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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 51, June 19, 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
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Balochistan: The Chinese Chequered
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The Islamic State (IS, also Daesh) on June 8, 2017, claimed the killing of two Chinese nationals who had been abducted from the Jinnah Town area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, in the afternoon of May 24, 2017. Amaq, the IS propaganda agency, declared, “Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, south-west Pakistan.” The Chinese couple, Lee Zing Yang (24) and Meng Li Si (26), were studying Urdu in Quetta, where they reportedly also ran a Mandarin language course.According to Deputy Inspector General Police Aitzaz Goraya, unknown abductors, wearing Police uniforms, had forced the two foreigners into a vehicle at gunpoint and driven away. They also tried to overpower another Chinese woman but she ran away. A man present at the site attempted to resist the kidnapping, but was shot at by one of the abductors. So far no local group has claimed responsibility for the incident (abduction and subsequent killing). Reports speculate that the actual perpetrators were linked to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Alami (LeJ-A), the international wing of the LeJ, which believed to be affiliated to Daesh.

The claim came hours after Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) released details of a three-day operation (June 1-3) by the Pakistan Army against Daesh-affiliated terrorists in the Mastung area of Balochistan, in which Security Forces (SFs) had killed 12 suspected terrorists, including two suicide bombers. ISPR claimed,  There were reports of 10-15 terrorists of a banned outfit Lashrake-Jhangivi Al-Almi (LeJA) hiding in caves near Isplingi ( Koh-i-Siah/Koh-i- Maran) 36 Kilometer South East of Mastung." And further, "The suicide bomber used against Deputy Chairman of Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haydri on May 12 was also sent by [the targeted group]." The ISPR statement asserted that SFs destroyed an explosives facility inside the cave where the terrorists were hiding, and recovered a cache of arms and ammunition, including 50 kilogrammes of explosives, three suicide jackets, 18 grenades, six rocket launchers, four light machine guns,18 small machine guns, four sniper rifles, 38 communication sets and ammunition of various types.

Pakistan initially denied the Chinese couple’s death, perhaps due to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s presence, alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Astana on June 9, 2017. The first reaction from Pakistani authorities came four days after the Daesh claim. On June 12, 2017, Federal Minister of the Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan confirmed that two Chinese nationals who had been abducted from Quetta had been killed.

The killing of the Chinese couple has underscored questions about the security of Chinese workers in Pakistan, and the country’s centrality to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative. The centrepiece of the ‘new Silk Route’ plan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through insurgency-hit Balochistan. Earlier, on May 31, 2017, amid Beijing’s growing concerns about the safety of two of its abducted nationals, the National Security Committee, presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, reviewed the security of CPEC and Chinese nationals based in Pakistan. The NSC meeting released a press statement which gave no details, but noted that “security for CPEC projects also came under discussion”.

On June 3, 2017, 11 Chinese nationals— three men and eight women — living in the Jinnah Town of the Quetta were shifted to Karachi, and then flown back to China. Abdul Razzaq Cheema, Quetta’s Regional Police Officer, stated that these Chinese nationals had been living in Quetta for almost a year, and that two South Korean families had also been living in Quetta’s Jinnah Town for four years. After the abduction of the two Chinese nationals, Police had increased security of Chinese and other foreign nationals working on different component projects of CPEC, as well as with NGOs and United Nations’ organisations in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.

The complex, multilayered, seemingly never-ending security crisis in Balochistan appears more dangerous with the entry of Daesh onto the scene. Balochistan has been under attack by separatists, insurgents, and Islamist terrorists for over a decade, and the situation can only worsen with Daesh’s entry. The Government, however, continues to deny Daesh’s existence in the Province and, most recently, on June 13, 2017, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti insisted that the group had no presence in the Province.

While the abduction and killing of the Chinese nationals was clearly a security failure, Pakistan has given the crime a religious angle, diverting attention from issues relating to ongoing CPEC projects in insurgency-hit Balochistan. Thus, on June 12, 2017, Federal Minister of the Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed that the slain Chinese couple belonged to a group of Chinese people who had obtained a business visa for Pakistan but were engaged in ‘preaching.’ In a meeting held at the Interior Ministry to review issuance of visas to Chinese nationals and registration of international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs), Nisar was told the couple was part of a group of Chinese citizens who obtained business visas from the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing. However, instead of carrying out any business activity, they were engaged in evangelical activities in Quetta, under the garb of learning Urdu language at the ARK Info Tech Institute owned by a South Korean national, Juan Won Seo.

On June 14, 2017, however, South Korea rejected Pakistan’s contention that the slain Chinese nationals were preaching Christianity under the guise of studying Urdu at a school run by a South Korean. An unnamed South Korean official asserted that there was no evidence to show the couple was involved in proselytizing under Seo’s guidance.

Meanwhile, China’s official media Global Times has criticized South Korean Christian groups for converting young Chinese and sending them to proselytise in Muslim countries. The kidnapping was a rare crime against Chinese nationals in Pakistan, but has alarmed the growing Chinese community in the country. A Global Times editorial argued, “while the atrocity” by the Islamic State in killing the two Chinese is appalling, it cannot drive a wedge between China and Pakistan, nor will CPEC construction be disrupted.

Behind the whole episode of Daesh’s abduction and killing of Chinese nationals, there is a clear intention of hurting Chinese interests. This is just the latest instance of Daesh targeting China, which is home to more than 20 million Muslims, including Uyghurs, in the Xinjiang province. In 2014, Daesh leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi explicitly equated China with the US, Israel and India as an ‘oppressor of Muslims’. That this was not mere rhetoric was demonstrated by the group's subsequent execution of a Chinese citizen, Fan Jinghui, in Iraq on November 20, 2015. In February this year, ISIS released a slickly produced propaganda video detailing for the first time "scenes from the life of immigrants from East Turkistan [Xinjiang] in the land of the Caliphate" in which an Uyghur terrorist promised to "shed blood like rivers" to avenge Beijing's alleged oppression in Xinjiang.

Arif Rafiq, fellow at the Centre for Global Policy, a Washington think tank, observed, on January 9, 2017, that “Balochistan provides IS with an opportunity to not only strike at Pakistani interests, but also those of China and Iran… Anti-state jihadis in Pakistan have previously sought to target Chinese citizens in Pakistan, knowing that this would strain relations between Beijing and Islamabad. Jihadis in Balochistan who’ve made the switch from al-Qaeda to IS are on a similar mission.”

Apart from Daesh’s abduction and killing of the Chinese couple, there has always been a lingering threat to  Chinese engineers and workers associated with CPEC projects, as these have been rejected by Baloch nationalists who considers CPEC a 'strategic design' by Pakistan and China to loot Balochistan's resources and eliminate the indigenous culture and identity. Dubbing China as a 'great threat' to the Baloch people, UNHRC Balochistan representative Mehran Marri argued, on August 13, 2016, that "China really-really is spreading its tentacles in Balochistan very rapidly, and therefore, we are appealing to the international community. The Gwadar project is for the Chinese military. This would be detrimental to international powers, to the people's interest, where 60 percent of world's oil flows. So, the world has to really take rapid action in curbing China's influence in Balochistan in particular and in Pakistan in general."

Pakistan currently hosts a sizable Chinese population and the numbers are slated to grow as the project progresses. Concern about the demographic transformation of Balochistan was reiterated in a report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on December 28, 2016, which noted that, at the current rate of influx of Chinese nationals into Balochistan and after completion of the CPEC, the native population of the area would be outnumbered by 2048.

Pakistan earlier beefed up security around Chinese citizens streaming into the country on the back of Beijing’s OBOR infrastructure build-up across the nation. On February 20, 2017, the Government announced the creation of a special contingent of 15,000 personnel from the Maritime Security Force (MSF) and Special Security Division (SSD) to protect 34 CPEC related projects, including Gwadar and other coastal projects, and to ensure the safety of locals and foreigners working on CPEC projects. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayeed, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC, after a committee meeting in Parliament House on February 20, 2017, disclosed, “The SSD is a force that will provide security to 34 CPEC related projects, while the MSF will safeguard the Gwadar port and other coastal areas of the country”.

Despite these security arrangements, militants succeeded in killing 10 labourers on May 13, 2017 and three labourers on May 18, 2017, at CPEC related projects in the Gwadar District of Balochistan. Since the start of CPEC projects in Balochistan in 2014, at least 57 workers (all Pakistani nationals) connected with these projects, have been killed. With global terrorist formations such as Daesh and al Qaeda entering the fray, and a range of domestic Islamist terrorist formations, prominently including LeJ-A and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, as well as Baloch nationalist formations, all opposing the Pakistani state in general, and Chinese projects in the country in particular, this pattern of violence can only increase.

INDIA
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Odisha: Malkangiri: No End in Sight
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On June 3, 2017, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) ‘commander’ Gadda Nageswara Rao aka Chinnabbai (38), carrying INR 400,000 reward on his head, was killed in an exchange of fire between the Security Forces (SFs) and Maoists in the Kapatuti Forest under Chitrakonda Police limits in Malkangiri District. A huge cache of explosives, some ammunition, a 9 mm pistol, Maoist literature and a kit bag were seized from the encounter site after the gun battle.

On May 1, 2017, a tribal labourer, identified as Deba Madkami, a resident of Tamaguda in Malkangiri District, was killed by the Maoists who suspected that he was a 'Police informer'. According to Police, a group of armed Maoists stormed Tamaguda and forcibly took Madkami away from his home at gunpoint. His body was subsequently found with his throat slit, on the outskirts of the village.

On April 28, 2017, about 20 to 30 CPI-Maoist cadres barged into Sudhakanda village under the Kalimela Block in Malkangiri, and killed two villagers, suspecting them to be ‘Police informers’. The deceased were identified as Bisu Kirsani and Rama Padiami.

On March 31, 2017, CPI-Maoist cadres shot dead a villager in Malkangiri District, suspecting him to be a 'Police informer'. The deceased was identified as Raghu Hantal from Cheliamunda village under Malkangiri Village (MV) 79 Police Station limits in the District.

On the same day, Maoists also killed one Jaga Rao, a Gram Rojgar Sevak (GRS) of Jantapali village under Chitrakonda Police limits in Malkangiri District by slitting his throat. The Maoists had earlier threatened Jaga, demanding that he leave his job.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least six civilians have so far been killed in Malkangiri in Maoist-linked violence since the beginning of 2017 (data till June 18). The total number of civilian killings in such violence across Odisha in the current year stands at nine. Overall Maoist-linked fatalities in the State stand at 22, including nine civilians, nine SF personnel and four Maoists (data till June 18, 2017).

During the corresponding period in 2016, only two civilians had been killed in Maoist-linked violence in the District. Through 2016 a total of seven civilians were killed in Malkangiri. The District has experienced varied trends in annual fatalities: four in 2005; three in 2006 and 2007; eight in 2008; seven in 2009; eight in 2010; seven in 2011 and 2012; 18 in 2013; 19 in 2014; 16 in 2015; seven in 2016 and six in 2017 (data till June 18). The most common reason given by the Maoists for killing civilians is that they were ‘Police informers’.

Significantly, the District has not recorded an SF killing thus far in 2017. Of the four Maoists killed in 2017 in Odisha, only one (the June 3, 2017, incident) was killed in Malkangiri District. Of a total of 22 Maoist-linked fatalities in the State in 2017, Malkangiri alone accounts for seven, i.e. 31.81 per cent.

Since September 21, 2004, the day CPI-Maoist was formed through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People's War (People's War Group), and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), a total of 7,548 fatalities (including 3,013 civilians, 1,944 SF personnel, 2,591 Maoists) have been reported from 138 Districts across 14 States in India (data till June 18, 2017). Of these, Malkangiri alone has accounted for a total of 283 fatalities (113 civilians, 86 SF personnel, 84 Maoists), i.e. 3.75 per cent of the total, the 5th highest for any single District crossing triple digit fatalities in the country, preceded by Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), 1,132; West Midnapore (West Bengal), 593; Bijapur (Chhattisgarh), 569; and Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), 452. These were the worst among the 22 Districts where fatalities went into triple figures over this period.

Malkangiri alone accounted for 4.42 per cent of total SF fatalities during this period (86 out of a total of 1,944). SFs secured a positive SF: Maoist kill ratio of 1:1.33 across India, but in Malkangiri the ratio favoured the Maoists, at 1.02:1. Interestingly, out of the 68 Districts in the country from where fatalities in both these categories were reported, the kill ratio was in favour of SFs in 36; was at par in five; and favoured the Maoists in the remaining 27. There were another 34 Districts from where only Maoist fatalities were reported. 13 Districts recorded only SF fatalities. There were another 23 Districts in which fatalities were reported, but both these categories were absent.

Malkangiri, located on the troubled tri-junction of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, occupies an area of 5,791 square kilometres, with a population of 613,192 (Census 2011). The District shares its borders with Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh to the East; Sukma in Chhattisgarh to the West; Koraput in Odisha to the North and East; and Godavari in Andhra Pradesh to the South. Some 2,321 square kilometres of Malkangiri, about 40.08 per cent of its total geographical area, are under forest cover. Blocks like Podia, Maithili, Kalimela, and the Govindpalli areas of Khairput Block, and the ‘cut-off areas’ of Kudumulu Gumma Block, have dense forest coverage. Open forests areas also cover major portions of the Korukonda and Kalimela Block, and also, partly, of the Malkangiri Block. The geographical proximity to troubled areas of Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have made Malkangiri a major transit route for the Maoists to cross over from one State to the other.

A majority tribal and scheduled caste population, as well as widespread under development, poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy, make Malkangiri one of the most backward Districts of India. According to a joint survey conducted by the US-India Policy Institute and the New Delhi-based Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, found that among 599 Districts across India under the purview of the survey, Malkangiri ranked near the bottom, at 588. The report took composite development – measured in terms of economic development and the indices of health, education and material well-being – into consideration, and was released on January 29, 2015.

Surprisingly, in a letter released to media persons in Malkangiri on June 16, 2017, CPI-Maoist Korukonda Area Committee leader Ramana claimed that the Government had falsely accused Maoists of opposing development works such as electrification, drinking water and education projects in Malkangiri, and demanded power supply to all the villages under the newly-formed Chitrakonda Block. He alleged that health services were in disarray, that there were no health workers or anganwadi centres and schools in the villages. He alleged that some ‘miscreants’ had disconnected electricity supply at Hatguda and once the culprits were identified, their case would be decided by a praja adalat (people’s court, a Maoist kangaroo court). The Maoist leader insisted that his cadres would never obstruct any development works.

Malkangiri is among the 35 worst Naxal-[Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)] - affected Districts identified by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) across the country. 

The Maoists' writ runs across the District. In a recent incident, on April 18, 2017, seven tribal families of Elkanur village under Kalimela Police limits in Malkangiri District left their native village under Maoist threat. According to reports, members of the seven families, who were CPI-Maoist sympathisers, had recently surrendered before the Police expressing their unwillingness to continue their support to the rebels.

Further, the three-tier panchayat (village level local self Government institution) elections, on January 10, 2017, had to be rescheduled as the CPI-Maoist had warned the tribals of Malkangiri District to abstain from the polls. Later, on the rescheduled poll date, on February 19, 2017, even under tight security, there was no voting in 13 booths out of 19 booths in Malkangiri, for fear of the Maoists. Poll officials disclosed that a very small number of people exercised their franchise in the remaining six booths as well. According to a villager, who did not cast his vote, “We preferred not to vote fearing the Maoists. They would punish people who cast votes.”

However, claiming that the CPI-Maoist activities had been curtailed to a great extent, Chief Minister (CM), Naveen Patnaik, stated, on March 28, 2017, "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."

Unsurprisingly, according to Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) Annual Report 2016-17, Odisha stood fourth among 10 worst Maoist-affected States in India. Chhattisgarh topped the list, with 395 incidents and 107 fatalities, followed by Jharkhand (323 incidents and 85 fatalities), Bihar (129 incidents and 28 fatalities), Odisha (86 incidents and 27 fatalities) and Maharashtra (73 incidents and 23 fatalities).

The Maoists are struggling to maintain their sway in Malkangiri, as it lies at a critical tri-junction, which gives easy passage for the cadres to move across State borders between Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. There is little in either the State’s or the Centre’s plans to suggest that things in Malkangiri are going to change dramatically, any time soon. At the present juncture, especially, after the two successive encounters in the Bejingi Forest area between Ramgarh and Panasput in the Malkangiri District on October 24 and 27, 2016, in which SFs killed at least 30 rebels, CPI-Maoist has certainly suffered a major reverse. However, the ground situation in the District remains fragile, the Maoist sway significant, and SF vulnerabilities pronounced.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 12-18, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

3
9
3
15

Manipur

2
1
0
3

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Bihar

1
0
2
3

Chhattisgarh

0
0
4
4

Total (INDIA)

6
10
9
25

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
0
5
5

KP

0
3
3
6

Punjab

0
0
2
2

Total (PAKISTAN)

0
3
10
13
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

Maoists looking to create an ‘entire new zone of operations’, says report: The Maoists operating in Chhattisgarh, who have largely been confined to the Bastar region in the South, are looking to create an ‘entire new zone of operations’, a Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) document, recovered by the Chhattisgarh State Police has said. Areas like Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh; Gondia in Maharashtra; and northern Rajnandgaon, parts of Kabirdham and Mungeli in Chhattisgarh; are covered under the ‘new zone’. In the seized document, the ‘new area’ is described as ‘MMC (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Confluence) zone’. Financial Express, June 13, 2017.

Stop supporting terror, refrain from meddling in our internal affairs, India to Pakistan at UNHRC: Accusing Islamabad of using terror to destabilise Kashmir, the Indian Government on June 16 told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that Pakistan was misusing the UN platform to pursue its political objectives. "Pakistan’s unsolicited and unwarranted comments pertaining to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of the Union of India, are factually incorrect and bear no relationship to reality," India said in a statement. Zee News, June 16, 2017.

Zakir Naik's outfit radicalised Indian youth to join Islamic State, says report: The National Investigative Agency (NIA) has uncovered evidence to show that key aides of Zakir Naik helped Indian youth convert to Islam, and these youth then left for Afghanistan to join the Islamic State (IS). On September 12, 2014, Bestin Vincent Francis became Yahiya. Three of his associates converted in the next few months. Raids by the NIA on Zakir Naik's close aide Rizwan Illiyas Khan eventually blew the lid off this terror chain. Rizwan, according to the probe body, was closely involved in processing the documents of conversion to Islam. India Today, June 14, 2017.

51 Maoists gunned down in Chhatisgarh till May 15 in 2017, says UMHA report: In report released by Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), on June 13, Security Forces (SFs) had gunned down 51 cadres of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) as on May 15, 2017, this year compared to 85 in the corresponding period of the 2016 in Chhattisgarh. The CPI-Maoist cadres during the period had 81 encounters with the Police compared to 147 in the corresponding period of the previous year, it informed. The number of incidents of attacks on police including use of landmines by Maoists numbered 41 compared to 50 last year, it stated. The Pioneer, June 14, 2017.

Fake currency detection in banks swells to maximum in eight years, according to FIU report: Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) detection instances in India's banking channels have seen an all time increase in the last eight years at over 3.53 lakh instances, according to Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) report. "The number of counterfeit currency reports (CCRs) increased from a mere 8,580 in 2007-08 to 35,730 in 2008-09 and 3,53,837 in 2014-15," the report said. However, the amount of FICN detected has not been specified. All banks, either public sector, private and foreign banks in the country, are mandated to report such instances to the FIU under anti-money laundering law provisions. Zee News, June 16, 2017.

Khango Konyak likely to be the head of the umbrella organisation of the militants of North East: Khango Konyak, who is the new ‘chairman’ of the Khaplang faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), is likely to be the head of the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWESEA), which is an umbrella organisation of the militant groups of North East. Earlier it was expected that Paresh Baruah, the ‘chief’ of Independent faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I) might be the head of the UNLFWESEA. New Indian Express, June 13, 2017.


PAKISTAN

No Islamic State existence in Balochistan, claims Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti: Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti on June 13 dispelled “the impression of the presence of Islamic State (IS) in Balochistan” and said that the crackdown against terrorist is in full swing under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. During a press conference at Madadgar Centre of Frontier Corps (FC), Bugti rejected the existence of the IS in Balochistan, adding that the terror organisation was making efforts to strengthen its base in the entire country, but the Government and the military had expressed their