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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 41, April 10, 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
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Desperate Measures
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On April 1, 2017, body parts of three terrorists, including a woman, were found lying scattered at a terrorist hideout in the Borohat area of the Moulvibazar District, when a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team wrapped up their 82-hour ‘Operation Maximus’ there. SWAT members suspected that the extremists killed themselves by exploding bombs. Some powerful explosives including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were recovered and defused inside the building.

On March 30, 2017, parts of seven bodies, including one male, two females and four children, were found scattered by SWAT and Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) personnel after the conclusion of ‘Operation Hit Back’ at a Neo-Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB) den at Nasirpur village in the Moulvibazar District. Monirul Islam, the CTTC chief stated that the terrorists might have blown themselves up inside the hideout after having failed to flee.

On March 27, 2017, six terrorists, including five males and a female, were killed inside a terror den at Atia Mahal in Sylhet city, in an Army-led operation codenamed ‘Operation Twilight’. After the Operation, Brigadier General Fakhrul Ahsan, spokesperson of the operation, at a press conference near Atia Mahal, disclosed that the terrorists were killed when Army personnel fired at them, as their suicidal vests were still on their bodies.

The use of suicide explosions in Bangladesh’s intensifying struggle between Government Forces and Islamist extremists started on December 24, 2016, when a teenage boy and a woman had blown themselves up with suicide vests during a Police raid on a Neo-JMB hideout in the capital, Dhaka, to avoid arrest. Indeed, there is increasing evidence of desperation in terrorist actions, as they have been forced on the run by the Police and other Security Forces (SFs) aggressively hunting them down after the Gulshan Cafe attack .

Since the Gulshan Cafe incident on July 1, 2016, according to partial data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 78 Islamist terrorists have been killed and another 907 arrested across Bangladesh. Prominent among those killed were the Neo-JMB leader and mastermind of the Gulshan Cafe attack, Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury aka Shaykh Abu Ibrahim Al Hanif aka Amir (30); JMB ‘military commander’ for the northern region Khaled Hasan aka Badar Mama (30); Neo-JMB ‘military commander’ Murad aka Jahangir Alam aka Omar; JMB ‘regional commander’ Tulu Mollah (33); JMB ‘regional coordinator’ Abu Musa aka Abujar; Neo-JMB ‘military chief’ Aminur Islam aka Alam (23); and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) ‘regional commander’ Tajul Islam Mahmud aka Mama Hujur (46) (data till April 9, 2017).

Disturbingly, suicide attacks have also intensified in Bangladesh. On March 24, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the Shahjalal International Airport intersection in Dhaka city; on March 18, 2017, a man carrying bombs was killed in Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) firing when he tried to penetrate a RAB check post on a motorcycle in the Khilgaon area of Dhaka city; and on March 17, 2017, a suicide bomber sneaked into a RAB barrack and blew himself up in the Ashkona area of Dhaka city, injuring two RAB personnel.

According to investigators, Lokman Ali aka Sohel Rana (40), the ‘chief’ of Neo-JMB’s Chittagong chapter, who was killed at the Nasirpur hideout in Moulvibazar District, was in charge of recruiting members for Neo-JMB’s suicide squads and training them to become suicide bombers. Their training was carried out at a mud house located in the remote and hilly Baishari area of Bandarban District. Sohel convinced one of his associates, Selim, to purchase land in Baishari’s Lombabil Khorolia Mora area, where he then set up his operations in a four-room mud house. In Baishari, he identified himself as Mosharraf Hossain, a rubber plantation worker and fabrics trader.

Meanwhile, on March 30, 2017, Police revealed that the Neo-JMB had adopted a new strategy of setting up its hideouts in Hindu-populated neighborhoods across Bangladesh, aiming to deceive law enforcement agencies. According to the Police, Neo-JMB members Kamal and his wife Arjina, who were arrested from a hideout at Sitakunda in Chittagong District on March 16, 2017, confessed that their top leaders were moving into secret hideouts set up in areas where Hindu communities lived. Further, the group’s high command has instructed terrorists at each hideout to inflict as much damage as possible in a suicide operation, if they are discovered. Two Neo-JMB hideouts neutralized recently fit this description. At the Atia Mahal den in Sylhet District, of the 28 families in the neighborhood, 20 are Hindu. Similarly, the Sitakunda den was located in a predominantly Hindu neighborhood.

Significantly, M. Moniruzzaman, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Headquarters, observed, on April 8, 2017, that the Government was in the process of banning Neo-JMB following a formal request by the CTTC unit to Home Ministry through Bangladesh Police Headquarters. Currently, seven terrorist groups are banned in the country, including Ansar al-Islam, which was banned on March 5, 2017; Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) in 2015; Hijb-ut Tahrir in 2009; and JMB, HuJI-B, Shahadat-e al-Hikma (SAH) and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) were all banned in 2005. If banned, Neo-JMB would be the eighth such group.

Speaking at a rally on the grounds of the Government Rajendra College in Faridpur District on March 29, 2017, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, urged the people to resist terrorism and extremism: "All will have to resist terrorism and militancy. Be sure that not a single child resorts to terrorism and militancy. The path of terrorism and militancy isn't ours. Islam never permits killing of innocent people and suicide attempts." Further, during a mammoth rally of Islamic religious leaders and scholars in Dhaka city's Suhrawardy Udyan on April 6, 2017, the Prime Minister reiterated “Everybody who believes in peace should be united against terrorism.”

Similarly, calling for unity against militancy for the sake of the country, Inspector General of Police (IGP) A.K.M. Shahidul Haque noted, on April 4, 2017, "We should raise our voice against militancy. We should be more aware and responsible against militancy. We are watching every step of terrorists." Separately, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, talking to journalists at the Mymensingh Police Media Centre on April 5, 2017, asserted that there was no space for terrorists and militancy in the country, and the enforcement agencies could combat terrorists with a strong hand with the help of the people. He added that the Prime Minister had adopted a ‘zero tolerance policy’ against militancy.

Despite major Government successes against Islamist groups in Bangladesh, a dangerous new phase of Islamist radicalism, marked by a spate of suicide bombings, appears to be crystallizing. Nevertheless, it is now clear that the exaggerated international fears on the entry and proliferation of the Islamic State (IS, also Daesh) into Bangladesh, were misplaced. The threat in Bangladesh remains local and is rooted in the decades of unchecked Islamist radicalization under preceding regimes. Crucially, despite a rash of purportedly Daesh-linked incidents, Dhaka has demonstrated the efficacy of determined and relentless action against terrorist formations. The possibility of occasional incidents – including suicide bombings - cannot be entirely excluded, but recent incidents suggest that terrorist capabilities have been enormously degraded, and the occasional acts of desperation have proven fairly ineffectual, in terms of inflicting casualties and damage. Bangladesh’s “war on terror” may not end any time soon, but it has already had enormous impact.

INDIA
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Jharkhand: Increasing Volatility
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

On April 8, 2017, two Policemen were killed in an encounter with cadres of the People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), at Mahabung village in Simdega District.

On April 4, 2017, two youth, identified as Birsa Purti (25) and Bandeya Munda (22), were shot dead at Toner village under Murhu Police Station in the Khunti District of Jharkhand. Police claimed that Bagrai Champia, an ‘area commander’ of the PLFI, was involved in the twin killings. However, the reason behind the killings is yet to be ascertained.

On March 27, 2017, PLFI cadres killed a civilian, David Soy (20), outside his house in Gompilla under the Torpa Police Station in Khunti District. They suspected him of being a ‘police informer’.

On March 24, 2017, three cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), another splinter group of the CPI-Maoist, were killed in an internecine clash at Seeta Chuan under the Mohammadganj Police Station in Palamau District. One of the killed TPC cadres was identified as ‘zonal commander’ Ajay Yadav, carrying a reward of INR 500,000 on his head. The other two killed were identified as ‘area commanders’ Krishna Kharwar and Ravindra Mahto. Police recovered one AK-47 rifle, one INSAS rifle, one semi automatic rifle, one .303 rifle, along with 630 live bullets, 23 magazines, 11 cell phones, several  Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 50 meters of Codex wire, and six back packs.

On March 20, 2017, a group of CPI-Maoist cadres killed a teacher, identified as Charku Yadav aka Sandip Yadav (30), at Jori village in Gumla District. CPI-Maoist cadres also left a pamphlet which labelled Yadav a ‘police informer’.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 22 persons, including 13 civilians, two Security Force (SF) personnel, and seven Left Wing Extremists (LWEs), have been killed in LWE-linked incidents in Jharkhand in 2017, thus far (data till April 9, 2017). During the corresponding period of 2016, there were 30 such fatalities (seven civilians, seven SF personnel, and 16 LWEs).

The spike in fatalities among civilians in the recent past is worrisome. Civilian fatalities through 2015 stood at 16, the lowest number of such fatalities recorded in the State during the course of a year since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004. The number doubled, at 32, in 2016.

Though no fatality has been registered in the SF category so far in the current year, SF fatalities had also doubled to 10 in 2016, as compared to five in 2015. Significantly, as in the case of civilians, 2015 had recorded the lowest ever fatalities in the SF category since the formation of the CPI-Maoist. A previous low of six SF fatalities was recorded in 2007.

Though the number of militants killed increased from 37 in 2015 to 40 in 2016, there was a significant dip in the kill ratio achieved by the SFs, which dropped to 1:2 in 2016, from 1:5 in 2015. Out of 37 LWEs killed in 2015, at least 25 were killed by the SFs, while 12 were killed in internecine clashes. Similarly, out of 40 LWEs killed in 2016, at least 20 were killed by the SFs while remaining the 20 were killed in internecine clashes.

Overall fatalities in 2016 increased by 39.65 percent, as compared to 2015, from 58 to 81. Overall fatalities in 2015 were the lowest to be recorded in the State since 2006, when they were 94.

Unsurprisingly, other parameters of violence in the State also registered a significant surge in 2016. According to SATP data, the state recorded at least eight major LWE-linked incidents (each involving three or more killings) resulting in 36 fatalities, including 10 civilians, seven SF personnel and 19 LWEs in 2016, as compared to three such incidents in 2015, resulting in 18 fatalities, including three civilians and 15 LWEs. LWEs also triggered at least 12 bomb blasts in the State in 2016, as against seven such incidents in 2015. Further, the Maoists gave bandh (total shut down) calls on 11 occasions in 2016, as compared to six such bandh calls in 2015.

The number of Districts from where killings were reported also increased through 2016 as compared to 2015. Out of a total of 24 Districts in Jharkhand, fatalities were reported from 13 in 2016: Gumla(14); Khunti and Palamu (13 each); Ranchi and Latehar (11 each); Giridih and Simdega (four each); West Singhbhum (three); Bokaro, Hazaribagh and Lohardaga (two each); and Chatra and Seraikela-Kharsawan (one each). 12 Districts recorded such fatalities in 2015 – Palamu (15); Khunti and West Singhbhum (six each); Gumla and Hazaribagh (five each); East Singhbhum, Lohardaga and Ranchi (four each); Latehar (three); and Chatra, Giridih and Godda (two each).

Another dimension of concern is the fact that activities of Maoist splinter groups also increased through 2016. The prominent among these include PLFI, TPC, Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), Jharkhand Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha (JSJMM), and Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP). Out of the 31 civilians fatalities recorded in 2016, while 14 civilians were killed by the CPI-Maoist, 16 were killed by these various groups – 12 by PLFI, two by JPC, and one each by JJMP and TPC. One civilian was killed during cross firing between CPI-Maoist and PLFI. All the 10 killings in the SF category were, however, carried out by CPI-Maoist. The 40 LWEs killed belonged to four groups – PLFI (18), CPI-Maoist (15), JJMP (three), TPC (three), and JSJMM (one). In 2015, CPI-Maoist was responsible for all the 16 civilian and five SF personnel deaths. 35 of the 37 LWEs killed belonged to four groups – CPI-Maoist (26), PLFI (five), two each from JPC and TPC. The group identity of the remaining two could not be ascertained. Reports indicate that there were, in fact, around 19 LWE groups operating in and out of Jharkhand.

The surge in LWE activities in Jharkhand was in conformity with the rising trend recorded across the country through 2016.

Though the recent surge gives legitimate cause for concern, SFs have managed to keep the situation well under control. It is useful to recall that, at the peak of Left Wing insurgency in 2007, Jharkhand had recorded a total of 217 fatalities. The highest number of civilian fatalities stood at 79 in 2011, while the maximum of 67 deaths among SF personnel was registered in 2009.

SFs have arrested a significant number of Maoists in Jharkhand over the past years. According to data provided by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) at least 462 LWEs were arrested in 2016 in addition to 381 such arrests in 2015. At least 396 Maoists were arrested in 2014 and 332 in 2013. Mounting SF pressure also resulted in the surrender of 40 Maoists in 2016, as against just 14 such surrenders in 2015. There were 19 surrenders in 2014.

Meanwhile, in addition to several measures taken in the past to strengthen the security apparatus in the State, the Central Government increased the existing strength of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) deployed in the State in 2016.  According to reports, as on November 30, 2016, there were 40 battalions of CAPS in Jharkhand – 22 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalions, 10 Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) battalions and eight Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) battalions.

This apart, the Jharkhand Cabinet, on special instructions from State Chief Minister Raghubar Das, approved the formation of Civil Defense Volunteers units in 19 Districts. 100 volunteers would be roped in for each District and would receive five sessions of training for six days each. The volunteers are to be trained to handle law and order issues arising at the local level, and would be paid INR 250 for each training day and the same amount for each day of service. The districts to be covered under the scheme included Chatra, Deoghar, Dhanbad, Dumka, Garhwa, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Jamtara, Khunti, Koderma, Latehar, Lohardaga, Pakur, Palamu, Ramgarh, Saraikela, Simdega and West Singhbhum.

The successes of such measures, however, heavily depend on the strength and quality of the State Police Force as it is the Police Force that constitutes the first line of defense against any kind of internal threat. Regrettably, however, Jharkhand continues to suffer significant deficits on this count.  According to the latest data provided by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), the State had a police-population ratio (policemen per hundred thousand population), as on January 1, 2016, of 167.92, significantly lower than the sanctioned strength of 229.19, though much higher than the national average of 137.11. The Police/Area Ratio (number of policemen per 100 square kilometers) stands at 70.49, as against the sanctioned strength of 96.21 (the national average is 54.69). At least 20,503 Police posts are vacant in the State, against a sanctioned strength of 76,692. Moreover, there were just 113 apex Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers in position as against the sanctioned strength 149, undermining the effectiveness of operations and decision making.

Jharkhand has been the second worst Left Wing Extremism affected State since 2007 (Chhattisgarh leads the table), with the exceptions of 2013, when Jharkhand topped the list followed by Chhattisgarh in 2013; and 2010, when West Bengal led the table followed by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, but has succeeded in controlling the menace to a large extent. As compared to the situation between 2006 and 2011, when overall fatalities, on year on year basis, increased every year with the exception of 2010, such fatalities have declined between 2011 and 2015, with an aberration in 2013. However, in view of the recent spike in LWE activities in Jharkhand, it will be premature to suggest that the problem is on a consistent path to resolution. It is useful to keep constantly in mind the fact that LWEs have, on several occasions in the past in almost all the areas of their influence, fought back successfully to revive flagging capacities, and this has been the case in Jharkhand as well. There is, consequently, need to urgently address capacity deficits and retain both political and operational focus to ensure that the relative gains of the past years are not dissipated as a result of any neglect or complacence on the part of the state and its agencies.

 


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 3-9, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
0
2
2

BANGLADESH (Total)

0
0
2
2

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
1
4
5

Left-Wing Extremism

Chhattisgarh

2
0
0
2

Jharkhand

2
2
0
4

INDIA (Total)

4
3
4
11

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

4
0
0
4

Punjab

2
6
16
24

Sindh

0
0
1
1

PAKISTAN (Total)

6
6
17
29
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Neo-JMB leader Jahangir Alam admits involvement in several murders committed in Gaibandha and nearby Districts: Neo-Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leader Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, also a plotter of June 1, 2016, massacre at Holey Artisan Restaurant in Dhaka city, on April 5 admitted his involvement in several murders committed in Gaibandha and nearby Districts. Rajib said that he had been involved in the murders of journalist Dipankar Chakrabarty of Bogra on October 2, 2004 Gaibandha's village doctor Mahbubur Rahman on June 2, 2015 and JMB member Fazle Rabbi on July 19, 2015. Dhaka Tribune, April 6, 2017.

There is no space for terrorist and militancy in country, says Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal: Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on April 5 said there is no space for terrorist and militancy in the country. He further said that the law enforcing agencies could combat terrorist and militancy with strong hand with the help of the people. The people of the country want peace and progress of the country. He added the Prime Minister has taken zero tolerance policy against militancy. The Independent, April 6, 2017.


INDIA

Peace talks with ULFA-I is possible if Centre comes forward, says ULFA-PTF 'general secretary' Anup Chetia: Pro-Talks faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-PTF) 'general secretary' Anup Chetia said on April 6 that peace talks with Independent faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), led by Paresh Axom (Baruah), is only possible if the Union Government comes forward for a dialogue process. However, the leader declined to comment when asked if he has received any indication from Paresh Baruah for the peace talks. The ULFA 'general secretary' also expressed concern at the alleged "apathetic attitude" of the Central Government towards the peace talk process with the ULFA-PTF. Morung Express, April 7, 2017.

Eight militants have infiltrated into Kashmir in first two months of winter while over 150 militants are waiting on launch pads to sneak in, says report: At least eight militants have infiltrated into Kashmir this year (2017) in first two months of winter while over 150 militants are waiting on launch pads to sneak in. Army has intensified its vigil along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir that runs through North Kashmir after fresh infiltration this year. According to Multi Agency Centre (MAC) figures, eight militants have infiltrated into Kashmir in winter this year. These militants mostly infiltrated from Keran sector of the LoC where the snow depth was less compared to other areas. The figures suggested that the militants came in two groups. Daily Excelsior, April 6, 2017.

China roped in Northeastern rebel groups to launch proxy war, say security sources: Authoritative security sources in the Union Home Ministry claimed that China has roped in militant groups of North East to launch a proxy war against India. The source further claimed that the recent statement of Independent faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), on March 28, against the visit of Dalai Lama in Assam was dictated by China. Also, asserting that China was not interested in organizational strength of ULFA-I, the security sources said that China intends to intensify its proxy war against India in the North East through the separatist groups. The Sangai Express, April 6, 2017.

India cuts aid to Myanmar to pressurize to take action against Northeastern militants, says news report: In a fresh attempt to nudge Myanmar to launch a flush out operation against the militants of the Northeast, India reduced the allotment to its Aid to Myanmar programme significantly and allocated INR 225 crore only this Year (2017-18). In the previous year, (i.e. in 2016-17) India sanctioned INR 400 crore to Myanmar but the indifferent attitude of Myanmar over the issue of Northeastern militant groups disappointed India and this time India has clearly shown its displeasure over the issue, claims the report. Assam Tribune, April 3, 2017.


NEPAL

CPN-Maoist Center asks Government to withdraw Constitution amendment bill and bring new one to address concerns of agitating Madhesi parties: The ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-Maoist Center) at a meeting of the party's Central Office held at the Prime Minister's residence in Kathmandu on April 6 asked the Government to withdraw the Constitution amendment bill stuck at the Parliament and bring a new one to address concerns of agitating Madhesi parties. The party said the new amendment bill would include the proposals put forth by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during a meeting with the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) on March 31. The Himalayan Times, April 7, 2017.


SRI LANKA

Government is responsible for implementing recommendations of UNHRC during next two years, says Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne: Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that the Government is responsible for implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) during the next two years. According to Minister Senaratne, the main objective of the Government is creating a country with devolution of power where all can live peacefully. Earlier, Amnesty International (AI) in a new report said that Sri Lanka will not break with its violent past until it deals with the cruel history of enforced disappearance and delivers justice to as many as 100,000 families who have spent years waiting for it. Daily News; Colombo Page, April 3-4, 2017.