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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 11, September 11, 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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Karachi: Campus Terror
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate; Institute for Conflict Management

In the morning of September 2, 2017, two terrorists carried out an attack targeting Muttahida Qaumi Movement–Pakistan (MQM-P) leader, Khwaja Izharul Hassan, killing two persons, including one of his guards and a child in the vicinity, and injuring another two in the Buffer Zone area of Karachi (Karachi District), the provincial capital of Sindh. Khwaja Hassan, who is also the leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, survived the assassination attempt unhurt. According to details the assailants clad in Police uniforms and riding on a motorcycle opened fire on Hassan when he was leaving a mosque after offering Eid-ul-Adha [Islamic festival of sacrifice] prayers. Ansar-ul-Shariah Pakistan (ASP) in a Tweet on September 3 claiming responsibility for the attack, alleged that Khawaja Hassan was a “pro-American MQM leader”.  

Meanwhile, Police and Pakistan Rangers Sindh raided various houses in the Kaneez Fatima Society of the Gulzar-i-Hijri area of Malir Town, Karachi, on September 4, following information about the presence of the attackers involved in the assassination attempt. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire between the terrorists and Security Force (SF) personnel, one Policeman and a terrorist, identified as Hassan Israr, were killed. The other terrorist, Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui, present at the encounter site, managed to escape. The slain Hassan Israr worked as a lab technician in the Dawood University of Engineering and Technology (DUET) in Karachi. He belonged to an educated family and his father, Ahsan Israr, is a lecturer at an educational institute. According to Rao Anwar, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Malir Town (Karachi District), the fleeing terrorist, Siddiqui, was the mastermind of attack: "He is central commander of banned militant organisation Ansar-ul-Shariah and close associate of killed terrorist, Hassan." Siddique was a student of Applied Physics at the University of Karachi in 2011.

On September 4, 2017, Police took Sarosh Siddiqui's father, Sajjad Siddiqui, a retired professor of the University of Karachi, into their custody. On Sajjad's revelations, Police also arrested ASP Karachi chapter's ‘spokesperson’ and another dozen ASP cadres during various raids in Gulzar-e-Hijri, Defence Housing Authority, Super Highway, and Sachal areas of Karachi, on the same day.

Further, on September 5, SFs arrested ASP ‘chief’, Dr. Abdullah Hashmi aka Shehryar (28), in an intelligence-based operation conducted at Kaniz Fatima Society in the Gulzar-i-Hijri area of Malir Town in Karachi. Dr, Hashmi is an information technology (IT) expert and was employed in the Computer Department of the Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw University of Engineering and Technology (NEDUET), Karachi. He received a Master’s degree in Applied Physics from the University of Karachi.  

During the interrogation Dr. Hashmi told investigators ASP had been formed in 2015 and made several attempts to link up with global terror outfit al Qaeda after establishing contacts with one of its operatives in Karachi, Abdullah Baloch, on an unspecified date. However, the group was advised to generate funds and operate by themselves.

Dr. Hashmi also disclosed that he had been residing in Karachi till 2012 but left for Afghanistan following a raid at his residence. He admitted receiving weapons training in the Shorawak area of Helmand Province, Afghanistan and that his group comprised of 10 to 12 people, mostly students from University of Karachi, DUET, and NEDUET. He confessed his group was targeting Police personnel to ‘receive recognition’ and prove its mettle. Commenting on the slain assailant who attacked MQM-P leader Khwaja Hassan, Shehryar stated that Hassan had also been trained in Afghanistan.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) ASP has been found involved in at least five terror attacks, resulting in nine deaths (seven SF personnel and two civilians) and three persons injured (two civilians and one SF) since its formation 2015. SFs have neutralized 10 ASP terrorists. The name of this outfit first emerged publicly on April 5, 2017, when it claimed responsibility for the targeted killing of Army Colonel (Retd) Tahir Zia Nagi at the Baloch Colony, Karachi.

The involvement of young educated youths from the mainstream-education system in terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Karachi and is not limited to ASP. There have been several such instances in the past. Saad Aziz, affiliated to Islamic State (IS), who was involved in the Safoora Goth bus massacre in Karachi, was a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. Aziz was arrested on May 20, 2015, from the SITE area of Karachi and was tried by a military court; he is now on death row for his involvement in Bus massacre on May 13, 2015, in which 47 Ismaili Shias were killed and another 13 were injured. He was also convicted on the charge of murder of the prominent Pakistani women’s rights activist Sabeen Mahmud on April 24, 2015. Two others who were arrested along with Aziz on May 20, 2015, were Mohammad Azfar Ishrat aka Maajid and Haafiz Nasir aka Yasir. Ishrat is an engineer who had passed out from the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology and had expertise in bomb-making. He was involved in terrorist activities since 2011. Haafiz Nasir, who completed Master of Arts (MA) in Islamic Studies from University of Karachi, had been involved in terrorist activities since 2013.  

Similarly, Noreen Leghari (19), a second-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) student of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) in Jamshoro District of Sindh, was implicated for her ties with the IS. Leghari was arrested on April 14, 2017, during a raid on an IS hideout in the Punjab Housing Society in the Factory Area of Lahore, in which one militant, Ali Tariq (32), was killed while four soldiers, including two officers, were wounded in the exchange of gunfire. The IS terrorists were planning an attack on the Christian religious festival of Easter on April 16. Leghari claimed on May 8, 2017, that she was being held captive by Ali Tariq to be used as suicide bomber. During a confessional interview on Channel 92 News, she said, 
When I was told that I was to be used as a suicide bomber, I objected and told them I was only interested in migration [to Syria]. But I was told … You must do it. Just chant 'Allah o Akbar' (God is Great) and explode your suicide vest. When the army raided our house, I was rescued.

Noreen Leghari is the daughter of Dr. Abdul Jabbar Leghari, Professor at the Dr. M.A. Kazi Institute of Chemistry in Jamshoro. Noreen Leghari had reportedly run away from Hyderabad (Sindh) to Lahore on February 10, 2017, hoping to join IS in Syria. She came to Lahore to meet Ali Tariq, a resident of Baidian Road, Lahore, whom she had contacted through social media. On reaching Lahore they got married and started living in rented a house in the Punjab Society.

Alarmed over the growing involvement of university students’ in terrorist activities in Karachi, the Sindh Police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) summoned the Vice-Chancellors of 11 universities in Karachi on July 9, 2017, in a bid to counter extremism and terrorism. CTD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Raja Omar Khattab, however, clarified, “Basically, we have not summoned the vice-chancellors, but invited them to join us so we can brief them on serious matters.”

Later, on July 12, 2017, CTD organised a seminar titled ‘Growing radicalisation in educational institutions’ at the Central Police Office in Karachi which was attended by Vice Chancellors and other officials of around 40 varsities, both private and public. Speaking at the seminar, CTD chief Additional Inspector General (IG) Dr. Sanaullah Abbasi noted,
Radicalisation [is] growing at academic institutes with the CTD assessing that the next generation of militants [is] more likely to have university education rather than a madrassa background. The recent cases of Noreen Leghari and Saad Aziz gave credence to this theory.

CTD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Operations, Munir Ahmed Shaikh further pointed out, “Small pockets of radicalisation [are] emerging in academic institutes. There [is] a thin line between preaching and radicalisation.”

CTD’s SSP (Intelligence) Omar Shahid Hamid added that the Department had assessed that youth who had been radicalised at academic institutions were “sophisticated and trained” and warned, “Radicalisation is growing and we fear that the militants are more likely to emerge from secular academic institutes.”

During the July 12 seminar, leading academicians had called for a coordinated and strong policy to check the extremism that they believed was not limited to conventional madrasas (seminaries) but could now be found in reputed public and private educational institutions, negating the ‘myth’ that radicalisation was a product of poverty and illiteracy. Questions were raised about the efficacy of intelligence agencies in curbing radicalisation despite their presence on campuses. Dr. Roshan Rashidi Acting Vice Chancellor of of DUET questioned the role of 10-12 intelligence agencies’ personnel operating at each Varsity, if they could not detect extremism and terrorism there. Mohammad Salih, Director of the People’s Medical University in Nawabshah District, argued that agencies’ personnel were ‘interfering’ in their administration and financial affairs, but were not fulfilling their role in preventing militancy on campus.

The State apparatus has long been aware of growing radicalisation among the youth in educational institutions as well as of militant outfits luring educated students to join them. The recent incidents, however, demonstrate the Government’s comprehensive failure to curb the growing menace.

INDIA
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Meghalaya: GNLA: Rapid Erosion
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

The Supreme Court on September 1, 2017, dismissed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) moved by the Meghalaya Government for the cancellation of bail granted to Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) founder ‘chairman’ Pakchara R. Sangma aka Champion Sangma. The Apex Court rejected the plea arguing that, since Sangma was already in jail under other charges, the plea was infructuous.

The Court of the District and Sessions Judge in Shillong had granted Pakchara Sangma conditional bail on February 22, 2017, on the surety of INR 100,000, in one of the cases in which he had been charged. Further, on May 5, 2017, the Meghalaya High Court had upheld the decision, rejecting the Meghalaya Government’s plea for cancellation of bail.

The GNLA ‘chairman’ was booked under the Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act (MPDA) by the District Administrations of East and West Garo Hills after his reported arrest on July 30, 2012, from the Umkrem-Pyrdiwah axis area by the Special Cell of Meghalaya Police, along the India-Bangladesh border in the East Khasi Hills District.

Though no one has replaced Sangma as ‘chairman’ since his arrest, the outfit has since been led by its ‘commander-in-chief’ Sohan D. Shira. Shira, who was earlier with Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), broke away after the ANVC entered into negotiations with the Government and, along with Sangma, formed GNLA in 2009. Sangma had joined the Meghalaya Police in 2004, but reportedly deserted the Force in 2009 to join the insurgency.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since its formation GNLA has been involved in at least 184 fatalities (74 civilians, 28 Security Force (SF) personnel, and 82 GNLA cadres, data till September 10, 2017). In the current year, thus far, the outfit has been involved in at least seven incidents of killing resulting in seven fatalities (two civilians, and five GNLA cadres).  In the most recent incidents, on August 2, 2017, suspected GNLA militants killed a farmer, identified as Olget R. Marak (53), at Oripur in the Dambuk Aga area of South Garo Hills District. Overall insurgency-related fatalities in the Meghalaya stand at eight (two civilians and six militants) in the current year.

In the corresponding period of 2016, GNLA was involved in at least 10 incidents of killing leading to 10 fatalities (three civilians and seven GNLA cadres). Overall insurgency-related fatalities in the state stood at 20 (eight civilians, one SF trooper, and 11 militants) in the corresponding period of that year. Group identities of the assailants of the lone trooper and the remaining five civilians could not be ascertained.   

The menace of GNLA violence, though it persists, has seen significant decline. In particular, the Garo Hills region – consisting of East Garo Hills District, West Garo Hills District, North Garo Hills District, South Garo Hills District and South West Garo Hills District – where the GNLA has been more active and has been the epicenter of insurgency in Meghalaya, is now experiencing relative peace.

In 2017, out of eight fatalities (two civilians and six militants) recorded in the Meghalaya; at least five (two civilians and three militants) were reported from the Garo Hills region, accounting for 71.4 per cent of total fatalities. GNLA was confirmed to be involved in seven (two civilians and five militants) out of these eight fatalities.

In the corresponding period of 2016, out of 20 fatalities (eight civilians, one trooper, and 11 militants) recorded in the state; at least 12 (two civilians, one trooper, and nine militants) were reported from the Garo Hills region, accounting for 60 per cent of total fatalities. GNLA was confirmed to be involved in seven (two civilians and five militants) out of these 12 fatalities. 

Indeed, the reign of terror unleashed by the GNLA has been brought under significant control by SFs. The major reason for this dramatic improvement in the security situation has been the sustained multi-phase counter insurgency (CI) campaign codenamed Operation Hill Storm (OHS) launched by SFs on July 11, 2014, and which is still continuing. The fourth and latest phase, OHS-4, was launched on September 22, 2016, to flush out the last remaining leaders and cadres of GNLA in the five Garo Hills Districts and adjoining West Khasi Hills Districts. Six militants (five GNLA cadres and the ‘chairman’ of the disbanded United Achik Liberation Army) were killed in 2017. Also, during this period, four GNLA militants were arrested and 15 GNLA militants surrendered. At least 10 GNLA militants were killed, 37 were arrested and 94 surrendered through 2016. Under sustained pressure, the entire ‘northern command’ of GNLA consisting 13 militants surrendered on May 5, 2016. These operations have drastically affected GNLA, with an estimated strength of just 30 cadres remaining.

Top security officials confirm that GNLA’s influence is fast disintegrating. Chief Security Advisor to the State Government, former Director General of Police (DGP) Rajiv Mehta, asserted on August 2, 2017, that GNLA was ‘well past its prime’ and it was just a matter of time before it is ‘totally obliterated’: “We are getting to sort out the GNLA very soon… I think the Police are giving final touches to their plan to sort these militants.”

Indeed, the vast improvement of the security situation in the State, particular in dealing with GNLA, has principally been due to SF successes. There is, however, little room for complacency as the GNLA commander-in-chief’ Sohan Shira remains at large. Shira had fled to Bangladesh due to SF pressure, following an encounter at Rongsu in South Garo Hills on June 27, 2017, during which his personal ‘bodyguard’, Lukseng Ch Marak, was killed. He has reportedly returned to the Garo Hills.

Meghalaya is augmenting its capacities to deal with militant formations by raising and deploying Special Forces of the Meghalaya Police. The second batch of the Meghalaya Police’s Special Multi-Task Force (SMTF) better known as Special Force-10 (SF-10) commando force was inducted on August 4, 2017. SF-10 is a leading force in the counter insurgency operations in the State and its first batch of 223 commandos and 115 rangers entered the service on October 6, 2016.

Sustained CI operations against GNLA have considerably weakened the militant group though its elusive ‘commander-in-chief’, who remains at large and continues to regroup his cadres, remains an issue of concern. Some 90-kilometres of the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya are yet to be fenced, and gaps in border management need to be plugged in order to deny the rebels an easy escape into neighbouring Bangladesh. Nevertheless, the gains of recent years have been dramatic and there appears to be a sense of commitment to consolidating operations and operational capabilities among the State political and SF leaderships.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 4-10, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorismr

0
0
7
7

INDIA

 

Arunachal Pradeshr

0
0
1
1

Jammu and Kashmir

1
1
8
10

Nagaland

1
0
0
1

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Chhattisgarh

1
1
0
2

Odisha

0
0
1
1

INDIA (Total)

3
2
10
15

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

5
3
0
8

Sindh

0
1
5
6

PAKISTAN (Total)

5
4
5
14
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

Number of terror camps and launch pads across the LoC in PoK have gone up, says Northern Army Commander Lt. Gen. Devraj Anbu: The Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Devraj Anbu said on September 7 that terror camps and launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have gone up and around 475 militants are waiting to sneak into the Indian side. "We cannot tell you the exact number of the militants. But the militants, who are waiting to cross over to this side (via the LoC from PoK) are nearly 250 in north Kashmir and around 225 in south of Pir Panjal (Jammu region). We are firmly in control of the situation along the LoC… (the number of) launching pads and terrorist camps along LoC has increased as compared to the previous years. Daily Excelsior, September 8, 2017.

Infiltration attempts from across the LoC increased this year, says Major General AK Singh: General Officer Commanding (GOC) Kilo Force, Major General AK Singh, on September 5 said that Army is closely monitoring situation in Kashmir Valley even as infiltration attempts from across the Line of Control (LoC) have increased this year. "Infiltration attempts from the last some months have increased but the soldiers are alert to fight such attempts and give a befitting reply to the attempts by Pakistan," Major General Singh said. Daily Excelsior, September 6, 2017.

Identify Rohingyas living illegally, they may be terror threat; Centre asks Indian States: The Centre has asked all the state governments to identify Rohingya Muslims living illegally while raising concern over terror groups trying to use the migrants to trigger trouble in the country. An advisory issued by the Union Home Ministry has asked all state governments and Union territories to identify Rohingyas while indicating that they could pose grave security challenges. Around 14,000 Rohingyas living in the country are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while about 40,000 are said to be staying illegally. India Today, September 6, 2017.

Zakir Naik targeted for terrorism and not religion, NIA tells Interpol:The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has told the Interpol that Zakir Naik is being targeted for terrorism and not because of his religion. While sending out a detailed response to the Interpol, the NIA has said that evidence against Naik is strong and his acts violate the Indian law. Zakir Naik is under investigation for funding terror suspects. The NIA also said that his passport had been revoked. One India , September 4, 2017.


PAKISTAN

LeT and JeM are based on its soil, admits Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif: Pakistan on September 6 admitted for the first time that internationally proscribed terrorist outfits, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), were operating from within its territory, with Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif calling for tougher action against these groups. "We should impose restrictions on activities of elements like LeT and JeM so that we can show the global community that we've put our house in order," Asif told during an interview with Geo News while responding to a BRICS declaration that named several terrorist groups, including the two, as threats to regional security. Times of India , September