INDIA
PAKISTAN
NEPAL
BHUTAN
BANGLADESH
SRI LANKA
Terrorism Update
Latest
S.A.Overview
Publication
Show/Hide Search
HomePrint
 
  Click to Enlarge
   

SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 39, March 27, 2017

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


BANGLADESH
Click for PrintPrint

Lingering Darkness
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On March 25, 2017, six people, including two Policemen, were killed and 43 were injured in two powerful bomb explosions in Sylhet city of Sylhet District.

On March 24, 2017, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the Shahjalal International Airport intersection in the capital, Dhaka. As the intersection is some distance from the airport security area, only the attacker was killed and there was no other casualty. Two hours after the incident, Islamic State (IS, formerly, Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, also Daesh) took credit for the attack through its Arabic Amaq News.

On March 17, 2017, a suspected suicide bomber sneaked into a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) barrack and blew himself up in the Ashkona area of Dhaka city. Two RAB personnel suffered splinter injuries in the attack. According to reports, Daesh claimed credit for the attack.

On March 7, 2017, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorists attacked a Police team during a routine check of a bus on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway in Comilla District. Two attackers Jasim (20) and Hasan (20) were arrested. Four crude bombs and a sharp knife were recovered from their possession.

On March 6, 2017, two crude bombs were hurled at a prison van carrying Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) chief Mufti Hannan and some of his associates at Tongi towns in Gazipur District. The bombs went off on the road missing the target. Police escorting the prison van arrested two suspects from the spot and recovered a bag containing two petrol bombs, two stun grenades, two crude bombs and two machetes.

On February 28, 2017, two Policemen were injured as JMB militants stabbed them in Bujruk Rajarampur village of Rajshahi District. Police arrested one suspected attacker Aminul Islam from the spot.

Despite major Government successes against Islamist groups in Bangladesh, such attacks have persisted. There have been several operations launched against extremists in the recent past, including:

On March 26, 2017, two militants were killed in an Army-led operation codenamed ‘Operation Twilight’, inside a terror den at Atia Mahal in Sylhet city.

On March 16, 2017, five persons, including a toddler, were killed in a Police raid on a Neo-JMB den at a two-storey building at Sitakunda in Chittagong District. Police recovered 10 bombs, three suicide vests and explosive substances adequate to make 40 to 50 powerful bombs.

On March 16, 2017, Tajul Islam Mahmud aka Mama Hujur (46), a ‘regional commander’ of HuJI-B, was killed during a gunfight with the Police in the Kuti Chowmuhani area of Brahmanbaria District. Three Policemen were also injured in the incident. Police recovered 25 improvised bombs, five pipe guns, four bullets and five locally made sharp weapons on site.

On March 2, 2017, Aminur Islam aka Alam (23), the ‘military chief’ of Neo-JMB’s Rajshahi Divisional unit, was killed in a gunfight with the Police at Jamnagar village in the Bogra District. Police recovered a pistol, three rounds of bullets and two magazines from him.

On February 14, 2017, Abu Musa alias Abujar alias Abu Talha alias Robin alias Samiul (32), a ‘regional coordinator’ of JMB was killed in a gunfight with Police at Kahalu in Bogra District. Police recovered a pistol, three bullets and several sharp weapons after the encounter.

On January 6, 2017, two Neo-JMB leaders – Nurul Islam Marzan, who coordinated the Gulshan cafe attack, and Saddam Hossain aka Rahul, who led Neo-JMB activities in the Northern Region – were killed in a gunfight with the Police in Dhaka city. Police recovered a pistol, three bullets and a knife from them.

Since the beginning of 2017, according to partial data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 14 Islamist terrorists have been killed and another 311 arrested across Bangladesh. Prominent among those arrested were JMB ‘regional commanders’ Fazlur Rahman Taher aka Raj (23) and Mostafizur Rahman Shahin (41); Neo-JMB ‘IT chief’ Ashfaq-e-Azam Apel; and Neo-JMB ‘spiritual leader’ Maulana Abul Kashem (data till March 26, 2017).

Claiming significant transformations that her Government had engineered, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed declared, on February 28, 2017, "Huge mass awareness has been created against militancy and terrorism due to the Government's ongoing campaign against these social menaces." Further, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal reiterated, on March 7, 2017, that the ‘militancy problem’ remained under control as a result of continuing people-police joint efforts, adding, "We are determined to free the country from the curse of militancy and terrorism."

Continuing these efforts, the Government banned Ansar al-Islam (Defenders of Islam), the Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), on March 5, 2017, as its activities constituted a threat to public security. The ban circular observed that the militant organization’s activities went against peace and order in the country. The radical group was earlier known as Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT, Volunteer of Allah Bangla Team), which was banned on May 25, 2015, for the killing of several secular writers, bloggers and online and gay rights activists critical of religious bigotry. Ansar al-Islam is the seventh extremist formation, whose activities have so far been banned in Bangladesh. The six other groups already banned are JMB, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), HUJI-B, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, ABT and Shahadat-e-Al Hikma. Three other extremist outfits – Dawat-e-Islam, Allar Dal and Harkat-e-Islam Al Jihad – are also reportedly under scrutiny of the Home Ministry for a possible ban.

On March 9, 2017, Police officials asserted that the prison van attack in Gazipur District on March 6 and the attack on a Police team during a routine check of a bus in Comilla District on March 7 indicated that Neo-JMB was reforming outside Dhaka city. Separately, Chittagong Range Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Mohamad Shafiqul Islam stated, on March 16, 2017, “Neo-JMB might be planning to attack foreigners who are employed in development projects in Chittagong region. Besides, they had plans to carry out attacks on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.” An official of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit added, on March 17, 2017, “Neo-JMB militants have built their hideouts in Cox's Bazar, Bandarban and Rangamati Districts, apart from Chittagong District. The militants have set up dens in those areas as it would help their safe movement through the sea. A plan to recruit Rohingyas could be another reason.”

Another disturbing trend in Bangladesh is the uptick in the participation of female jihadists, as Humayun Kabir, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Crime Management at Police Headquarters remarked, on March 22, 2017, “Militants now cannot carry out their activities in an organized way as they’ve got scattered due to repeated crackdowns by Police and RAB. So, they’re now desperate and preferring to conduct suicide attacks. As they’re getting alienated from their own groups, the militants are now trying to motivate their family members to indulge in militant activities.” The Bangladeshi authorities discovered the first female unit in the Neo-JMB on July 21, 2016, after the arrest of Neo-JMB ‘commander for the southern region’ Mahmudul Hassan Tanvir. On July 24, 2016, Police arrested four militants of the JMB female wing from a house in the Mohalla area of Sirajganj District. Similarly, RAB arrested four female JMB militants, including the ‘adviser’ of its women’s unit, from Dhaka city on August 15, 2016. Another four female members of JMB’s ‘suicide squad’ were arrested at Boroitola village in Sirajganj District on September 5, 2016. Significantly, Bangladesh recorded its first female suicide bombing during a Police raid on a JMB den at Ashkona in Dhaka city on December 24, 2016. Further, on March 16, 2017, another female suicide bombing occurred in a Police raid on a Neo-JMB den at a two-storey building at Sitakunda in Chittagong District.

Calling upon people to extend their support to the Government to build Bangladesh as a peaceful nation, Prime Minister Hasina stated, on March 17, 2017, that the people's united efforts can enable the nation to combat militancy and terrorism. Reiterating the Government's tough stance, Hasina warned, on March 18, 2017, "There will be no place for militancy and terrorism on Bangladesh soil... the stern stance that we've taken against it will continue. You have to remain vigillant so that no one of your children can get involved in militancy and terrorism."

Separately, Inspector General of Police (IGP) A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque announced, on March 18, 2017, “We have already identified masterminds of extremists and their networks alongside the Neo-JMB. The law enforcement agencies are working to arrest militants and their close associates. The government under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is determined to root out terrorism and extremism from the country alongside preventing other crimes with sincere efforts.”

Sheikh Hasina’s unrelenting response to Islamist groups has been remarkable, and Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies have neutralized a number of hardcore terrorists. Nevertheless, significant risks persist, as the terrorist groups continue to attack law enforcement agencies and personnel. Moreover, the weapons and resources recovered during recent raids suggest that there are significant flows of resources to these groups. The involvement of women as combatants can also have grave implications, as most women in societies like Bangladesh depend on informal sources and traditional institutions like madrassas for guidance and religious knowledge. Bangladesh has taken giant strides against terrorism and Islamist extremism, but the struggle is far from over.

INDIA
Click for PrintPrint

Nagaland: Encouraging but Fragile
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

In his address to the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) cadres at Camp Hebron on March 21, 2017, the group’s ‘headquarters’, on the outfit’s 38th ‘Republic Day’, ‘general secretary’ Thuingaleng Muivah declared, “NSCN had consultative meetings with the people on talks consecutively for eight times. The historic Framework Agreement recognizes the unique history, identity, sovereignty and territories of the Nagas. It also recognizes the legitimate right of the Nagas to integration of all Naga territories.”  The Framework Agreement was signed on August 3, 2015.

However, on February 23, 2017, central government’s interlocutor for Naga Talks and Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Chairman R.N. Ravi observed, ‘“The framework agreement is less-than-one-page document; it tells about broad parameters within which the final settlement will be worked out. So it’s the principles within which we will work out the settlement. It does not mention anything about Manipur or any State; it does not compromise the territorial integrity of Manipur.” On the question of secrecy, he added, “A framework agreement is not the final agreement and you do not serve half-cooked meal. We believe it is not in the larger interest to release the details now. But I have explained it to all the stakeholders by and large by going and meeting with them on what it contains. An incomplete agreement can create issues”.

Despite these continuing ambiguities and different interpretations of the ‘historic accord’, there was a further consolidation of peace in Nagaland through 2016. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the State accounted for a total of six insurgency-linked fatalities, including four civilians [none of which could be clearly linked to any specific militant formation] and two militants, through 2016, as against 46 fatalities, including 14 civilians, nine Security Force (SF) personnel and 23 militants, in 2015, reflecting a drop of 87 per cent in total fatalities. 

In terms of civilian fatalities, year 2016 was the most peaceful since 2010, when the State had not recorded a single fatality in this category. Before that, it was way back in 2003 fewer civilian fatalities (three) than in 2016 were recorded.  

Significantly, there was no fatality among SFs through 2016, thus reestablishing the trend of zero fatalities in this category secured since 2009, with an aberrant 2015, when nine SF personnel were killed, the highest recorded in the State since 1998, when there were 14 SF fatalities. The number of militant fatalities also dropped considerably from 23 in 2015 to just two in 2016. The spike recoded in SF and militant fatalities in 2015 was primarily due to the unilateral abrogation of the cease-fire arrangement by the Khaplang faction of the NSCN (NSCN-K) on March 27, 2015. The ceasefire agreement with NSCN-K had been signed on April 28, 2001. NSCN-K was linked to 33 out of the total of 46 insurgency-related fatalities in Nagaland in 2015.

There has also been a considerable improvement in terms of the geographic dispersal of violence. In 2016, fatalities were recorded in only three Districts – Dimapur (3), Tuensang (2) and Wokha (1). In 2015, killings had been reported from eight Districts – Tuensang (14), Mon (11), Dimapur (7), Zunheboto (5), Phek (4), Kohima (2), Mokokchung (2) and Wokha (1). Nagaland has a total of 11 Districts.

Only two incidents of explosion, resulting in injuries to six persons, were recorded in 2016; as against six such incidents registered in 2015, which had resulted in one fatality and 10 persons injured.

Even internecine clashes between Naga outfits have registered a decline, both within and beyond the territorial limits of the State. According to SATP data, no fratricidal killing involving Naga groups was recorded inside Nagaland in 2016, as against six such incidents in 2015 resulting in four deaths and one person injured. Further, in 2016, two incidents of Naga group clashes, resulting in one death and one injury, were recorded outside the State, as against nine such incidents resulting in 11 deaths and six persons injured in 2015.

The state recorded six incidents of abduction in which six persons were abducted through 2016, as against 11 such incidents in which 15 persons were abducted in 2015. On October 2, 2016, a driver of a Manipur bound truck was abducted and was kept at an unspecified place near the New Secretariat area of Kohima. The abductors later demanded a ransom of INR 1 million for his safe release. On receipt of the information, Police launched a search and rescue operation and secured the release of the victim. During the operation police arrested one of the three abductors, ‘lieutenant’ Kewepe Wetsah (30), of the ‘Federal Government of Nagaland’ (FGN), while the other two managed to escape

However, reported incidents of extortion increased from 24 in 2015 to 31 in 2016 (both abduction and extortion tend to be under-reported, so the actual incidence may be higher). Worried by the rising incidents of extortion, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case titled “Extortion and unlawful collection by NSCN-K from individuals and organizations” on September 18, 2016, with a summary allegation: “Large scale extortion and unlawful tax collection on behalf of the banned organisation NSCN-K from the individual and organisations etc , by the cadres of NSCN-K in Dimapur and Kohima areas with the directions from self-styled brigadier Isac Sumi of NSCN-K and other leaders. The cadre namely – S. Khetoshe Sumi arrested on 31-07-2016, along with many unlawful documents related to extortion, tax collection and war like stores and drugs etc.”

Though the level of extortion prevalent in the state remains worrisome there is significant improvement in the overall security situation after the reversal of the trend witnessed in 2015. This has been possible principally due to the pressure created by SFs against NSCN-K in its strongholds, both within and beyond the State. News reports indicate that Special Forces from the Indian Army were involved in operations against NSCN-K militants along the Indo-Myanmar border. In one such incident, SFs launched an operation on August 19, 2016, targeting a NSCN-K camp located close to the International border (border pillar 151) in the vicinity of Chen Moho village in the Mon District of Nagaland. “The raid was part of many operations intended to maintain pressure on the NSCN-K,” an unnamed senior Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) official disclosed, adding, “These operations have been ongoing, and will continue.”

SFs also arrested 142 militants in 86 incidents through 2016 in addition to 171 such arrests in 92 incidents through 2015. Those arrested in 2016 included 32 militants of NSCN-K; 25 cadres of the Kitovi-Neokpao faction [earlier known as Khole-Kitovi] of NSCN (NSCN-KN); 19 from NSCN-IM; 16 from the Reformation faction of NSCN (NSCN-R); 11 from the Non-Accordist faction of the Naga National Council (NNC-NA); five each from the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) and the People’s Revolutionary Army of Kangleipak (PREPAK); two from the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP); and one militant each from the ‘Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland (GPRN/NSCN), Naga National Council (NNC), Dima Halam Daogah-Dilip Nunisa faction (DHD-N), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), Tiwa Liberation Army (TLA)-1, I.K. Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS) and Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF). The Group identity of 20 militants remained unspecified. Top arrests made during 2016 included 'finance secretary' of the NSCN-K, identified as Max Asukomi, and the ‘defense secretary’ of NSCN-K, identified as Kughato Chishi.

A lasting peace continues to evade Nagaland primarily due to the failure of the Governments, both at the Central and the State level, to reach to a final understanding, principally as a result of the proliferation of competent Naga armed factions and the issue of the ‘integration’ of Naga areas across State boundaries. While the Framework Agreement holds out the promise of a settlement with the most powerful of these factions, NSCN-IM, it has exacerbated difficulties with the others. Crucially, imminent changes in the NSCN-IM leadership – Isak Chisi Swu, the other signatory to the Framework Agreement died on June 28, 2016, and Muivah, at 83, is also in poor health – may alter, if not disrupt, the talks process. The gains in Nagaland have, no doubt, been dramatic; but they remain fragile.

 


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 20-26, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

4
2
3
9

BANGLADESH (Total)

4
2
3
9

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
0
2
2

Left-Wing Extremism

Chhattisgarh

0
1
1
2

Jharkhand

1
0
3
4

Odisha

1
0
0
1

INDIA (Total)

2
1
6
9

PAKISTAN

 

FATA

0
4
5
9

PAKISTAN (Total)

0
4
5
9
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Six persons killed in Sylhet bomb explosions: On March 25, at least six persons, including two Police personnel, were killed in bomb explosions in Sylhet city of Sylhet District. Of the deceased, four were civilians. Police suspected one of them was the attacker. The Police official said many were injured in the explosions. New Age, March 26, 2017.

Terrorism and militancy are global problems, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina: Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina on March 22 said that terrorism and militancy are global problems. The PM said “Now the problems are terrorism and militancy, these are not the problems in our country alone. It’s there in various Islamic countries across the globe as well.” Wondering how brilliant, educated and rich people can indulge in fanaticism, she urged the vice-chancellors and teachers, present at the programme, to keep watch on their students what they are doing, where they are going and why students remain absent in their classes for a long time. The Independent, March 23, 2017.


INDIA

88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016, says Central Government: A total of 88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016, the highest in last six years and the infiltration almost tripled in 2016 as compared to 2015, said Central Government on March 21. In written replies to two separate questions in Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament), Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir shared data about Kashmiri youths taking up arms, infiltration attempts and law and order situation in the Valley. The data shows a steady increase in the number of youths taking up arms in the Valley from 2014 onwards as compared to ones between 2010 and 2013. It, however, said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has “improved to a large extent” in the current year. Daily Excelsior , March 22, 2017.

Terrorist violence in J&K has declined after surgical strikes, says Union Government: Terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir has declined in the aftermath of surgical strikes executed by the Army in September 2016, the Union Government said in Parliament on March 22. According to statistics furnished by the Government in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament), terrorist incidents fell to 87 between October 1 and December 31, 2016, from 110 between July 1 and September 30, 2016. Times of India, March 23, 2017.

150 per cent jump in killing of Naxals in 2016, informs Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir: Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, informed the Lok Sabha in New Delhi (lower house of parliament) that 150 per cent jump has been witnessed in the number of Naxals [Left Wing Extremists (LWEs)] killed, it is 222 in 2016 in comparison to 89 in 2015, on March 21. The Minister said the Government has approved the 'Road Connectivity Project for LWE Affected Areas' that includes construction/ upgradation of 5,411.81 kilometer  roads and 126 bridges/cross drainage in 44 Districts of nine LWE affected states at an estimated cost of INR 117.24 billion. He also added, "There is no proposal under consideration to exclude 20 districts from the list of 106 LWE affected Districts.” Business Standard, March 22, 2017.

Framework deal recognizes Naga integration, says NSCN-IM 'general secretary' Thuingaleng Muivah: Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) ‘general secretary’ Thuingaleng Muivah on March 21 said that the Framework Agreement signed with the Centre two years ago recognizes NSCN-IM’s demand for territorial integration of all Naga- inhabited areas in the region. “NSCN had consultative meetings with the people on talks consecutively for eight times. The historic Framework Agreement recognizes the unique history, identity, sovereignty and territories of the Nagas. The Sangai Express, March 24, 2017.

Surrendered militants without criminal cases can contest polls, says MoS Home Kiren Rijiju: The Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs on March 22 clarified that surrendered militants without any criminal cases pending against them can contest in elections. Kiren Rijiju on the issue further informed that at least 15,314 militants have surrendered under the surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy for the northeastern region. Altogether, 235 individuals are still undergoing rehabilitation under the Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation Scheme as of financial year 2016-17. Assam Tribune, March 23, 2017.


PAKISTAN

66 per cent decline in violence-related incidents since 2014, says CRSS annual security report: Violence-related incidents declined in 2016 as compared to the year before, and casualties from violence were half the number of casualties in 2015, the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) annual security report said. Released on March 21, the report recorded a 66 per cent fall in violence-related incidents since 2014, but noted that terrorist groups have changed their strategy for suicide attacks and instead of sending in one suicide bomber to a location, sent two. It said militants, facing military operations and law enforcement, had begun to flee the county and had devised new strategies. Dawn, March 23, 2017.

Pakistan hosts Afghan Taliban leaders to peace talks: Pakistani officials have hosted seven Taliban leaders in Islamabad to try and press them into peace talks ahead of a multination meeting in April in Moscow, two Taliban officials said under the condition of anonymity. The two officials, who were familiar with the Islamabad meeting, spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals by Pakistani authorities who have not confirmed the meeting. The Two Taliban officials said the militant leaders used the Islamabad gathering, which took place last week, to press their own demands, including that Pakistan free Taliban figures from its jails. Dawn, March 24, 2017.

IS recruiting in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, says US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson: The United States (US) Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on March 22 warned that the militant Islamic State (IS) group wants to recruit young people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq and has stepped up its efforts in those places. Tillerson also hinted at establishing a safe zone in the Middle East for sheltering Syrian refugees. Dawn, March 24, 2017.


SRI LANKA

UNHRC adopts consensus resolution on Sri Lanka giving two more years to fulfill commitments for reconciliation and transnational justice: United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 23 without a vote adopted the consensus resolution on Sri Lanka giving two more years beyond 2017 to fulfill its commitments for reconciliation and transnational justice. The resolution 34/1, welcoming the steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to implement resolution 30/1, and recognizing in this context the need for further significant progress, requests the Government of Sri Lanka to implement fully the measures identified by the Council in its resolution 30/1