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. 40, April 3, 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


PAKISTAN
Click for PrintPrint

Kurram Agency: Sectarian Bloodshed
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least 24 persons were killed and another 100 injured in a suicide attack on an Imambargah (Shia place of worship) in the Noor market area of Parachinar town in the Kurram Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on March 31, 2017. The explosion took place as people gathered for Friday prayers near the women´s entrance of Imambargah. A witness stated that security personnel at the Imambargah were checking devotees when an unidentified person parked a car next to the building, which then exploded. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction Jama’at-ul-Ahrar (JuA) claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack was part of TTP’s "Operation Ghazi" and Shias were the targets, according to the outfit’s statement to the media. 

On January 21, 2017, 25 persons were killed and more than 87 injured in a bomb explosion at the Sabzi Mandi (vegetable market) area, again in Parachinar town, in the morning when the market was crowded with retailers buying fruits and vegetables. In a text message sent to journalists, the al-Alami (International) faction of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed that it, along with the TTP splinter Shehryar Mehsud group, had carried out the attack. In a separate statement, the spokesman for the TTP, Mohammad Khurassani, declared, “A well-trained fighter, Saifullah alias Bilal, carried out a suicide attack in Parachinar… Saifullah attacked headquarters of enemies of Islam who are involved in extrajudicial killing of our suppressed associates. He avenged murders of Malik Ishaq, Noor ul Amin, Asif Chhoto and many other associates, who were killed in fake police encounters.”

Earlier, on December 13, 2015, a similar blast in a makeshift market in Parachinar had killed 25 people and injured 62. Two militant groups, LeJ Al-Alami and Ansarul Mujahideen (based in South Waziristan Agency) claimed responsibility for the attack, with one of them saying the target was the Shia community. A statement released to a foreign media channel and attributed to the spokesman for the Jhangvi group, Ali bin Sufian, declared that the attack had been carried out against the Shia elements who were supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian government, adding, “We warn ... parents that if they don’t stop their children from ongoing (sic) conflict in Syria they should remain prepared for more such attacks.”

Complicating issues, the Federal Government put an unknown group named ‘Ansar-ul-Hussain’ on the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) ban list of terrorist outfit on December 30, 2016, for its alleged involvement in recruiting Shia youth from Kurram and adjacent areas to fight the Islamic State (IS, also Daesh). However, NACTA officials declined to comment Ansar-ul-Hussain’s involvement in any specific activities or on the reasons behind its proscription. Muhammad Aamir Rana, a security analyst and director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) claimed that Ansar-ul-Hussain was not involved in any terrorist activities in Pakistan, but a group of some people with this name was working in areas of Parachinar as well as the Orakzai Agency of FATA and the Kohat District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), to recruit Shia youth to fight Daesh.

The Kurram Agency, long known for sectarian violence, has seen a definite decline in such incidents in recent years, However, Shia dominated Parachinar in the Upper Kurram Agency remains a principal target for Sunni sectarian terrorist formations. Kurram comprises three sub-divisions: Upper, Central and Lower Kurram. Some 58 per cent of its population is Sunni, and 42 per cent Shia (according to the 1998 Census). The majority of Shias live in Upper Kurram, while Sunnis dominate Lower and Central Kurram. The present cycle of escalation started when three people were killed and 13 were injured in an attack on a Shia Imambargah in the morning of April 6, 2007. Clashes in Kurram from November 2007 to 2010 had left over 3,000 people dead, while thousands of families were forced to flee their homes.

Unlike other tribal agencies of FATA, the dynamics in Kurram are different because of the sectarian divide and the geo-strategic location of the Agency. Kurram is surrounded by Afghanistan from three sides and has remained in turmoil since 1980, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Thrust into Afghanistan on three sides, the Kurram Agency has always been of critical importance for Pakistan. It shares the major portion of its borders with the troubled Logar, Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar Provinces of Afghanistan. The al Qaeda and Taliban infested Tora Bora Mountain range in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan shares its boundaries with the Kurram Agency. In the north-east, Kurram abuts the Khyber Agency; the the Orakzai Agency lies to its east; the Hangu District of KP is on its south-east; and the North Waziristan Agency lies south. The Kurram Agency connects the tribal areas of Pakistan to Afghanistan through lower, central and upper Kurram. Crucially, the Thal-Parachinar route is the shortest route to Kabul.

Apart from the recent suicide attacks, the broad trend of decline in sectarian incidents has given some relief to locals. This has, however, come at the cost of a simultaneous increase in terrorist and militant activities from across the Afghan border. While the security situation has witnessed remarkable improvements, particularly after Army operations in North Waziristan, Orakzai and Kurram’s adjacent areas of KP, the presence of TTP and IS on the abutting Afghan territory have created new threats for the Kurram Agency. Member of National Assembly (MNA) Sajid Hussain Turi thus observed that the people did not feel safe from the Afghanistan side, as border posts were being attacked from Afghan territory. For instance, on April 2, 2017, four missiles were fired from across the Pak-Afghan border into Kurram Agency. A spokesperson of the local administration stated that the missiles were fired from Afghanistan's Paktia province, and panicked the locals, though there was no loss of life. Terrorist attacks from across the border are a regular phenomenon, and some of the major incidents include:

February 19, 2017: Eleven terrorists allegedly attempting to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan were killed in a clash with SFs in the Sapperkot and Para Chamkani area of Kurram Agency. Two Kurram militia members were also injured in the gun battle between SFs and the terrorists.

October 14, 2016: Two persons including a soldier sustained injuries in a suicide attack on a border crossing at Kharlachi in Kurram Agency. The suicide bomber was trying to enter Pakistan from the Paktia province of Afghanistan through the border crossing. 

April 7, 2016: 18 terrorists were killed in a cross border attack on a SF checkpost in the Mangora Sar area on the Pak-Afghan border in Kurram Agency.  

Due to the persistent threat from Afghanistan, local authorities have asked villagers residing along the border to set up posts on the hilltops and to keep vigil during the night to prevent any attack from the Paktia and Khost Provinces. On April 3, 2016, the Assistant Political Agent and the Commandant of the Kurram Militia met elders of the Turi, Bangash and Mangal tribes near Parachinar, to mobilise the tribal people against the threat. An elder from Borki disclosed, “Officials say that IS and TTP’s fighters were involved in attacks on the security posts. People are not only keeping vigil during night, but elders of Borki and Kherlachi have also provided four heavy machineguns and ammunition to the paramilitary forces as a gesture of support.”

However, after some months, the Government launched a deweaopnisation campaign in Kurram Agency on December 27, 2016, asking the local tribal people to hand over weapons to the administration. Local Brigade Commander Brigadier Malak Amir Mohammad Khan asked tribal elders at a jirga in Parachinar to voluntarily surrender their “heavy weapons” to the political administration within 45 days, otherwise strict action against violators of order would be taken. Brigadier Khan added, “All the tribal areas had been cleansed of terrorists and compliance of law is the collective responsibility of every citizen.”

Tribal elders in Parachinar, however, remained apprehensive, as the recent history of violence against the tribes and the fragile security situation in Afghanistan continued to threaten security in the Agency. MNA Sajid Hussain Turi thus observed, “The so-called Islamic State has headquarters in our backyard (Nangarhar). Disarming Turi and Bangash tribes in upper and lower parts of Kurram is very inappropriate. Any action against tribes at this moment will create problems.” On February 7, 2017, hundreds of pamphlets containing threats were allegedly distributed by Daesh in the Kurram Agency on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line, threatening attacks in specific tribal areas. The Daesh pamphlet declared, in the local language, Pashto, "We have achieved our goals in Afghanistan and are now ready to confront Shia renouncers in Pakistan's tribal areas."

Haji Faqir Hussain, secretary of the Anjuman-e-Hussainia, the central representative body of various Shia tribes in Kurram, noted that the indifferent policies of successive Governments over the past decades had forced the local population to secure themselves against hostile elements within and outside the Valley: “The administration can’t guarantee our safety, keeping in view the harsh realities of recent past. Disarming people at this moment is tantamount to tying their hands and feet.”  

As a result of the recent surge in terrorist incidents across the country, there has been a step up in the security arrangements in sensitive areas of the Kurram Agency as well. Security personnel in large numbers have been deputed at the Government Offices, Mosques, Imambargahs, big shopping markets, hospitals, and bus stands, to avoid the possibility of any mishap. Troops have been deployed at all the exit and entry points, including Parachinar, the headquarters of the Agency, Sadda and Alizai, and barricades have been erected at sensitive places in the Agency for checking. A majority of roads leading to Government offices in the Agency have been sealed. Despite the high security alert, the terrorists have succeeded in executing attacks, putting a question mark against the Government’s claims of having tamed terrorism in the tribal areas.

INDIA
Click for PrintPrint

Tripura: Residual Friction
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

In their “eviction notice” sent on January 2, 2017, to media, the Biswamohan Debbarma faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT-BM), along with Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the People’s Democratic Council of Karbi-Longri (PDCK), set March 31, 2017, as their deadline for Bengalis and Hindi speakers to quit Tripura, parts of Assam and West Bengal. The notice declared, “We strongly oppose heinous killings by Indian Army and rehabilitation programme for Bangladeshi Bengalis…. We hereby would like to notify Indian citizens (Bengali and Hindi speaking people) to quit Kamatapur (consisting parts of Assam and West Bengal), Karbi-Longri (Karbi Anglong Hill District in Assam), and Tripura.” The notice was signed by KLO ‘chairman’ Jiban Singh Koch, NLFT-BM ‘organising secretary’ Sengphul Borok and PDCK ‘chairman’ J.K. Lijang. The trio is reported to be associated with the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWESEA), a consortium of Northeast militant groups mentored by the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) and the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I).

These threats notwithstanding, Tripura (along with Mizoram) remained the most peaceful State in the entire Northeastern region of India, in terms of insurgency-related fatalities. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there were no such fatalities in 2016, a trend largely consistent since 2013; though 2014 was an exception with four fatalities [two civilians and two Security Force (SF) personnel]. At peak, 514 such fatalities were recorded in 2000, including 453 civilians, 16 SF personnel and 45 militants. The Northeast region as a whole registered 160 fatalities, including 61 civilians, 17 SF personals and 82 militants, in 2016.

Other indices also confirm that there was further consolidation of normalcy through 2016. Thus, according to SATP data, no extortion or abduction incident was recorded through 2016. Five persons had been abducted in three incidents in 2015.

As militant activities declined on ground, no incident of arrest was reported through 2016. Nine militants had been arrested in 2015.

Meanwhile, mounting pressure by SFs led to a spike in the surrender of militants in the State. 27 militants, all from NLFT-BM, surrendered in 2016, as compared to seven militants (also from NLFT-BM) in 2015. In one major incident, 12 NLFT-BM cadres accompanied by 19 family members, including eight children, surrendered to the Tripura Police along with their arms and ammunition on April 11, 2016.

Moreover, the border management infrastructure is being made robust in order to stop the ingress and outflow of militants and illegal immigrants. In this regard, UMHA Joint Secretary (Border Management)  Susheel Kumar, during his visit to the State, on June 24, 2016, disclosed, "By December next year (2017), Tripura's 856 kilometers border with Bangladesh will be completely fenced." He stated that fencing along 775.26 kilometers had already been completed, while 63.43 kilometers was presently being fenced. Fencing along the remaining 17.31 kilometers “has to be created on the zero line for which permission from the Bangladesh government is required" and “all disputes would be resolved to mutual satisfaction and the work completed by December 2017.”

Insurgency is under definite control. But there are lingering threats. On January 4, 2017, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar observed, “Till a few years back the problems created by the militants has come down but still there is no room for self-complacency because we are aware that still across the border in Bangladesh a section of Tripura militants have its camp (sic). They may not be in huge number but are adequately powerful to harm us."

There are also several issues which have the potential to derail the progress towards further normalization.

One of these issues relates to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) along with two other tribal parties, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and National Conference of Tripura (NCT), formed a joint forum named the All Tripura Indigenous Regional Parties Forum (ATIRPFP) on January 15, 2017, to oppose the Bill. Announcing the formation of the joint forum, ‘convener’ N.C. Debbarma stated, “Three indigenous political parties have formed the forum to safeguard and protect the interests of the tribals in the State, who form one third of the population. We are of the clear opinion that the Bill is detrimental to the interest of the indigenous people... Bangladeshi migrants through this proposed law would be settled in eastern and northeastern India depriving the original people of the region of basic rights.” The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha (lower House of Parliament) on July 19, 2016, and now under the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee, seeks to enable Hindus, apart from Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or those whose valid documents have expired in recent years, to acquire Indian citizenship through the process of naturalization. In a clear demonstration that this issue is potentially dangerous for the prevailing peace in the State, during a 12-hour bandh (shutdown) called by ATIRPFP in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) region on February 8, 2017, at least 50 persons were injured in sporadic clashes.

Another such issue is the demand for separate tribal Tipraland State by the IPFT.  Indeed, on August 23, 2016, at least 20 people were injured and 15 vehicles were set ablaze in State capital Agartala, in ethnic clashes between indigenous tribals and Bengalis, after a rally organized by IPFT to mark its eighth ‘Tipraland’ Statehood Demand Day.

Meanwhile, the third round of tripartite peace talks scheduled for July 7, 2016, and involving State Government, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) and NLFT-BM, the lone active insurgent group in the State, could not take place. According to reports, Biswamohan Debbarma’s presence during the talks had been sought by the State Government and the matter had been communicated to the UMHA officials engaged in the talks with three representatives of NLFT-BM – ‘foreign secretary’ Utpal Debbarma, and ‘commanders’ Suron Debbarma and Tapan Koloi. As the outfit failed to commit to Debbarma's participation in the talks, the process stalled. In 2015, two rounds of peace talks were held with NLFT-BM. During the 2nd round, NLFT-BM delegates requested the presence of former militant leader and INPT ‘president’ Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawal in the peace talks. According to an unnamed senior Police official, privy to the matter, "the State Government officers and representatives of the Home Ministry did not agree to it and instead enquired about Biswamohan Debbarma. The NLFT [BM] delegates could not give any satisfactory reply."

The All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), which was the only other Tripura based active group earlier, is now largely defunct. Its ‘chairman’ Ranjit Debbarma, on May 18, 2016, had expressed his willingness to bring his one time rival group, NLFT-BM, to the negotiating table. No incident linked to ATTF was reported in 2016.

Another outstanding issue is the repatriation of displaced Bru (Reang) refugees housed in seven camps in Kanchanpur (North Tripura District) to Mizoram, which has not made much progress and has, in fact, reached a standstill. On February 21, 2017, the umbrella organisation of displaced Brus, the Mizoram Bru Displace People's Forum (MBDPF), stated that the Bru refugees had decided not to return to Mizoram as the Mizoram Government has ‘refused’ to meet their demands. The MBDPF said that a public meeting was held at all the seven relief camps on February 14 and 15, 2017, in which the refugees expressed their unwillingness to return to Mizoram by raising their hands. The public meeting was conducted as per the decision taken during the meeting of Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) in Guwahati on February 12, 2017, in which the MBDPF was entrusted to submit the public decision within three months. The JMG meeting, comprising representatives of the Home Department of Mizoram and Tripura and MBDPF, was inconclusive. MBDPF demands include the allotment of at least five hectare land to each repatriated Bru family, enhancement of the rehabilitation package, provision of free ration for two years, INR  5,000 per month to be given to each family, and the Brus be given the same status as the Kashmiri Pandits. Only about 5,407 Brus out of the total of 32,876, have returned to Mizoram thus far.

Peace in Tripura was restored after the extraordinary success of a prolonged Police-led counter insurgency campaign, backed by rare sagacity of the political executive of the State under the leadership of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. The residual issues of tribal discontent arising out of relentless demographic shifts need to be urgently addressed, both to bring a better quality of life to the tribal population, and to end the enduring friction between various population segments in the State.

 


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 27-April 2, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

4
1
8
13

BANGLADESH (Total)

4
1
8
13

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
1
1
2

Assam

0
0
5
5

Left-Wing Extremism

Jharkhand

1
0
0
1

Odisha

2
0
0
2

INDIA (Total)

3
1
6
10

PAKISTAN

 

FATA

24
0
3
27

Punjab

1
0
5
6

PAKISTAN (Total)

25
0
8
33
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Prime Minister urges people to stand against terrorism, militancy and drug addiction: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on March 29 urged people to stand against terrorism, militancy and drug addiction. She also urged all, including guardians, teachers, imams, law enforcement agencies and the administration, to remain alert so that no one could get involved in these menaces. "All will have to resist terrorism, militancy and drug abuse. Be sure that not a single child resorts to terrorism, militancy and drug addiction. The path of terrorism and militancy isn't ours," she said. The Daily Star, March 30, 2017.


INDIA

Pakistan using social media to incite youth in Kashmir, says Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh: Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh, on March 31, accused Pakistan of using the social media to incite youths in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to storm encounter sites to help hold-up militants, after some members in Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) raised the issue of death of three civilians in Budgam District in firing by Security Forces (SFs). He said the strife-torn region had seen a "new trend" of late in which youths from nearby villages gather at the sites of encounter between SFs and terrorists and pelt stones to help the militants holed-up there to flee. Daily Excelsior, April 1, 2017.

Storming encounter site is like ending life, warns Jammu and Kashmir Police: Youths who storm the encounter sites in the Valley to hurl stones at security personnel are committing suicide, Jammu and Kashmir Police, on March 30, said and appealed to them to refrain from such activity. "In the encounter, even Security Forces (SFs) and Police take cover of a bullet-proof vehicle or a house. Youths coming to the encounter sites are committing suicide," Director General of Police (DGP), S P Vaid said. He appealed to the youngsters not to rush to the encounter sites, saying they were being misled and misused by elements inimical to peace in the Valley for their short-term political gains. Daily Excelsior, March 31, 2017.

104 local youths joined militancy in Valley, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir informs Lok Sabha: As many as 104 local youths of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have joined the militancy since 2016 and 65 of them are currently active there, Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) was informed on March 29. Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said among the 104 local youths in J&K who have joined the militancy in 2016-17, 12 were killed by Security Forces (SFs), 25 were arrested while two have surrendered. Daily Excelsior, March 30, 2017.

Red terror curbed, claims Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik: Chief Minister (CM) Naveen Patnaik, on March 28, claimed that law and order situation in the State remained peaceful and Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) activities had been curtailed to a great extent. "The Left-wing extremism remains largely contained to few pockets in the state, such as in parts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Nuapada, Kalahandi and Rayagada districts. The security forces have been successful in handling the rebels on all fronts," said CM Naveen.” The Telegraph, March 29, 2017.

No high quality FICN recovered since demonetisation, states Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal: No 'high quality' Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) have been recovered post demonetisation, although some scanned/photocopied notes were seized by BSF (Border Security Force) and NIA (National Investigation Agency) at the Indo-Bangladesh border, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal stated on March 28. He also said the government has been taking a host of steps, including setting up of a special cell in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) to deal with the menace of FICN. Financial Express, March 29, 2017.

19 cases of IS activities registered in India, states Minister of State for Home Hansraj G Ahir: NIA (National Investigation Agency) has registered 19 cases related to Islamic State (IS) activities in the country, Minister of State for Home Hansraj G Ahir on March 28, told the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) in a written reply. The central probe agency has filed charge sheets in eleven of these cases, Ahir told. "The NIA has registered 19 cases related to ISIS/IS and out of these, charge sheets have been filed in 11 cases...Two of these cases relate to missing of 22 persons from Kerala and their subsequent travel to ISIS controlled territory in Afghanistan," he said. Times of India, March 29, 2017.


NEPAL

Local level elections would be held at any cost on May 14, says Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on March 30 (today) dismissing any possibility of postponing the election as demanded by the agitating parties said that the local level elections would be held at any cost on May 14. "The question whether the polls will take place on the scheduled date is itself misplaced. To cast doubts at elections at this stage would be nothing but attempt to mislead the people," said the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Dahal said that the polls cannot now be postponed at anyone's insistence. My Republica, March 30, 2017.


PAKISTAN

24 persons killed in suicide attack on Imambargah in FATA: At least 24 persons were killed and another 100 injured in a suicide attack on an Imambargah (Shia place of worship) in the Noor market area of Parachinar town in Kurram Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on March 31. Sources said the explosion took place as people gathered for Friday prayers near the women´s entrance of Imambargah. A witness said security personnel at the Imambargah were checking devotees when an unidentified person parked a car next to the building, which then exploded. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction Jama'at-ul-Ahrar (JuA) claimed responsibility for the attack. The blast was part of its operation Ghazi and Shias were the targets, the outfit said in a statement sent to the media. The News, April 1, 2017.

Military courts resume after formal assent from President Mamnoon Hussain: President Mamnoon Hussain on March 31 gave his formal assent to the Pakistan Army Act 2017 and the 23rd Constitutional Amendment Bill ? the two pieces of legislation aimed at granting legal cover to military courts. When it was tabled the 28th Constitutional Amendment Bill was titled the 23rd Constitutional Amendment Bill. However, it will now be called the 28th amendment bill. It was presented along with the Army Act 1952 before the Senate earlier this week. Military courts were disbanded on January 7, 2017,