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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 14, No. 20, November 16, 2015

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


ASSESSMENT

INDIA
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CHHATTISGARH: Swing of the Pendulum
Mrinal Kanta Das
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

Four Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, including the ‘intelligence chief’ of Bhairamgarh unit of the party, were killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) near Hallur and Hakawa villages under the Mirtur Police Station limits in Bijapur District on November 13, 2015. The Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Bijapur, Indira Kalyan Elesela, disclosed, “Acting on a specific tip-off from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) about the possible major attack planned by Maoists in the region, a joint team of Bijapur District Police force and specially trained District Reserve Guards (DRG) launched the search operation. Close to Hallur, the rebels opened fire on the forces. In the ensuing gun-battle, four Maoists, including the head of intelligence wing of Bhairamgarh unit, identified as Rainu, were killed.” Rainu carried a reward of INR 5,000,00 on his head. Following the hour-long gunfight, the bodies of four Maoists were recovered from the encounter site along with their weapons. “The police found a pistol, two rifles and a 12 bore gun from the spot,” ASP Elesela added.

Earlier, on November 6, 2015, another Maoist was killed in a gun-battle with SFs in Bijapur District. The encounter took place under Basaguda Police Station limits. After the encounter, SFs found the body of the Maoist in uniform, a gun and two pipe bombs.

Further, three Maoists were killed by SFs in Sukma District on November 3. A gun battle ensued when a group of Maoists opened indiscriminate fire on a joint team of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), Special Task Force (STF) and the State's District Reserve Group (DRG), who were conducting anti-Maoist operation in the region. SFs retaliated and the confrontation lasted for around two hours. SFs recovered bodies of the three Maoists along with two rifles from the spot.

These incidents, coming after the killing of Sonadhar, the ‘secretary’ of the CPI-Maoist’s Kanger Valley ‘area committee’ in the Malkangiri District of Odisha on September 19, 2015; the killing of two Maoists in an encounter in Warangal District in Telangana on September 15; and the arrest of seven Maoist explosive suppliers in Chhattisgarh on September 25 – all suggesting better intelligence flows from the Maoists’ ‘core areas’ - give the impression of a steady consolidation of gains by SFs in the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh, the nerve centre of Maoist counter offensive operations.

Nevertheless, trends in fatalities would suggest a measure of caution.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, as of November 15, 2015, Chhattisgarh had recorded a total of a 102 fatalities, including 29 civilians, 40 SF personnel and 33 Maoists in Left Wing Extremist (LWE)-related incidents. A total of 113 fatalities, including 25 civilians, 55 SF personnel and 33 Maoists had been killed in 2014, indicating a ‘shortfall’ of 11 in the current year, with a month and a half to go. While civilian and Maoist fatalities are already comparable, the lower SF fatalities may be deceptive, as the Bastar region remains a very active theatre of conflict. Moreover, the tally of 40 SF personnel killed in Chhattisgarh is enormously disproportionate, as the total all India SF fatality in LWE violence through 2015 stands at 56 till date [all data till November 15, 2015].     

The cyclical pattern of violence in 2015 is significant. In the first bout of killings, the Maoists went on a rampage and killed 10 civilians and 24 SF personnel, and lost six of their own cadres between January and April. SFs intensified their anti-Maoist operations, eliminating 11 Maoists and losing five of their own personnel in June-July 2015, while one civilian was killed by the Maoists. Further, in September and October, eight civilians and five SF personnel were killed by the Maoists, who lost just three of their cadres. Since November 3, however, the Maoists have lost eight of their cadres, and one civilian has been killed by the Maoists.   

Further, the surrender of Sannu Poyam with his wife Maini Majhi, on October 22, 2015, with an AK-47 rifle and other weapons, confirms the trend of Maoist desertions. Sannu was a ‘commander' of ‘platoon 13’ and carried reward of INR 800,000 on his head. Similarly, Maini performed the role of a doctor for the Bhairamgarh Local Guerrilla Squad (LGS) in Bijapur, and carried a reward of INR 100,000. Speaking to the media after his surrender, Sannu asserted that he was ‘hurt’ when a ‘divisional committee member’ of the Bhairamgarh ‘area committee’, Santosh Anna, was hanged to death in front of his own villagers in a Jan Adalat (people’s court) in 2013. Andhra Pradesh Maoists had accused Santosh of supporting surrenders before the Police and ‘sentenced’ him to death.

Earlier, on August 11, 2015, five hardcore Maoists including two women, carrying cash rewards of INR 1.9 million in all, surrendered with weapons before Kanker Superintendent of Police (SP) Jitendra Meena. Maoists cited exploitation of lower rank cadres by senior Maoist leaders of Andhra Pradesh as the reason for surrendering. Meena stated that Juri Gawde alias Basantin surrendered with an INSAS rifle; Ramsai Dugga, 'commander' of platoon number 5 under the ‘North Bastar division’ surrendered with an AK-47; Nilap Usendi alias Milap surrendered with an AK-47; Manki, 'commander' of the East Charagaon Local Organisational Squad (LOS) surrendered with a 12 bore gun; and Juru Salam, 'chief' of a local Jantana Sarkar (People’ Government).

There is growing tension and conflict within Maoist ranks. A recent media report suggested that a key Maoist leader identified as Vinod, who played a crucial role in the 2013 Maoist ambush on the Congress convoy in the Jiram Valley in Bastar District on May 25, 2013, in which 31 people were killed, is believed to have been taken hostage by his colleagues. Vinod, who heads the Kanger Valley ‘area committee’, a CPI-Maoist unit functioning in the Darbha region in the Bastar District, has been kept under 24-hour-vigil by Maoist cadres at a Maoist camp in the forest, when the local Maoist leadership got to know about his apparent bid to surrender before the Police to get medical treatment. Vinod was said to have been grievously wounded in an encounter with SFs at Chandameta in Bastar District on October 8, 2015, but managed to flee the spot with the help of his colleagues. A number of similar incidents of detention of their own cadres by the Maoists have been reported earlier.

The Chhattisgarh Police has also detected and neutralized a Maoist urban support network in July, 2015, with the arrest of five people including a Raipur-based scrap businessman, from separate places. Dantewada SP Kamlochan Kashyap disclosed that, based on intelligence inputs, businessman Arun Agrawal and his accountant Balaram were arrested from Raipur Airport in the night of July 25 when they were trying to flee, while three Maoist cadres were apprehended from Bhansi Police Station limits in Dantewada District: "Agarwal is said to be in close contact with a prominent Maoist of the Western Bastar Division Committee called Commander Sanjay alias Mohan Kadti. He often supplied detonators, explosives, generators, welding machines and other materials to the Maoists."

In response to their perceived organizational weaknesses and inability to contain flows of information, the Maoists have increased IED blasts targeting the SFs in the State. There have already been 29 IED blasts in 2015, as against five in 2014. IEDs have increasingly been planted on footpaths in jungles targeting SF personnel who are moving on foot after being repeatedly targeted with huge IED explosions on motorable roads.

In other recent incidents of violence, the Maoists set ablaze 29 vehicles near the Chargaon mines in Kanker District on October 30, 2015. A group of 60 to 70 Maoists thrashed some drivers and cleaners before setting fire to their vehicles, resulting in injuries to many. The Maoists also set ablaze a passenger bus in the Bhopalpatnam Block of Bijapur District on the same day. No one was hurt in the incident as the Maoists asked the passengers to alight before setting the bus on fire. The Maoists also left pamphlets appealing for a ‘Bhopalpatnam Bandh’ (shutdown strike) in protest against the arrest of Maoist leader Bhima Singh.

The Maoists have suffered stinging reverses, but Bastar is a region where the Maoists had made occasional claims to have entered the ‘mobile warfare’ stage of their revolution. Their surviving capacities in the Bastar Division remain significant, and it would be a mistake to believe that the SFs have made gains that will automatically be held. Indeed, it is only a redoubling of efforts, with enormous administrative initiatives to address enormous welfare and developmental deficits in this area that can ensure a gradual consolidation of the state, and the progressive marginalization of rebel elements.

BANGLADESH
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Dangerous Resurgence
Sanchita Bhattacharya
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On November 5, 2015, amidst a spate of killings by Islamist extremists, intended to silence moderate and secular voices in Bangladesh, Bangladesh President, Abdul Hamid declared that the country has no place for bigotry and militancy, and that the people had always been non-communal and respectful of other religions. Religious intolerance in Bangladesh has, however, seen a sharp spike, manifested in the killing of secular bloggers and the murder of Faisal Arefin Dipan, publisher of Jagriti Prokashani in the current year 2015. Dipan was murdered on October 31, 2015, in Dhaka city.

Extremists and liberals in Bangladesh are currently engaged in a life and death struggle for survival and dominance within a society long buffeted by (often state backed) Islamist extremism. The radical stream has been challenged since the Awami League (AL) secured power in the elections of December 2008, and was again returned to power with an overwhelming majority, in an election boycotted by most of the Opposition, in 2014. Meeting a long-pending demand in the country, Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s AL Government initiated the War Crimes Trials (WCTs) against the offenders of Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War. Most of the accused in these trials had reestablished themselves in the leadership of the radical Islamist formations, and had consolidated their position in electoral politics over the preceding decades, even as they cemented a vast network of institutions – mosques, madrassas and ‘welfare’ organizations – which they had exploited to create a mass base across the country.

The radical leadership has, on the one hand, been decimated, even as the Wajed Government has secured substantial support within the population, particularly articulated in the aspirations of the secular Shahbag Movement and the Gonojagoron Mancha. It is, indeed, the reaction to the unprecedented and combined pressure of the WCTs and the secular-democratic formations that has provoked the ongoing extremist attacks on secular voices.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based organization, at least 27 journalists and freelancers have been killed in Bangladesh since 1992. It said that the motive behind the killings of 19 have been confirmed while eight others remained unconfirmed. The victims whose cases termed as ‘motive confirmed’ include Niloy Neel (Freelance, August 7, 2015), Ananta Bijoy Das (Freelance, May 12, 2015), Washiqur Rahman Babu (Freelance, March 30, 2015), Avijit Roy (Freelance, February 26, 2015), Sadrul Alam Nipul, (Dainik Mathabhanga, May 21, 2014), Ahmed Rajib Haider (Freelance, February 15, 2013), Jamal Uddin (Gramer Kagoj, June 15, 2012), Gautam Das (Samakal, November 17, 2005), Sheikh Belaluddin (Sangram, February 11, 2005), Kamal Hossain (Ajker Kagoj, August 22, 2004), Humayun Kabir Balu (Janmabhumi, June 27, 2004), Manik Saha (New Age, January 15, 2004), Shukur Hossain (Anirban, July 5, 2002), Harunur Rashid (Dainik Purbanchal, March 2, 2002), Nahar Ali (Anirban, April 21, 2001), Shamsur Rahman (Janakantha, July 16, 2000), Mir Illias Hossain Delip (Dainik Bir Darpan, January 15, 2000), Saiful Alam Mukul (Daily Runner, August 30, 1998) and Mohammad Quamruzzaman (Neel Sagar, February 19, 1996).

The victims, where motives behind the killings remained unconfirmed, included Nurul Islam Faruqi (Channel i Television, August 27, 2014), Shah Alam Sagar (Oporadh Domon, March 2, 2014), Meherun Runi (ATN Bangla, February 11, 2012), Golam Mustofa Sarowar (Maasranga Television, February 11, 2012), Diponkar Chakrabarty (Durjoy Bangla, October 2, 2004), Syed Farroque Ahmed (Pubali Barta, August 3, 2002), Ahsan Ali (Freelance, July 20, 2001) and SM Alauddi (Ogrodoot, June 19, 1996).

Earlier, in October 2015, CPJ had criticised Bangladesh in veiw of the killing of bloggers, stating, "...Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the nominally secular Awami League party have done little to speak out for justice in these crimes, allowing political interests to trump rule of law. Authorities seem more concerned with what bloggers are writing than going after their killers".

The re-emergence of Jam'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a group whose entire top leadership had been hanged or jailed, is another cause of extreme concern. JMB had been responsible for a series of coordinated explosions [SAIR: 4.6] across Bangladesh on August 17, 2005, in its attempt to catalyze an Islamist revolution. 459 explosions had occurred in 63 of Bangladesh's 64 Districts (excluding Munshiganj, where devices failed to detonate) killing three and injuring more than 100 people. In an attempt to re-assert itself in Bangladesh, JMB targeted a prison van and freed three of their comrades on February 23, 2014. JMB had also established a network, and wider linkages with like minded organizations, in India and had been plotting Sheikh Hasina’s assassination, among other terrorist actions, at the time of the discovery and dismantling of the Indian network. So far, a total of 25 JMB militants involved in the October 2, 2014, Bardhaman blast in the Indian state of West Bengal have been arrested - 23 in India and two in Dhaka City, Bangladesh. According to the National Investigation Agency’s latest Supplementary Charge sheet, dated July 27, 2015, seven accused in the case are still at large.

On October 17, 2015, Bangladesh Police disclosed that JMB cadres had resorted to target killings, and that, over the preceding two years, JMB killed 13 religious scholars, pirs (revered religious instructors, usually of the Sufi order) and shrine followers across Bangladesh. Moreover, JMB had formed 12 regional groups to carry out attacks. This is despite the enormous losses the organization has suffered over the past decade. According to partial data collated by the Institute for Conflict Management, a total of 627 JMB terrorists have been arrested from across Bangladesh in 295 incidents, since 2005 (data till November 15, 2015).

Sectarian clashes within Islam are also a rising threat. On October 24, 2015, three small bombs were thrown outside the Hossaini Dalan, the main Shia site in the old Mughal quarter of Dhaka, as a result of which two persons were killed and 87 were injured. Describing the incident, Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Police Mofiz Uddin Ahmed stated, “There were some 20,000 people in and outside the building at that time. They were preparing to hold the annual Muharram mourning procession when the three [bombs] were exploded outside the Hossaini Dalan.” The US-based SITE Intelligence Group attributed the incident to the Islamic State (IS), which had claimed responsibility for the bomb attack. Bangladesh authorities are yet to identify the actual perpetrators of the incident.

Meanwhile, on November 1, 2015, the terrorist group Anasarullah Bangla Team (ABT) posted a list of 'targets', including 14 bloggers and writers, who it intends to kill. The list included the names of Taslima Nasrin, presently in USA; Omar Faruk Lux, Farjana Kabir Khan Snigdha and Asif Mohiuddin in Germany; Arifur Rahman and Santanu Adib in UK; Sannasy Ratan aka Samaddar Ratan in Norway; Subrata Shuvo in Norway; Julius Ceaser, Abdul Mamun, Susuptu Pathak and Nirjhar Majumder in Sweden; as well as Kadar Ali and Ajam Khan in Bangladesh. Previously, on October 19, 2015, ABT had warned media organizations against employing female staff in an email bearing the address ansarullahbanglabd@gmail.com, declaring:
Since the Islamic Sharia views working of women outside their homes without purdah as punishable offense their employers are guilty to the same degree. We are urging the media to release their women from their jobs. From now on, our instruction is the law and if you [the media] do not follow the way of Islam, the outcome will be dreadful. The towering building will come crumbling down to the ground and your heads to the feet of the soldiers of Islam.

The letter was sent from the ‘head office, Chittagong, Bangladesh’ by Abdullah Bin Selim, claiming to be the 'publicity coordinator' of ABT.

The traditional political conflict between the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) combine, on the one hand, and the AL, on the other, with the exclusion of the former from legitimate power as a result of their ill-conceived boycott of the 2014 elections, has polarized the situation further. The BNP-JeI combine has sought to project AL as anti-Islam and tyrannical in campaigns that have created fertile ground for international terror groups such as IS and al-Qaida to spread influence among the remnants of indigenous terror formations and radicalized youth in Bangladesh. Indeed, on November 2, 2015, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed accused BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia of launching a secret killing mission to save War Criminals from the ongoing trial. Wajed also claimed, “Awami League leaders, writers, publishers and foreigners are amongst the target of secret killings and they are being killed accordingly.”

Meanwhile, on November 7, 2015, Minister of Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal claimed that ‘some’ of those involved in the killings of bloggers had been identified “and attempts are on to indentify the rest… Charge sheets have been submitted in two cases already and are under process in two more.” In addition, reiterating the denial of IS's existence in the country Sheikh Hasina on November 8 stated, "Many quarters are pressing us to confess the IS existence in Bangladesh to create a situation here like the ones in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. They want to bring Bangladesh in line with those countries and that is the part of their conspiracy. My question is, if they can take an acknowledgement from us of the existence of IS in Bangladesh, what will be the situation of our country? We don't want a situation in Bangladesh like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Libya.”

The Government is also trying to monitor and mitigate the presence of extremist groups in the cyber domain. On November 11, 2015 Sheikh Hasina made an announcement in Parliament that her Government was moving to temporarily block the messaging and calling apps Viber and Whatsapp in an effort to curb militant activities and terrorist attacks inside the country. It is also likely to monitor popular social media like Facebook. She cited how some individuals were conducting criminal activities by misusing these social media apps, “Therefore, I will suspend operation of these apps for some days, when needed, in order to arrest the perpetrators.” A day later, on November 12, 2015, Bangladesh’s State Minister for Post and Telecommunication, Tarana Halim, told Parliament that the process of procuring so-called Internet Safety Solutions was already underway. She pointed out that, once implemented, the system would help in curbing all forms of cyber crimes and also monitor social media platforms, especially Facebook.

Against this backdrop, the World Bank in 2015 raised the status of Bangladesh from a low-income country to a lower middle income country. World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim lauded Bangladesh’s role in empowering women, terming the country a model in women’s progress.

Islamist radicalization and terrorism have long cast a shadow across Bangladesh, but this threat has been relatively contained over the past years. Bangladesh’s developmental profile has also shown dramatic improvement. Nevertheless, the fight against religious bigotry and terrorism is far from over, even as a reserve pool of huge numbers of under-nourished and under-privileged people remains, to be exploited by unscrupulous elements under the guise of radical Islam.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 9-15, 2015

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Assam

0
0
1
1

Jammu and Kashmir

0
0
2
2

Meghalaya

1
0
0
1

Nagaland

0
0
4
4

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Chhattisgarh

1
0
4
5

Odisha

0
0
2
2

Total (INDIA)

2
0
13
15

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

3
1
0
4

FATA

2
0
22
24

Punjab

1
1
0
2

Sindh

1
5
7
13

PAKISTAN (Total)

7
7
29
43
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

People will not allow conspirators to make the country a terrorist state, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed: Renewing her allegation that Khaleda Zia wants to tarnish Bangladesh's image by killing foreigners, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed on November 12 said people will not allow conspirators to make the country a terrorist state. She said "Staying abroad [UK], she [Khaleda] wants to taint the country's image through killing foreigners in Bangladesh in a planned way. They (BNP-Jamaat) want to turn Bangladesh into a terrorist country through unleashing terrorism, militancy and creating Bangla Bhai as they did in the past. People believe in peace, no matter how much conspiracy Khaleda hatches…Bangladesh will become as a peaceful country in South Asia. New Age, November 13, 2015.


INDIA

Infiltration from Pakistan border has drastically declined, states Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar: Infiltration from across the Pakistan border into India has drastically declined in the last one year, Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar said on November 13. "Though infiltration from across the Pakistan border has not totally stopped, it has come down drastically, particularly during the last one year," he at the Defence Staff Services College in the Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu. Times of India, November 14, 2015.

India's Permanent Representative to UN Asoke Kumar Mukerji criticises UN's role in fighting terrorism, says report: In a criticism of the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) role in fighting terrorism, India on November 12 said that the UN's primary body for international security was helpless in making countries enforce its own sanctions and resolutions against terrorists. India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said, "The response of the Council to the threat posed by terrorism, especially in Africa and Asia, has been less than robust." Zee News, November 13, 2015.


NEPAL

Present crisis facing the country would come to an end soon, says Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli speaking at a programme organized by the Reporters' Club in Kathmandu on November 13 said that the present crisis facing the country would come to an end soon. Explaining that the current situation of the nation is really problematic, Oli claimed "The government is effortful to integrate all with flexibility. It is trying to move the nation ahead in a united manner." hindustantimes, November 14, 2015.

Ongoing unrest in Madhes region would not be solved unless parties agreed to review boundaries of federal units, says Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, on November 11 said that the ongoing unrest in the Madhes region would not be solved unless the parties agreed to review boundaries of federal units. He, however, was hopeful that the Government would resume talks with the agitating parties with a concrete proposal on demarcation of the states, immediately after Tihar. The Himalayan Times, November 12, 2015.


PAKISTAN

Army satisfied with security of Nation's nuclear assets: The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on November 13 paid a visit to Pakistan's Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS) and expressed confidence over the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. "Pakistan has taken measures, including setting up of the PCENS, to strengthen its nuclear security," said the COAS. Interacting with officers and troops at the PCENS, the army chief said that nuclear security is a sacred responsibility. Daily Times, November 14, 2015.


SRI LANKA

Northern Province stages complete shutdown to protest Government's failure to release Tamil prisoners detained under PTA: Northern Province staged a complete shutdown on November 13 to protest the Government's failure to release the Tamil prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Shops and businesses in Jaffna and Vavuniya Districts remained closed in support of the detainees who have been on a hunger strike demanding their release. The streets remained deserted in the busy Jaffna town while the public transport was at a standstill. Colombo Page, November 14, 2015.


The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

Publisher
K. P. S. Gill

Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni


A Project of the
Institute For Conflict Management



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