SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
At the height of the crisis at Lalgarh in West Bengal, the State’s leadership declared that its problems were flowing from neighbouring Jharkhand. For instance, on June 18, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the ruling Left Front partners that 500 Maoists – 100 of them fully trained in combat and others semi-trained – had sneaked into Lalgarh from neighbouring Jharkhand. While part of this can simply be dismissed as passing the buck – West Bengal does have a significant and growing Maoist problem of its own, and in areas that are far from its border with Jharkhand. It is, nevertheless, the case that Jharkhand has emerged as one of the regions of significant Maoist dominance, and there is a significant flow of cadres and leadership across its borders into neighbouring States.
Jharkhand has, indeed, established the dubious distinction – for the third year running, halfway through 2009 – of being the Indian State with the second highest fatalities in Left Wing extremism (LWE) related incidents (after Chhattisgarh). The State has already recorded a total of 117 fatalities in 2009 (till June 23) and, worse, with 28 deaths in a single week between June 10 and 16, fatalities among Security Forces (SFs) have already crossed the total for any previous year.Jharkhand- LWE related fatalities 2007-09
* Till June 23, Provisional Data: Institute for Conflict Management
*Source: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
**Provisional Data: (September-December 2008) - Institute for Conflict Management.
11 personnel of a joint team of the para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Jharkhand Police, returning from a two-day long-range patrol in the Saranda Forest in West Singhbhum District on June 10, died in a landmine explosion, suspected to have been carried out by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres between Serengda and Aruanga villages. Among the dead was a CRPF Inspector. Six others sustained injuries in the attack.
Before the State Police could recover from the shock, the Maoists struck again on June 12. In a meticulously planned attack, about 50 armed Maoists, reportedly led by their area commander Navin Manjhi, attacked the State Bank of India’s Phusro Bazaar Branch in Bermo, Bokaro District, minutes after INR 10 million was deposited in the bank by the Damodar Valley Corporation, a Public Sector Undertaking. Resistance put up by the security guards at the bank foiled the attempt by the Maoists to decamp with the money. The Maoists, however, killed two security guards and triggered a blast near an abandoned vehicle, causing panic in the crowded market. The news of the attack and an SOS call from the Police, led to the movement of a team of Special Task Force (STF) personnel from the nearby Nawadih Police Station in an anti-landmine vehicle. An explosion, however, blew up the vehicle near the dense Sarubera Forest killing 11 STF personnel.
Four days later, in the afternoon of June 16, the Maoists struck again in Palamu District. Acting on a tip-off, a Police team raided a Maoist hideout near Baherakhad village where a gun battle ensued. Seven Policemen were injured, and four of them died on the way to hospital.
After the June 10 incident, Director-General of Police (DGP) Vishnu Dayal Ram, explaining the high casualty, stated that the SF personnel had ignored basic rules of patrolling in Maoist strongholds, which advocate avoiding the use of vehicles while patrolling difficult terrain. "The incident once again bares non-compliance with orders. Had the policemen followed patrolling guidelines to the letter, there would not have been blood spilt. They would not have fallen prey to traps laid by the rebels," Ram asserted.
Failure to comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs) was further confirmed when post-mortems conducted on the victims of the June 12 landmine blast confirmed that all the 11 STF personnel had died of head injuries. According to the SOPs governing counter-Maoist operations, SF personnel are to wear helmets and use seatbelts even while they travel in an anti-landmine vehicle. But none of those who died wore helmets, and seatbelts were probably not strapped on. Under the impact of the blast, the vehicle was tossed in the air, fell and rolled over before standing upright again. Investigations revealed, further, that the air-conditioner in the vehicle was not working, and troopers possibly avoided wearing helmets to escape the heat.
While the violation of SOPs can explain higher fatalities in some cases, however, the reality is that the continuous stream of SF deaths are more an index of irrational Force deployment and the haphazard way in which counter-Maoist operations are being conducted in Jharkhand. Between 2005 and 2008, 119 SF personnel were killed in the State, over 80 per cent of them in landmine explosions, according to one estimate.
Jharkhand does not have a specialised commando unit, and Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) and Jharkhand Police (JP) personnel participate in the anti-Maoist operations along with the para-military personnel drawn from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, of whom 30 companies are deployed in the State. The JP and JAP personnel are yet to be trained in jungle warfare techniques. Worse, while SOPs require an officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police to lead a raiding party, it is invariably, Inspectors and sometimes, even Sub-Inspectors who lead such teams, resulting in poor discipline (and possibly judgement) and the neglect of SOPs. In a statement after the June 12 incident, consequently, the Jharkhand Police Association claimed that junior personnel were being sacrificed in the fight with the Maoists, since senior Police officers were simply afraid to take part in operations.
The reality is that SF and Police capacities in Jharkhand are far from what is required to confront the Maoist threat, and this, rather than incidental lapses on the part of SF personnel, is the principal case of the accelerated rise of Maoist dominance since 2007.
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 is, however, a deficit of 20.82 per cent between actual and sanctioned strength – yielding an effective strength of just about 108 per 100,000. There is, moreover, a crisis of leadership in the Force. At the level of Superintendent of Police (SP), Jharkhand has a deficit of 51.17 percent, while at the rank of Inspector vacancies stand at 17.89 percent.
Six LWE outfits, of which the CPI-Maoist is the most significant, with an estimated combined cadre strength of 4,000 dominate 23 of Jharkhand’s 24 Districts. And the Police, in spite of its claims of improvement, have simply not been able to cope with the rising challenge. The LWE groupings inflict a widespread regime of extortion across the State, particularly targeting businesses connected with the strong mining industry in the State. Estimates indicate that the Maoist extortion revenues total up to INR Three billions per year in Jharkhand alone. LWE dominance in the State is also reflected in numerous bandhs (shutdowns) periodically enforced by the Maoists. In 2009 alone, 13 Statewide calls for a bandh have already been imposed, each paralysing the State completely. During the most recent of these, on June 22 and 23, trading activities came to a halt in Maoist-hit Districts such as Palamu, Gumla, Lohardaga, Latehar, Chatra, Simdega and Giridih, with both rural and urban markets shutting down. West Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner Sunil Kumar, disclosed that not a single heavy vehicle could ply during the 48-hour bandh and that "about 500 vehicles that carry iron ore from the region to different destinations were stranded." Suresh Sonthali of the Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted, further: "Mining activities in all mines of Singhbhum region have come to a standstill. Not a single ounce of iron ore has been lifted. Truck and trailer operators have stopped lifting ore and finished products from over 700 small and medium scale units located in Aditypaur industrial area."
During his visit to the State on January 31, 2009, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had stated, at State capital Ranchi, that there was urgent need to fill 1,500 vacancies in the special branch – the intelligence unit – of the Jharkhand Police. The Special Branch gathers local intelligence and is expected to coordinate and share information with Intelligence Bureau (IB). Chidambaram also indicated that 145 Police Stations out of a total of 339 in the State were Maoist affected and over 25 blocks did not have Police Stations. Subsequently, on February 20, the State Government agreed to open 61 new Police Stations in the State. The advisory committee to the Governor also approved the creation of an additional 4,608 posts for these Police Stations.
Given Jharkhand’s past record, however, it remains to be seen how soon and how efficiently these promises are acted on, and what real impact they have on the State’s campaign against the Maoists. Significant administrative irregularities, especially in the implementation of Police modernisation programme, have been highlighted by the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2008. The report notes that, during the survey period 2000-04:
Years of neglect and myopic policies of the Government have pitched the State Police into an unequal fight with the Maoists, and this is creating a rising sense of desperation and an propensity to fake ‘successes’. The April 15 incident in the Latehar District is a grim reminder of such degeneration. The Maoists had triggered a landmine blast at Barhania Ghati in the hilly tracts of Barwadi, blowing up a bus ferrying CRPF personnel. Two CRPF personnel and a civilian driver were killed. The Police claimed that, in the subsequent exchange of fire, five Maoists were killed. A subsequent inquiry, ordered after a series of protests, proved that those killed were not Maoist cadres, but innocent villagers.
Jharkhand announced a surrender and rehabilitation policy in May 2009, which it says would help in bringing the extremists back into the mainstream. According to DGP Ram, "This is the most attractive and ambitious rehabilitation offer made to the Naxalites ever." The scheme offers:
The Government has also decided to provide vocational training to surrendered Maoists for a year at a cost of INR 3,000 per insurgent per month. A life insurance cover for the Maoist and his family and legal assistance in fighting criminal cases in courts are among other aspects in the policy. While no one has surrendered so far, it is still too early to pass judgement on the scheme. The record of surrender schemes in other States, except where the SFs have inflicted dramatic reverses on the rebels, has been far from encouraging, and has often been riddled with fraud.
No scheme has any significant potential for impacting on the worsening trajectory of Maoist violence in Jharkhand, absent a radical reinvention of the Police and intelligence apparatus in the State. Until this fundamental truth is acknowledged and reconciled with State policy, both SF personnel and civilians will continue to fall prey to the Maoist depredations, even as the entire State remains captive to their elaborate network of LWE extortion. To the extent that Jharkhand has emerged as a safe haven for Maoist cadres and leadership, and the source of at least some trouble beyond its borders, neighbouring States cannot, moreover, expect significant relief as long as the deficits and defects in Jharkhand’s security apparatus have not been remedied.
With 262 insurgency related fatalities, Manipur remains the most violent State in India’s Northeast, as the first half of 2009 draws to an end. Assam, the other major theatre of conflict in the region, with 11 times the population and 3.5 times the land mass, stands at second place, with 224 fatalities. There are tentative trends, however, that suggest some gains for the counter-insurgency grid in Manipur, which is beginning to inflict costs on the insurgent outfits, neutralizing significant numbers of their cadres and reducing their areas of dominance.Insurgency-related Fatalities in Manipur, 2008 – 2009
*Data till June 24, 2009
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal
The first six months of 2009 saw 262 insurgency related fatalities, 21 more than the total for the corresponding period in 2008. This increase, however, primarily reflected increased militant fatalities, to the tune of 38 percent. While the death of Security Force (SF) personnel stood at a low six for both years, a significant 45 percent decrease has been recorded in fatalities among the civilian population.
The insurgent groups have overwhelmingly singled out non-local, Hindi and Bengali speaking targets among the civilian population, even as they have made efforts to consolidate their support base within the indigenous population of the State. Of the 45 civilians killed in 2009, 24 persons belonged to this category – comprising migrant labourers and petty traders who were killed in at least 14 attacks in all the four Valley Districts. In the biggest attack of 2009, unidentified insurgents killed nine non-locals inside the Keibul Lamjao National Park at Khordak Awang Leikai area in Bishnupur District on May 11. Exactly a month later on June 11, four non-local labourers were killed when unidentified insurgents opened fire on them inside the Central Agriculture University campus at Iroisemba under Lamphel Police Station in Imphal West District. Police suspect the insurgents belonging either to the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) or the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) were behind these attacks. Two camps have since been opened by the Manipur Police for the non-locals in State capital Imphal, which house some 250 persons.
Unlike the killings among the non-local labourer classes, which do not register in the imagination and or concerns of the scores of non-governmental organisations and human rights outfits operating in Manipur, one killing that created great sensation was that of Mohammed Islamuddin, a 53 year-old professor of the Imphal based Manipur University (MU), on May 25, 2009. Three gunmen sprayed bullets on Islamuddin, the only professor belonging to the State’s minority Pangal (Muslim) community, killing him on the spot. A day after the attack, the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) issued a Press release claiming responsibility for the "public execution". It accused the academician of being a "ring leader of a clique within the MU which was usurping all powers of the University and using it to their selfish ends." A Joint Action Committee of the University, however, refuted the KYKL’s charges as "baseless and unfounded". The People’s United Liberation (PULF), an Islamist outfit, and the Meitei Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) condemned the incident. KCP 'secretary general’ Khamba Luwangcha said it was unfortunate that such a killing should have come at a time when the people were crying out against "state sponsored terrorism".
As argued previously in SAIR, fatalities alone do not exhaust the contours of insurgency. The dominance of the insurgent in Manipur is also strongly reflected in the enveloping regime of extortion that targets Government offices, local self-Government and educational institutions, health centres, commercial establishments and the wider civilian population alike. Thus, in the first week of May 2009, a series of gun attacks were carried out at the residences of the Chief Engineer and three Executive Engineers of the Manipur Minor Irrigation Department following their failure to meet several extortion demands made by insurgent groups operating in both the Hill and Valley regions. Engineers, like other civilians, continue to be soft targets for the militants and are attacked with alarming regularity. The militant groups have also not spared the health sector, and people in capital Imphal have repeatedly faced hardship due to militants’ targeting of pharmacies with extortion demands. Unable to cope with the militant exactions, some 40 pharmacies across the State resorted to a strike on May 13, 2009. Earlier, the pharmacies had shut down under similar circumstances on May 1. On that occasion, however, Police broke the locks and forced the chemists’ shops to open the next day. Reports indicate that the Kangleipak Communist Party [Military Council (MC) faction] had demanded INR One million as ‘tax’ from the pharmacies. Earlier, there were reports that various militant groups had demanded INR 200,000 on an annual basis from each pharmacy.
Another group that has been particularly affected by the militants’ extortion enterprise are the dry fish traders (fermented and dry fish are popular in Manipuri cuisine). Militant groups such as the UNLF, KYKL, PREPAK, KCP and KCP-MC have reportedly demanded INR 800,000 as ‘annual tax’ from the dry fish trading community.
Educational institutions have also been brought under pressure by the extortion network, as a result of which the Kanan Devi Memorial School at Pangei in the Imphal East District was shut down for an indefinite period. Extortion demands have also forced the closure of two Government colleges in capital Imphal.
Apart from damaging the economy, militant extortion has also adversely affected the state’s efforts to restore civil governance and deliver developmental services. Unable to cope with militant demands, members of various Gram Panchayats (village councils) in Imphal West District have fled their homes and taken refuge at the District Rural Development Agency office in the Imphal West Deputy Commissioner’s Complex since May 8, 2009. Groups such as the KYKL, KCP-MC and PREPAK are reportedly demanding 30 per cent of the funds sanctioned under State Finance Commission and 12th Finance Commission schemes. They have also demanded INR 50,000 from each of the Gram Panchayats. "They even enter our houses and threaten us. We are not able to move out of our houses without fear. That is why we have taken shelter here," said Haojam Lal Singh, the Presidents of one of the village councils, in a June 25 report. These threats and the consequent flight of officials and elected representatives from rural areas have resulted in the collapse of essential services and governance across much of the State.
The Manipur Government has initiated some steps to end the practice of insurgents extorting a percentage of Government employees’ salaries every month. In the past, a proportion of salaries was paid to insurgents out directly from the offices. Since April 2009, the State Government has asked the employees to collect their salaries from banks. The Principal Secretary of the Manipur Government’s Finance Department, A.N. Jha, in a memorandum issued on April 18, 2009, stated that not only salaries but all payments, travel and dearness allowances, provident fund and other entitlements of the employees, would be paid through bank accounts. It is not clear, however, that such a measure would be helpful in preventing the insurgents from collecting their ‘share’ from the Government employees. The Government has also drawn up a list of individuals and business houses that were believed to be contributing regularly to militant coffers. Again, in a situation where the state has failed comprehensively to protect its citizens, it is not clear whether it can effectively stop the flow of extorted revenues by such measures.
The overflow of the insurgency from neighbouring Nagaland continues to trouble Manipur. Major parts of Manipur’s four Valley Districts – Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel – remain affected by the activities of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM). There is, however, some indication of a decline in the level of influence the NSCN-IM once exerted in the Hill Districts. While occasional killings – such as the February 13, 2009 incident, in which the NSCN-IM cadres abducted a Sub-Divisional Officer of Khasom Khullen in Ukhrul District and two of his colleagues and later killed them – do continue, their incidence has declined significantly in 2009.
An attempt by the NSCN-IM to establish a permanent camp at Siroy in Ukhrul District in Manipur was foiled in February 2009. After a two week-long standoff, the insurgents, who had already set up the camp, were provided safe passage by the para-military Assam Rifles, and the camp was dismantled. Another three other unauthorised camps – established prior to the 1997 cease-fire between the NSCN-IM and the Government of India in Nagaland – at Bonning (Senapati District), Ooklong (Tamenglong District) and Phungchong (Chandel District), however, remain.
Operation Summer Storm, a counter-insurgency operation jointly launched by the 57 Mountain Division of the Army, para-military Assam Rifles and Manipur Police, involving about 500 SF personnel, was one of the initiatives indicating the State’s growing seriousness in combating the insurgency. The operation targeted PREPAK in the Loktak Lake area and the adjoining Keibul Lamjao National Park of Bishnupur District, located south of capital Imphal, between April 11 and 21, 2009. The 10-day offensive resulted in the killing of 12 militants, the neutralisation of five camps, and the recovery of 10 weapons.
Despite the relatively low costs it imposed on the 500 strong PREPAK cadres, Operation Summer Storm did ensure the rather peaceful conduct of Parliamentary elections in the State. The sanitization of Loktak Lake, in the proximity of capital Imphal, ensured that there was no base for the insurgents to launch their attacks. A healthy 63 percent of voters cast their ballot in Outer Manipur and another 60 per cent in the Inner Manipur constituencies on April 16 and 22 respectively. The NSCN-IM’s support for the candidature of Mani Charenamei of the People’s Democratic Alliance, who was seeking re-election from Outer Manipur, did little to boost his electoral prospects. Charenamei, an avid supporter of the Naga outfit’s formation of Nagalim (greater Nagaland) lost to Thangso Baite of the ruling Congress party. Barring minor attacks on party offices and candidates, the elections were largely peaceful.
Increasing synergy between the Manipur Police and Assam Riffles is beginning to show some results. On January 18, the Assam Rifles retaliated to an ambush by the UNLF, killing five of its cadres at Khenjang in Chandel District. On March 7, a joint team of the Manipur Police and Assam Rifles shot dead the leader of the Azad faction of the PULF and three other cadres of the outfit during a pre-dawn encounter in the foothills of Tekhanbi Kachin in Imphal East District. The slain PULF cadres included the ‘chairman’ of the faction, Mohammed Azad alias Abul Kalam, ‘finance secretary’, Mohammed Sahid alias Raj Khan, Mohammed Firoz Khan, and Mohammed Azad Khan alias Ijaaj Khan.
At least ten militants of Manipur-based outfits were arrested from cities like Bengaluru in the South Indian State of Karnataka and from national capital New Delhi, while engaging in fund raising and gun running activities, during the first half of 2009. On January 17, 2009, for instance, seven top KCP militants were arrested from unspecified locations in New Delhi in Operation Grand Slam conducted by a joint team of the Army, Manipur Police and Delhi Police. Details of the group’s activities and the draft of a Press release intended for publication on January 26 (Republic Day) were recovered from the hideout. Three days later, on January 20, another two militants the same group, including its leader, were arrested by a combined force of the Manipur Police, Army, Delhi Police and Bengaluru Police in Bengaluru city. The militant leader confessed his identity as Naorem Brojen, chief of the City Meitei faction and Mobile Task Force of the KCP. His disclosures led to the arrest of another cadre of the City Meitei faction at Hennur Road in Bengaluru. Again, on March 16, one PULF militant, Mohammed Abdul Noor, was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police from the Munirka locality of the national capital. He had reportedly come to the city along with accomplices to collect a consignment of arms, explosives and funds. Abdul had joined the PULF in 2006 as a Delhi-based coordinator and was involved in planning the abduction of an assistant engineer with the Public Works Department in Manipur.
After years of vacillation, Manipur appears to be taking small steps towards augmenting counter-insurgency capacities. The Government has also decided to implement a two-point action plan for the reduction of extortion and violence. Sources indicate that the Manipur Government intends to further improve the police-population ratio, which is currently at a very high 627 (the Indian average is 125). In its meeting on May 19, 2009, the State Cabinet agreed to induct 1,600 Police Commandos, in addition to the existing 1,600 Commandos who are currently deployed in the Valley Districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur and Thoubal. The new batch of Police Commandos is to be deployed in the Hill Districts, thus covering the entire State with the trained strike force. Reports of June 10, 2009, stated that a Commando post and an India Reserve Battalion post were opened at Ukhrul and Senapati, respectively, two of the worst affected Districts in the State. Official sources also disclosed that the Cabinet had agreed to add one Company each to the existing six battalions of the Manipur Rifles. The Government has also reportedly decided to recruit 2,400 Police Constables for deployment in the Armed Reserve in all the Districts, except in Imphal West. It has also decided to recruit Village Defence Forces to assist the Police in the four Valley Districts.
The problem in Manipur has not, however, been a deficit of Force, but of political will to confront the insurgents on a sustained basis, within the framework of a coherent strategy. While there are incipient signs that this may be changing (and it remains to be seen whether the change is sustained) re-establishing the writ of the state in Manipur is still a long way of.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 22-28, 2009
Centre bans CPI-Maoist: The Centre on June 22, 2009 banned the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), terming it a terrorist organisation. It invoked Section 41 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against the extremist outfit. The CPI-Maoist came into existence following the merger of the People’s War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in September 2004. The ban was to avoid any ambiguity though all formations and front organisations of the PWG and the MCC came under the purview of the ban. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the merged organisation would continue to be listed as a terror organisation. "When I looked into the matter a couple of days ago, I said that may be the position in the law. In order to avoid any ambiguity, let us add the CPI (Maoist) by name in that schedule of the Act." The Union Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it was adding the CPI-Maoist as a separate entry - No. 35 - in India’s official list of ‘terrorist organisations’ proscribed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This was a re-statement - aimed at making the list completely unambiguous - of the Government’s view of the CPI-Maoist had been formed by the merger of two banned organisations, the MCC and the PWG, and it was, therefore, deemed banned as well — even though it was not, until now, specifically listed as such. The Hindu; Indian Express, June 23, 2009.
193 militants and 16 soldiers among 222 persons killed in FATA during the week: 22 soldiers were killed and 35 others injured in two separate attacks by militants in North and South Waziristan agencies on June 28. In addition, 22 militants were also killed in the day-long military operations by Security Forces (SFs) in the region. Separately, four militants were killed and several houses were destroyed when the SFs targeted militant positions in different areas of the Nawagai sub-division in Bajaur Agency on the same day.
42 Taliban militants were killed and 50 others injured in the ongoing military operation in South Waziristan and Kurram Agency, a private TV channel reported on June 27. SFs bombarded Taliban hideouts in the Ladha and Wana areas of South Waziristan, killing 15 Taliban militants and injuring 15 others. Also in Wana, the Taliban attacked a Frontier Corps camp, with no reported casualties. The SFs, in retaliation, shelled the Taliban, killing two of them and injuring three others, while a mortar shell hit the house of one Anwar Khan, killing him and injuring his wife and two daughters. Further, aircrafts bombed various areas in South Waziristan, killing 16 Taliban militants and injuring 10 others.
20 militants were killed and 15 others wounded when SFs shelled the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud’s hideouts in South Waziristan on June 26. According to a private TV channel, fighter jets bombarded Taliban hideouts in the agency’s Ladha, Saam and Makeen sub-divisions. Further, four persons, including three SF personnel, were killed and 24 others injured in two remote-controlled bomb attacks on a security convoy in North Waziristan Agency. Local sources said that an army convoy from Bannu in the NWFP was proceeding to Miranshah in the morning when it was targeted with a remote-controlled bomb on the Chashma Pul – around two kilometres from agency headquarters Miranshah.
Eight militants were killed and three of their hideouts destroyed when helicopter gunships targeted parts of Orakzai Agency on June 25. Sources said that gunships targeted Taliban hideouts in Atmankhel and Ferozkhel areas of Lower Orakzai Agency, killing eight militants. In addition, fighter jets targeted the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud’s strongholds in the Zadranga and Shagha areas of South Waziristan Agency’s Ladda sub-division, killing six Taliban militants. Earlier, the Taliban on June 24 had fired six missiles at Khar bazaar in Khar, headquarters of the Bajaur Agency, killing one person and injuring four others.
Approximately 80 people, including a senior commander of the Baitullah Mehsud-led militants, Khwaz Wali Mehsud, were killed and several others sustained injuries in two separate attacks by US spy planes on a suspected militant hideout and funeral prayers at Lattaka village of Ladha sub-division in South Waziristan Agency on June 23. However, militant sources said the death toll in the two drone attacks was around 70-80. A US drone fired three missiles at a suspected militant hideout at Lattaka village in the morning, killing six militants, including Khwaz Ali, who was said to be one of Baitullah Mehsud’s trusted commanders. Five other people killed in the attack were said to be local tribal militants. Tribal sources said it was the first-ever attack by US spy planes on the Shabikhel area of South Waziristan - hometown of Baitullah Mehsud. Later, when the militants and villagers offered funeral prayers of the deceased militants at the village graveyard, two more missiles were fired on the venue. Taliban sources said that a majority of the people after attending funeral prayers had started leaving the venue and few were there to have a final glimpse of Ali when they came under a missile attack. They said two US drones fired two missiles on the gathering killing over 60 people, majority of them militants.
At least 21 people, both militants and civilians among them, were killed and several others injured during air strikes and retaliatory actions by the SFs in Waziristan on June 21 and 22. According to locals, women and children were also among the dead and injured. Air force planes reportedly bombed suspected militant hideouts and training facilities in areas dominated by the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan. SFs also secured a main supply route between Maulvi Khan Serai and Serwekai. According to officials and locals, the planes shelled houses of Malik Mohammad Amir Khan and Kabir Khan Berki in Salay Rogha area and killed 11 suspected militants and injured five others. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 23-29, 2009.
44 militants and 17 soldiers among 64 persons killed in NWFP during the week: In the Upper Dir District, four Taliban militants were killed and five others injured in a clash with a local Lashkar (tribal militia) in the Ghazi Gai area on June 27. Earlier, SFs killed seven Taliban militants in clashes in parts of the Dir and Swat Districts on June 24, while six soldiers, including two officers, were also killed. Elsewhere in the province, three Policemen, including an officer, were killed when some miscreants fired rockets and mortar shells at the Arbab Tapu check-post in the jurisdiction of Matani Police Station of provincial capital Peshawar in the early hours of June 24. Further, one member each from the Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud groups - rival Taliban factions - were killed in a clash at Tank bazaar in the Tank District on June 24.
Six militants were killed on June 23 in the Shadas village of Maidan area in Lower Dir District when gunship helicopters targeted the house of a local Taliban commander, identified as Miftahud Din alias Shabar. Further, five army men, including a Major and Captain, were killed when a unit of the Baloch Regiment was ambushed at Charbagh in the Malakand Division at 7pm on June 23.
A Taliban commander from South Waziristan opposed to the TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud and part of an apparent plan to isolate the leader of the Pakistan Taliban from his tribesmen ahead of a likely military operation in the area was shot dead in the morning of June 23. Qari Zainuddin, a 26-year-old Mehsud tribesman, who led his own group of militants, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in his office in Dera Ismail Khan, from where he had recently given interviews to Pakistani and international media denouncing Baitullah Mehsud as an "agent" of America and India. Qari Zainuddin, leader of the Abdullah Group, was shot dead by his guard, Gulbuddin Mehsud, Police official Salahuddin told reporters.
The ISPR Director-General Major General Athar Abbas said at a media briefing in Islamabad on June 22 that the SFs are in the final phase of eliminating terrorist hideouts and camps in Swat. Abbas said: "In the north, Biha Valley — the last stronghold of terrorists — has been fully secured and in the west, Shamozai area is being cleared. Search operations are being carried out in the secured areas to ensure that they are safe for the return of the internally displaced persons (IDPs)." The military spokesman also said various search and cordon operations were conducted by security forces whereby neutralising a number of IEDs and destroying a number of small and big tunnels, while 22 more terrorists were killed in Malakand. Athar Abbas said so far 1,592 terrorists had been killed in the operation while 60 to 70 others had been arrested. In addition, two Policemen were killed and seven people, including three Policemen, sustained injuries when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the Thakot Police check-post in Battagram District on June 22, completely destroying the check-post. The attack was the first-ever suicide attack in Battagram District. Separately, three persons, including two women, were killed and another sustained injuries when a rocket hit a house in Zardad Killay in the jurisdiction of Hovaid Police Station of Bannu District on June 22. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 23-29, 2009.
Two soldiers killed and three injured in first suicide attack in Pakistan occupied Kashmir: A Taliban suicide bomber killed two soldiers on June 26, 2009 when he blew himself up near an army vehicle in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), in the first such attack in PoK. The military said in a statement that three other soldiers were injured in the early morning bombing in Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, and rushed to a nearby hospital. Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy of the Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, told AP that the assault was launched to prove that Baitullah had not been weakened by more than a week of strikes on his suspected hideouts in South Waziristan Agency. "We are in a position to respond to the army’s attacks, and time will prove that these military operations have not weakened us," Hakimullah said over telephone.
A Police officer said the army installation had probably been attacked to give a message to the authorities that militants could expand their area of operation and hit security forces anywhere, including PoK. The barracks fall under the 5-AK Brigade of the Azad Kashmir (AK) Regiment which is reportedly taking part in the operation against militants in Swat and adjoining areas. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, June 27, 2009.
57 Pakistan Air Force personnel arrested in the last two years for links with terrorists: 57 personnel of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) ranging from chief technicians to officers were arrested over their alleged contacts with terrorists and involvement in anti-state activities. The arrests were reportedly made during the last one and a half to two years after conducting an inquiry. Sources said that six officials were sentenced to death. Among them were Khalid Mehmood, Senior Technician Karam Din, Technician Nawazish, Niaz and Nasrullah while 24 were arrested and dismissed from service for opposing the policies of then President Pervez Musharraf. The PAF personnel, allegedly found involved in having contacts with terrorists, were given strict punishment.
According to a private television channel, 26 PAF personnel were court martialled for their ‘involvement’ in terrorism. Those arrested were reportedly working in airbases, including Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra, Minhas Airbase, Sargodha Airbase, Lahore Airbase, Faisal Airbase and Mianwali Airbase. Spokesperson for the PAF, Air Commodore Humayun Waqar, said action was taken against the PAF personnel according to law and arrests were made in President Musharraf’s tenure. He said no new arrests have been made adding that several cases have already been decided. The News, June 25, 2009.