is unsafe for Afghans and foreigners, barely 30 kilometres outside Kabul; the road to the Bagram Air Base is frequently attacked by the Taliban.
NATO forces may be able to defeat the Taliban in individual battles, but they are not able to hold territory, much less clear, build and develop. Counter insurgent forces may be able to win any number of battles but for the insurgent it is enough to be able to survive. No wonder, Jim Jones, the NSC Adviser, said in 2008, "Make no mistake. NATO is not winning in Afghanistan." This was echoed by Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his testimony to the House Armed Forces Committee in September 2008: "I am not convinced we are winning it (the war) in Afghanistan."
There are several problems in tackling the evolving situation in Afghanistan. Firstly, the troop/insurgent ratio is adverse and there is very little likelihood that this can improve in the near future. Secondly, sanctuaries in Pakistan extend not only to the Al Qaeda but to the various Taliban shuras (councils) from Quetta to Swat. There is the Afghan Shura of Mullah Omar in Quetta; the Waziristan Shura of Baitullah Mehsud; and the Swat Shura of Maulana Fazlullah. More such shuras will be formed in the future.
Besides there are still some important holdouts from the first Afghan jihad, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani; the former was a Taliban commander north of Kabul and is generally considered the father of suicide bombing. Father and son have created a force that includes several thousand Pakistan fighters, probably from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Another is Gulbuddin Hikmetyar and his Hizb-e-Islami, a long-time favourite of the ISI, who operates in eastern Afghanistan from his bases in FATA.
The other and major difficulty has been the Pakistani ambivalence in its dealings with the Taliban. As the creator of the force, it is difficult for the Pakistan establishment to see it destroyed without achieving its primary objectives in Afghanistan. Pakistan has consistently undermined US efforts in Afghanistan. The unintended consequence has been the growing Talibanisation of Pakistan and the actual ceding of territory and sovereignty to the radical Islamists west of the Indus. The Swat peace deal was dubiously easy, and it is difficult to accept that the provincial Awami National Party (ANP) Government in Peshawar would go ahead with such a significant move without approval from Islamabad. It is possible that the Pakistan Army wanted a way out of having to fight the Pushtuns and at the same time create a ‘moderate’ Taliban for the US. Conventional wisdom would suggest that this too will rebound on Islamabad and the US. The essential reality is that both – the Taliban and the jihadis on one side and the Pakistan Army, have the same slogan — jihad fi’sbillah – jihad in the name of Allah. They claim they are fighting for the same Allah, the same Prophet; so how does one expect any resounding victory?
As was expected, the Obama administration has set out a new policy for Afghanistan-Pakistan. But is it ‘new’ when it talks of the threat from Al Qaeda and does not mention the Taliban? The Obama AfPak policy is no different from that of George Bush, who spoke only of the threat to America from Al Qaeda. Obama made it quite clear in his reply to The Times of India correspondent at the recent London G-20 Summit, when he said, "we are very concerned about the terrorists and extremists who have made camp in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan." The question had been specific – "What is America doing to help India tackle terrorism emanating from Pakistan?" The evasiveness and the irrelevance of the response only reasserts known American positions. No help would be forthcoming from America for India.
On the other hand there has been a serious effort in the US to manufacture consent for the new slogan "Anyone who is against terrorists is with us" instead of the earlier slogan "Either you are with us or against us." In essence they both mean the same thing – America is with no-one; the rest have to decide for themselves if they want to take on America’s declared fanatics or their own. The policy lays down two essential priorities – one, to secure Afghanistan’s south and east against the Al Qaeda; and two, to strengthen the Afghan forces so that this would enable the US to wind down its own combat operations. The Obama policy speaks of the Taliban in the context of the Al Qaeda with the Mullah Omar group as the irreconcilable lot, implying that the rest may be reconcilable, ‘moderate’ or ‘good’. It defies logic that a ‘moderate extremist’ exists; and if he does happen to survive, could he wield any real power that would deliver results? Such a person would, most probably, be outside the corridors of extremist power and would necessarily fail to deliver. An extremist has to be defeated because he considers anything else, including development and dialogue, as appeasement or a just reward for his extremism.
The fact that the new policy stresses on tackling Al Qaeda and not the Taliban only creates the impression that the policy is tactical and not strategic, as it does not seem to define how the Taliban, who wield considerable influence in over 70 per cent of Afghan territory, will be handled. The policy against the Al Qaeda demands a counter terrorist operation against non-Pakistanis; while the policy against the Taliban requires counter-insurgency operations against groups that include the Pakistani Taliban as well. The US AfPak policy document concludes by saying that, in the year 2009-2010, the Taliban’s momentum must be reversed, but only in Afghanistan, and that the international community must work with Pakistan to disrupt the threats to security along Pakistan’s western borders.
The Americans are once again going to miss the essential point, which is that, if there has to be an AfPak policy, there must be a consistent and unambiguous Al Qaeda-Taliban policy that includes tackling LeT and others like the JeM, who are the jihad’s Rapid Deployment Forces, available on demand for Pakistan’s western or eastern frontiers. The American problem has been that it is unable or unwilling to recognise the source of the problem. The problem is Pakistan’s unwillingness and therefore its inability to help and, equally, the US unwillingness to force the issue with the Pakistanis, who even today are playing for time. Should the Pakistani assessment be that the US is looking for short term solutions to long term problems, they are likely to be more intransigent and more demanding, knowing that they only have to wait it out.
Another crucial aspect that the US must consider is that, while it does have the capacity to unilaterally destroy some countries, it no longer has the capacity to reconstruct single-handedly. It would, therefore, need the assistance of regional powers and will have to accommodate their regional interests. In AfPak, the regional powers are Iran, Russia, India and China. The US must also readjust to the fact that Pakistan is part of the problem and not the solution. US intervention in Afghanistan serves Indian interests only if it takes into account Pakistani delinquency. As a long-term solution, the regional powers will have to think of the guaranteed neutrality of Afghanistan. This will be possible only after Pakistan has been disciplined through more sticks and far fewer carrots. If the neglect of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the US in the 1990s was a mistake, the present policy of pampering Pakistan is no better.
References in the US to getting India and Pakistan to talk in order to give Pakistan ‘adequate confidence’, can be attributed to the usual flawed American thinking and need not detract from India’s main concern to prevent a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. For this, it would be useful for the US to offer aid funding via India, to run projects in Afghanistan, which would provide a far better rate of utilisation of funds than is presently the case, and would keep the anti-American sentiment out of the equation.
It has been a bloody thirty year war in Afghanistan, during which the essentially tribal and conservative society, especially the Pushtun, has now acquired a thick layer of religious extremism. There has to be a long-haul solution spread over generations, with development and dialogue following, and not preceding, the military process. Since it is in India’s interest, as that of the rest of the world – with the exception of Pakistan – that the Taliban be rolled back, it is, perhaps, in Indian and American interests that the two countries co-operate across the board, and not on the basis of my terrorist first and your terrorist later. India also needs to reach out to Iran and the Central Asian Republics and not just concentrate on dealing through the United States.
Democracy in the Shadow of Violence
The total number of bomb explosions in Assam – 605 since 2001 and 16 during the current year – increased by four on April 6, 2009. Although bomb blasts executed by multiple armed factions have ceased to have any element of novelty in Assam, the increasing lethality and innovation in executing these explosions, especially since the serial attacks of October 30, 2008, in which as much as 80 kilograms of RDX was used, has alarmed many. With the elections to the Indian Parliament scheduled to be held on April 16 and 23 in the State, serious doubts have been expressed about the capacities of the Security Forces (SFs) to ensure a peaceful poll.
At 2 pm, on April 6, 2009, eight persons were killed and 32 were injured in an explosion at Boripara near Maligaon Chariali in Guwahati city, adjoining State capital Dispur. The dead included at least one victim who jumped to death while trying to escape the fire that engulfed a nearby building as a result of the explosion. Less than two hours later, five persons were injured (one of them later succumbed to his injuries) in a bomb explosion at Mosjid Patty in Dhekiajuli town in the Sonitpur District, 180 kilometres northeast of Guwahati. Three hours later, a Home Guard was killed and a Police constable sustained injuries in a grenade explosion in front of Mankachar Police Station in Dhubri District, 270 kilometres west of Guwahati, along the international border with Bangladesh. Earlier in the day, in the southern hilly District of Karbi Anglong, unidentified militants detonated an explosion at Santipur near Bokajan, injuring two.
The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the most potent militant formation in the State, has been blamed for all but the explosion in Karbi Anglong, a claim that has not been denied by the outfit. Carried out on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit to the State, these explosions have been seen as a bold challenge held out by ULFA. Dr. Manmohan Singh was scheduled to address an election rally at Dibrugarh, 450 kilometres northeast of Guwahati. Although he did land at the township on April 7, a hailstorm shelved his plans to ride a chopper to the meeting venue, barely 15 kilometres away. He had earlier been advised not to travel the distance by road. He returned without addressing the meeting. It is difficult to definitively confirm whether security considerations played any role in the decision of the Prime Minister, who is a Member of Parliament from Assam, to abandon the idea of travelling to the meeting venue by road. ULFA’s abilities to orchestrate explosions in the Upper Assam Districts (the eastern-most Districts of the State), of which Dibrugarh is a part, have been severely dented since June 2008, after two ‘companies’ of its primary strike force, the ‘28th battalion’, came over-ground, seeking a negotiated settlement. This ‘battalion’, one of ULFA’s three military formations (the 27th and 709th being the others), was based in Myanmar and was principally responsible for the outfit’s activities in Upper Assam. However, ULFA’s ability to carry out a succession of serial explosions, predominantly in the central or western Assam Districts, has given rise to an atmosphere of insecurity in the State, where very little can be taken for granted.
In fact, the outfit’s reliance on plastic explosives, predominantly aimed at inflicting mass casualties, appears to have increased significantly after the June break-up within the ‘28th battalion’. The mantle of ULFA’s principal strike arm has now passed on to the rejuvenated ‘709th battalion’, under the direct command of ULFA ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah. The ‘battalion’ is being led by senior functionaries such as Akash Thappa, Mukunda Rajbongshi alias Chilarai, and Pradeep Kalita. Through this ‘battalion’, ULFA has not only been able to hike its lethality within the relatively limited area of central and western Assam, but has also managed to time its attacks to match the arrival of various top officials from Delhi, including Union Ministers and the Prime Minister, in the State.
On March 31, an explosion had rocked Guwahati’s Jyotikuchi area under Fatasil Ambari Police Station, killing one person and injuring nine. On that day, Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee was supposed to address a public gathering at Lalmati, two kilometres away from the explosion site. Assam Police, later, explained that the explosion was not related to the Minister’s rally. Similarly, on January 1, 2009, ULFA cadres triggered serial bomb blasts in three different areas of Guwahati city, killing five persons and injuring 50. The blasts went off just hours before the scheduled arrival of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
In a break from most past explosions, the SF establishment in Assam had adequate intelligence inputs regarding ULFA’s intentions to orchestrate attacks on or before April 7, the 30th Raising Day of the outfit. The State Police had, in fact, published photographs of two ULFA cadres – Manohari Rajbongshi alias Son and Pradeep Kalita alias Deep – who had supposedly entered Guwahati city to execute acts of sabotage before April 7. An intensive search operation had been conducted to nab the duo in various parts of the city. Union Home Minister Chidambaram confirmed, on April 7, that many advisories had been sent to the SFs as well as to the Government of Assam to remain extremely vigilant during this period. Chidambaram remarked, "The security forces, and especially the Assam Police, were on high alert and tried their best to secure the most vulnerable locations. It is unfortunate and deeply regretted that the adversary has been able to strike this time."
Interestingly, ULFA’s capacity to carry out the April 6 explosions had much to do with the novel tactics that the outfit has evolved and put to use in recent times. Although initially described by television channels as a car bomb explosion, probably due to the number of motorcycles and a lone car that caught fire in the Guwahati blast, subsequent investigations found that TNT explosives and ball bearings had been packed into the frame of a bicycle. A similar device had been used in Dhekiajuli. The Assam Director General of Police, G.M. Srivastava, later commented that there was no way to detect such concealed explosives unless someone weighed the bicycle. Thousands ride bicycles in Assam’s cities and weighing each bicycles is hardly a viable prospect. Moreover, in both locations-Guwahati and Dhekiajuli, the explosives were said to have been attached to four detonators each, in order to pre-empt the possibilities of malfunction. Explosions have remained the dominant mode of ULFA attacks for a number of years, but the group has succeeding in circumventing every effort by the SFs to effectively interdict these operations.
Another area, where the ULFA has been able to consistently outplay the SFs is through the use of new recruits in planting explosives. While the Assam Police has been able to build up a reliable database of senior and middle level functionaries of the outfit, its knowledge of the lower-rung cadre base is only partially developed. New recruits, with minimal training ranging between 15 and 30 days, with no prior criminal record, are used to place explosives at the target locations, a task for which ULFA had used unemployed youths and even school children on earlier occasions. The unknown faces of the new recruits escape the attention of Police spotters and the surrendered ULFA (SULFA) cadres, on whom the SFs rely heavily for militant identification. Such lack of knowledge was on display after the April 6 explosion in Guwahati, when a photograph that the Assam Police published as that of blast suspect Manohari Rajbongshi turned out to be that of an 18-year old youth, with no ULFA linkages. The photograph was quickly withdrawn and the Police said that the brother of the actual militant had misled them.
Another area where Police operations appear to have been severely handicapped is the minimal public cooperation it receives, not just in terms of ground level intelligence, but also in post-incident crisis-management. Possibly as a result of the long history of political collusion and consequent public disenchantment, Assam, in recent history has been the only theatre of conflict in the country, where the SFs have been forced to deal with a rampaging mob virtually after every incident of bomb explosion. The October 30, 2008, explosions had resulted in a berserk mob turning over Police and official vehicles and setting them afire. After the April 6 explosions, again, ‘angry’ mobs turning their ire on the Police and media personnel for over an hour.
Contrary to public perceptions, however, the Assam Police appears to have done fairly well, neutralising a number of ULFA cadres and recovering large quantities of explosives. Since just January 1, 2009, 15 ULFA cadres have been killed and 42 have been arrested in Assam. Among those killed were Tapan Roy, Paranjal Deka, Anupam Gogoi, Bhaskar Hazarika and Kushal Das – considered to be the better trained and experienced militants in the group. The Assam Police had also foiled 79 explosion attempts and recovered 376 kilograms of explosive during the same period in the State.
These achievements, however, have failed to curb the subversive potential of the militant formation, and this will constitute an enormous security challenges during the impending elections. Polls to elect 14 members to the Indian Parliament are scheduled to be held in Assam in two phases – on April 16 and 23. Of the total 18,829 polling stations across the State, 6,635 have been categorized as ‘sensitive’, 2975 as ‘very sensitive’, 440 as ‘hypersensitive’, while 8,779 are ‘comparatively safe’. While the Assam Government had asked for the deployment of 120 companies of Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF) personnel to secure the polls, it has been provided with just 75 companies.
The Assam Police Chief has promised "safe and secure" elections on both days of polling. The security plan chalked out by the Police, in the aftermath of the April 6 explosions, includes a provision for engaging retired police officials for round-the-clock surveillance work across the State, the identification of vulnerable areas, the establishment of a mechanism, in association with volunteers, citizens’ committees and traders, to intensify vigil in all vulnerable areas, observation of parking lots, regular cleaning of garbage bins and installation of close-circuit television cameras in strategic locations across the State.
Whether these measures will prove adequate to prevent further acts of subversion by ULFA, remains to be seen. What has been clearly demonstrated, however, is that the group retains significant capacities for disruption, which constitute a manifest threat to the electoral process, and are bound to impact, not only on the manner in which the elections are conducted, but also on future governmental policies in Assam.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 6-12, 2009
11 killed in Maoist attack in Orissa: At least seven Security Force personnel and four cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) were killed in a gun battle in Orissa's Koraput District on April 12, 2009. The incident occurred in the night when over a hundred armed Maoists laid siege to the state-run National Aluminium Company Ltd (NALCO) bauxite mine at Panchpatmali, some 370 km from the capital Bhubaneswar. They also attacked a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) camp nearby. "Seven CISF jawans and four Maoists were killed," District police chief Deepak Kumar told IANS. The Hindu, April 13, 2009.
10 CRPF personnel and three Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh: On April 10, 2009, ten Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including a Deputy Commandant, and three suspected Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed during an encounter near Minta village under Chintagufa Police Station in Dantewada District. Deputy Commandant Diwakar Tiwari, a sub-inspector, four head constables and four constables were killed in the encounter, while 11 others, including an Assistant Commandant, were injured, an unnamed CRPF officer said in New Delhi. The incident occurred in the forests of Kotampalli when troops of the 55th battalion of the CRPF, who were on a patrol in the area, walked into an ambush set by the CPI-Maoist leading to a gun battle. One AK-47 rifle and a few wireless sets were also recovered from the encounter site. PTI News, April 11, 2009.
14 Maoists and three Security Force personnel killed in Maharashtra: 0n April 6, 2009, fourteen Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres and three Security Force (SF) personnel were killed during a three hour-long encounter between a group of 300 CPI-Maoist cadres and around 30 SF personnel at Mungner village in the Dhanora tehsil (revenue unit) of Gadchiroli District. The encounter occurred when the SFs, led by Commander Munna Singh Thakur, were patrolling in the Dhanora area as a part of their regular operation. According to the Additional Director General of Police, Pankaj Gupta, "The heavily armed Naxals (left-wing extremists) were in advantageous position in the hilly terrain. Commander Thakur's experience came handy in the crisis situation. The Naxals were tackled in a strategic manner by using the ammunition judiciously. Thakur ensured that the commandos advanced and try to corner the Naxals. The Naxals had rained bullets and also hurled mortars at the commandos. One of the commandos lost his life while trying to prevent the Naxals from fleeing with the bodies of their slain colleagues." Times of India, April 7, 2009.
10 persons killed and 61 others injured in serial blasts and grenade attack in Assam: Ten persons were killed and about 61 others injured in four explosions carried out by suspected United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants on April 6, 2009. The militants carried out three blasts and mounted a grenade attack within five hours. The Director General of Police, G.M. Srivastava, said seven people were killed and 56 injured in a powerful blast in a crowded market in Guwahati’s Maligaon area at around 2 pm (IST). In the blast, four of the dead, including a minor girl, have been identified. The explosion sparked a fire that set ablaze two cars and 20 motorcycles and spread to a three-storey building housing the area police station. While six people were killed at the blast site, one died of injuries after jumping from an adjacent building which had caught fire. "This is the handiwork of ULFA boys ahead of the outfit’s Raising Day" Srivastava said, adding the militants used hi-tech explosives. A bomb was set off by unidentified militants in the Santipur area near Bokajan in Karbi Anglong District earlier in the day. Suspected ULFA militants also set off a bicycle bomb explosion at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur District later. Four people were injured, one of them seriously, in this incident. According to an unconfirmed report, he later died of his injuries. In addition, an unidentified militant lobbed a hand grenade at Mankachar Police station in Dhubri district, killing a Police driver and injuring another. Times of India; The Hindu, April 7, 2009.
Taliban announces enforcement of Sharia in Bajaur Agency: The Taliban on April 10, 2009 announced the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic law) in the Bajaur Agency and stopped women from going outside without male relatives, banned shaving of beard and warned the people against availing assistance from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The announcement was made by Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, Taliban chief in the agency, in his 40-minute speech delivered through his group’s illegal FM radio channel. He said he and his men would spare no efforts to strictly implement the Islamic laws in the region.
In this regard, the Taliban has reportedly prepared a special armed force named "Action Group" to ensure the enforcement of Sharia and punish the violators. Faqir said shaving of beards and walking of men without having cap on their heads were practices of the Jews and their followers, which, he warned, the Taliban would not allow in Bajaur. Faqir said he would not allow the BISP to operate and "mislead" simple women of the tribal region. He said work on preparation of lists of people supporting the BISP and other NGOs had already been initiated. Faqir threatened that the Action Group would soon produce such people before their Sharia Court. In addition, he strictly warned women against coming out of their homes and acquiring Computerised National Identity Cards, which is reportedly mandatory for getting monetary benefits from the BISP. The militant commander said if the people were found guilty of supporting the BISP or getting its monetary benefits, the violators would be punished according to Sharia in which minimum fine would not be less than PKR 10,000. The News, April 11, 2009.
16 Taliban militants among 21 persons killed in clash in NWFP: 21 people, including 16 Taliban militants, were killed in an overnight clash when local volunteers and Police personnel tried to enter the Gokand Valley to flush out militants who had infiltrated into Buner area on April 4, 2009 from the neighbouring Swat District. Three policemen and two Lashkar (militia) volunteers were among the dead. When the combined force attempted to enter the area via Rajagaly Kandow from the Pir Baba side and dislodge the militants, Taliban militants took position and reportedly refused to go back. Sources said that the militants had sent 16 bodies and taken 13 of their wounded colleagues to Swat via Kalil Kandow on April 7-morning. Dawn, April 8, 2009.
463 persons killed in the North during the week: 282 civilians and 181 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants were killed in the North during the week. On April 5, 2009 the Security Forces (SFs) clashed with LTTE militants in the Vishuamadu and Mullaitivu areas killing 14 of them, including six females. Troops conducting search and clear operations in the Puthukkudiyiruppu area of Mullaitivu District recovered 72 more dead bodies of the militants on April 6 raising the total number of recovered bodies from the area to 525 since April 1. 129 civilians were killed and 282 others sustained injuries in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) artillery shelling inside the No Fire Zone (NFZ) in Mullaitivu District through the day on April 8, the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net reported. SFs advancing ahead of the eastern limits of Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaitivu District clashed with the militants amid heavy resistance all day long on April 8 killing 12 militants and injuring 20 others. 114 civilians were killed and 661 others injured in military operations during the past three days inside the NFZ, Tamil Net reported on April 11. While 50 civilians were killed and 296 injured on April 8, 52 others were killed 315 injured on April 9. 12 civilians were reported dead and 50 injured in the military operation on April 10. On April 11, 17 civilians were reported killed in SLA attack inside NFZ, reports Tamil Net. Further, on April 12, at least 31 civilians were killed inside the NFZ in shelling and gunfire by the SLA. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, April 7- 13, 2009.