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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 45, May 8, 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


INDIA
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Southern Perils
Nijeesh N.
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

Media reports and confirmations to SAIR from family members of Islamic State (IS or Daesh) and al Qaeda recruits from the southern Indian State of Kerala, indicate that two Daesh volunteers and an al Qaeda volunteer were killed in three separate US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Syria in the month of April. Bestin Vincent aka Yahya, who belonged to the Palakkad District was killed in US strikes in the Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan on April 29, 2017. Murshid Muhammed from Kasaragod District, who had also joined Daesh was killed in the second week of April 2017 (date not specified), again, in Nangarhar.  Abu Thahir from Palakkad District had joined al Qaeda, and was killed in Syria on April 4, 2017.

Earlier, T. K. Hafeezudin, from Kasaragod District, who had joined Daesh, was killed in a US drone strike in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, on February 25, 2017.

While Abu Thahir had reportedly gone missing in 2013 and had joined al Qaeda, the remaining three deceased were part of a group 21 persons, including six women and three children, who went missing from Kasaragod District in June 2016 and had reportedly joined Daesh. Of these 21, 17 were from two neighbouring villages, Padanna and Trikkaripur in Kasaragod District, while the remaining four were from Palakkad District, some 305 kilometres further south.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 28 youth from Kerala, including the 21 already mentioned, had travelled to attend Daesh training camps in Afghanistan/Syria/Iraq. Another 21 youth from other southern Indian states (Karnataka, nine; Tamil Nadu and Telangana, five each; and Andhra Pradesh, two) had also travelled to these battlefields. The total number of Indians who had travelled to these areas is estimated to stands at 67.  Incidentally, according to reports, Haja Fakkruddin from Parangipettai village in the Cuddalore District of Tamil Nadu was one of the first Indians to have joined Daesh in Syria in January 2014. 

A number of Indians have also been arrested or detained before they could leave the country. On November 22, 2016, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir informed the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) that as many as 68 sympathisers or supporters of Daesh had been arrested across the country, till that date. The Minister added that 50 of these persons had been arrested by security agencies in 2016, of which 26 belonged to southern Indian states [Telangana (11), Karnataka (7), Kerala (6), and Tamil Nadu (2)].

Daesh in South India has reportedly found an ally in Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) which has established a presence in several parts of India, including the South, in recent times. JMB, a terror outfit which operates in Bangladesh, after suffering decisive losses in Bangladesh after Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009, shifted some of its camps to India in an effort to regroup. The formation has once more become active in Bangladesh and has sworn allegiance to Daesh. Reports, meanwhile, indicate that JMB modules in Tamil Nadu and Telangana have been establishing operational capabilities in coordination with Daesh. Investigations found that several of the persons arrested in connection with Daesh had a JMB link as well. 

While Daesh has found some sympathisers down South, raising security concerns, the activities of the ‘Base Movement’, an al Qaeda-affiliated group, has also drawn the attention of security agencies.  'Base Movement' is suspected to have orchestrated five different bomb blasts in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka since April 2016. The incidents include:

November 1, 2016: A low intensity improvised explosive device (IED) blast took place in a car parked near the judicial first class magistrate court in Malappuram, Kerala. No one was injured in the incident. Police recovered a box with ‘Base Movement’ written on it, along with a notice which claimed the blast for the ‘Base Movement’ containing a photo of slain al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden.

September 12, 2016: A low-intensity blast occurred in the district Court premises in the Nellore town of Andhra Pradesh. There were no casualties.

August 1, 2016: Two persons were injured in an IED explosion at a public toilet in a court complex in Mysuru in Karnataka.

June 15, 2016: A bomb hidden in a tiffin box and planted inside a parked jeep in the Kollam Civil Station premises in the Kollam District of Kerala, exploded at around 10.45 am, injuring one person. The civil station houses the District Collector's office, apart from several Courts and Government offices.

April 7, 2016: The first such explosion took place at a parking lot in the Chittoor Court complex in Andhra Pradesh, injuring three persons. Another bomb was defused.

The modus operandi in each of these low intensity attacks was similar. According to security sources, arrested members of the ‘The Base Movement’ confessed that module only wanted to register its presence at a time when there was a huge traction towards Daesh. They told the investigators that their aim was not to kill but only spread fear and that is the reason they planted low intensity devices in such locations, so as to cause no casualties. Reports indicate that the elusive fugitive Al Umma leader, Abu Bakr Siddique aka Kakka, was the brain behind the emergence of this new terror formation – ‘The Base Movement’. The group was active across all the five South Indian States, and had sent several letters to authorities since early 2015 to announce its existence and warn of attacks. The first such letter was reportedly sent to the then Additional Chief Secretary to Karnataka Chief Minister K. Siddaramaiah, in January 2015, where the group stated that it was commencing activities in that year (2015). No incident was, however, reported in 2015. 

On November 28, 2016, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) along with Tamil Nadu and Telangana Police, in a joint operation, arrested three suspected members of The Base Movement, identified as Abbas Ali (27), Suleiman Mohammad Abdullah (23) and Samsun Karim Raja from Madurai District in Tamil Nadu. Again, on November 29, 2016, the Joint Team arrested another two members, identified as Mohammed Ayub Ali (25) and Shamsudeen (25) from Madurai District. Further investigation revealed that these persons were part of the terrorist outfit, Al Umma and had regrouped under the banner of The Base Movement and had sworn allegiance to al Qaeda. It is suspected that their allegiance is to al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed in August 2014 with the official name of “Jamaat Qaidat al-jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya’’ or “Organisation of the Base of Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent’’. On April 9, 2017, Kerala Police arrested another two ‘Base Movement’ members, N. Abubaker and his aide A. Abdurahman, from Madurai District in Tamil Nadu.

While the emergence of these two groups is a worrying development, concerns persist regarding the presence of various Pakistan-backed terror formations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and Indian Mujahideen (IM).  According to the SATP database, after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, about 31 persons, including 19 civilians, five Security Force (SF) personnel and seven terrorists have been killed in seven terrorist attacks in different parts of South India. Incidentally, the last of the major terrorist incidents targeting civilians outside strife-torn Jammu & Kashmir, the Northeast and Punjab, in which more than 10 persons were killed, was reported from Andhra Pradesh. On February 21, 2013, 17 persons were killed and another 117 injured in twin blasts at Dilsukhnagar in Hyderabad.

Since 26/11, 2008, as many as 595 Islamist terrorist suspects have been arrested from five south Indian States – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The number of arrested persons stood at 88 in 2016, 98 in 2015, 110 in 2014, 101 in 2013, 77 in 2012, 34 in 2011, 22 in 2010, 20 in 2009 and 35 in 2008. At least 10 persons have already been arrested in 2017, till April 30. Those arrested included terrorist cadres, persons involved in Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) cases, which are integrally linked to Pakistan-backed terrorism, and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents.

Meanwhile, radicalisation is on rise, as one April 9, 2017, report observed,
Multiple new Salafi outfits such as Niche of Truth (Kerala), Peace Educational Foundation (Kerala), Jamiat ul Muflihaat (Hyderabad), Discover Islam Education Trust (Bengaluru)… have emerged during the last few years, which have provided direct access to indoctrination materials. Cadres of radically inclined Popular Front of India, Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamat and Kerala Nadwathul Mujahideen factions are increasing in numbers significantly… Others are also getting motivated by reading material available online… Another example is the immense growth in the membership of Kerala Nadwatahul Mujahideen factions whose combined strength has grown from about 25,200 in 1993 to 65,200 till date. In the last decade, the membership of Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamat has increased from 20,000 to one lakh. Another radically inclined outfit PFI has grown from a cadre strength of about 45,000 during 2009 to over 1,20,000...

While these various formations are not directly connected to terrorism, they create a base of non-violent radicalization that creates tremendous potential for recruitment to extremist violence. It will be impossible to contain radical Islamist violence unless this underpinning of diversified and widespread non-violent radicalization is addressed. Focus on preventive measures and counter-radicalization is therefore imperative to contain future prospects of Islamist terrorist/radical formations making further inroads in India's south and, indeed, across the rest of the country.  

 

PAKISTAN
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Census Anxieties
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least 12 persons — 10 civilians and one sepoy each from the Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps (FC) — lost their lives, and some 40 others were injured in firing and shelling after Afghan forces attacked FC personnel guarding staff conducting a census in the Kali Luqman and Kali Jahangir areas of Chaman tehsil (revenue unit) in the Qilla Abdullah District of Balochistan on May 5, 2017. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release tweeted by its Director General (DG) Major General Asif stated, “Afghan border police opened fire on FC troops detailed for security of census in a village along Chaman border… Since 30th April, Afghan Border Police had been creating hurdles in conduct of census in divided villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir in Charnan area on Pakistani side of the border. This was done despite the fact that Afghan authorities had been informed well in advance and coordination was carried out through diplomatic and military channels for conduct of census."

On April 24, 2017, a private passenger van a carrying census team hit a landmine at the Pato Kot village of Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), killing at least 15 persons, including five woman and four children and injuring another nine. The van was en route to Sadda from Godar. The injured included four Khasadar census workers, who were scheduled to carry out their activities in far-flung areas of the Agency.

On April 5, 2017, eight people — five Army soldiers, an employee of the Air Force and two passers-by lost their lives after a suicide bomber targeted a census team in the Bedian Road area of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. At least 19 were injured in the attack. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ‘spokesperson’ Muhammad Khurassani claimed responsibility for the attack.

On March 22, 2017, a Policeman was injured when a census team came gun fire in the Harihchand Mandani area of Charsadda District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The attacker sustained injuries in retaliatory fire by Security Forces (SFs), and was arrested and moved to an undisclosed location.

On March 14, 2017, suspected militants abducted three Government schoolteachers in the Giskhor area of Awaran District in Balochistan. Levies official Muhammad Jan disclosed that the teachers were returning from a training session facilitated by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) for the upcoming national census in the Giskhor area. Jan identified the abducted teachers as Rashid Ali, Elahi Bakhsh and Rasool Bakhsh. The location of these teachers remains unknown.

Census workers have been the target of many attacks since the national enumeration exercise kicked off on March 15, 2017, in 63 Districts of the country, after a delay of 19 years. A statement issued by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics noted, “The purpose of the attack apparently was to spread fear within the enumerators and other staff.” On April 10, 2017, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had declared that the census would be completed “at any cost”. During his visit to Army Census Support Centre (ACSC), established at the headquarters of the Army Air Defence Command in Rawalpindi, he emphasized that “conducting the census was a national obligation”. Referring to the April 5-killing of Army personnel at Lahore, he added, further, “These sacrifices will only strengthen our resolve and with the support of the entire nation we will cleanse the menace of terrorism from our soil”.

The first phase of the Census was scheduled between March 15 and April 15; the second between April 25 and May 25; and final results are expected by the end of July. In the second phase, 87 Districts will be covered.

The decision to initiate the Census was taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Government only after the Supreme Court took suo motu action on July 5, 2016, over the delay in carrying out the crucial process. This is the second time the census has been delayed since the country gained its independence in 1947. The first census in the country was conducted in 1951, the second in 1961, the third in 1972, instead of 1971 due to political turmoil, and the fourth in 1981. The fifth census, which was due in 1991, was conducted in March 1998 with the help of the Army. 

Fast-growing Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, with an estimated 200 million people, but has not held a census since 1998. According to the 1951 census, there were just 33.7 million people in the country, which rose to 42.8 million in 1961, 65 million in 1972 and 85 million in 1981. The last census of 1998 estimated the population at roughly over 130 million. Punjab was the most populous province, followed by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The census exercise is a mammoth undertaking with numerous security concerns. One of them is on account of the militant elements still remaining in the country and who are, for obvious reasons, violently opposed to security personnel. Second-generation Afghan migrants also oppose the census. Significantly, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has blocked 350,000 Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) ahead of the first phase of the census. PBS chief Asif Bajwa claimed that most of the blocked CNICs belonged to Afghan nationals. Most of the Afghan migrants settled in Tribal areas and Balochistan fear being singled out for future deportation.

There are also fears among the large population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) of being left out, as well as Baloch nationalists who are targeted through an aggressive process of demographic re-engineering in Balochistan, and who fear that Afghans in the province may be enumerated as Pashtuns. In an atmosphere where the Baloch population and the Army lack mutual trust, the presence of soldiers in the company of the census takers may induce many in the Baloch-dominated districts to stay away from the population count, either in boycotts or because of security apprehensions. This is likely to result in a systematic exclusion of the Baloch — especially in the insurgency-hit southern Districts.

The process deploys more than 300,000 people and involves 55 million census forms — as well as a second, separate form distributed by the military. The PBS deploys some 119,000 people, including 84,000 enumerators: teachers and local officials who go door-to-door to count homes and then individuals. Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa disclosed that the national exercise was being carried out at a total cost of PKR 18.5 billion. Of this, PKR six billion would be spent on civil and armed personnel and the remaining PKR 6.5 billion on hiring vehicles. 

Unlike previous years, when the Army refused to provide security to census teams, on January 27, 2017, the Army approved the deployment of 200,000 troops for duties during the Sixth Population and Housing census. A statement issued by the ISPR declared, “Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has approved the plan to support conduct of 6th Population and Housing Census. Up to 200,000 troops will be employed.” The decision to deploy the troops for the census paved the way for the holding of the long-delayed exercise. Unavailability of troops because of their pre-occupation with security tasks had been cited as the biggest obstacle to the conduct of the census in the past. The ISPR statement clarified that the military’s engagement with census duties did not mean that counterterrorism operations would come to a halt and “other security responsibilities” would continue.

The Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa stated the Army would act as 'observers' to ensure enumerators did not inflate local counting.  However, Pakistan had faced criticism from United Nations’ agencies for involving the armed forces in the Census exercise on the grounds that this went against international standards and best practices.

Despite being under direct Army supervision, the regular terrorist attacks on census teams rips apart the claim of providing fool proof security. Circumstances during the first phase of the Census clearly demonstrate that two Army personnel and as many Policemen with each census team are far from sufficient to ensure security and the integrity of the exercise.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 1-7, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
0
2
2

INDIA

 

North East

 

Arunachal Pradesh

0
0
1
1

Jammu and Kashmir

6
6
1
13

Manipur

0
0
2
2

Left-Wing Extremism

Andhra Pradesh

0
1
0
1

Chhattisgarh

1
0
2
3

Maharashtra

0
1
0
1

Odisha

1
0
0
1

INDIA (Total)

8
8
6
22

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

10
2
0
12

FATA

0
2
3
5

Punjab

1
0
0
1

PAKISTAN (Total)

11
4
3
18
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Militancy and terrorism would be eliminated from country at any cost, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina: Reiterating her Government's "zero tolerance" policy against militancy and terrorism, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on May 3 said these menaces would be eliminated from the country at any cost. "We'll root out militancy and terrorism from Bangladesh to ensure peace and security in public life," she said. The Daily Star, May 4, 2017.

Militants are now shifting their hideouts outside Dhaka city, says DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia: Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia on April 29 said the militants are now shifting their hideouts outside the capital Dhaka city. "Now, we all are conscious enough about the militancy in Dhaka as a result militants are shifting their dens outside the capital," Asaduzzaman said. The Daily Star, May 2, 2017.


INDIA

Over 40,961 persons, including 21,965 militants, killed in last 27 years in J&K, reveals RTI report: Data released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) revealed that over 40,961 people have been killed in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) from 1990 to March 31, 2017. In an RTI (Right to Information) reply, Chief Public Information Officer of the UMHA said 13,491 civilians and 5,055 Security Force (SFs) personnel were killed in different terror attacks. Around 21,965 terrorists have also been neutralized by the SFs in the last 27 years. Nearly 13,502 soldiers have also been injured while fighting with the terrorists. The 2001 was the bloodiest year in the history of turmoil. Nearly 3,552 people were killed which included 996 civilians, 536 SF personnel and 2,020 terrorists. Around 1,587 SF personnel were injured in the year. DNA, April 30, 2017.

Blood trail proves Pakistan Army personnel killed and beheaded Indian soldiers in the border, says India: Blood samples collected by Indian investigators confirmed that Pakistan army personnel killed the two Indian soldiers and mutilated their bodies in the Krishna Ghati sector in Jammu and Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC). Foreign secretary S Jaishankar conveyed this to Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit, who was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry in the morning of May 4. The Times of India, May 4, 2017.

There are 55 terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, say Government officials: As many as 55 camps of Pakistan- backed militant groups have come up across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in the last four months where terrorists are being trained to be pushed into Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), officials said on May 2. Quoting intelligence reports, Government officials said at least 20 new terrorist camps have come up this year (2017) taking the total number to 55 from earlier 35. Financial Express, May 3, 2017.

Bangladesh no longer a safe haven for insurgents operating in India's NE region, says BSF DG: Border Security Force (BSF) Director General (DG) K.K Sharma on May 5 said that Bangladesh is no longer a safe haven for insurgent groups operating in India's northeast (NE) reagion. Sharma said the few training camps and hideouts set up by Indian rebel groups, like Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), in the neighbouring country have been destroyed by the Border Guards Bangladesh. The Shillong Times, May 6, 2017.

Moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference urges Central Government for dialogue to resolve Kashmir issue: The moderate faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) on May 3 pressed the Central Government to initiate a "meaningful dialogue" to find a lasting solution to the "explosive" Kashmir issue, which it said had become a "nuclear flash point". The conglomerate of various separatist groups, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, held a meeting in Srinagar to discuss the prevailing situation and the way forward. Daily Excelsior, May 4, 2017.


NEPAL

Government is committed to holding local-level elections at any cost, says Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on May 1 said that the Government is committed to holding local-level elections at any cost. He also said that the constitution amendment process would also move ahead accordingly. The Himalayan Times, May 2, 2017.


SRI LANKA

Government will solve Tamil people's problems before 2018 May Day, says Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne: Addressing the Democratic National Movement's May Day Rally held in Jaffna District on May 1, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said the Government will solve Tamil people's problems before 2018 May Day. He said "The people from North and the South who were killed during the war belonged to the oppressed class. I always have demanded the Cabinet to solve the problems of the Tamil people." Daily News, May 3, 2017.