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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 12, September 18, 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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Unsettling Stability
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate; Institute for Conflict Management

On September 6, 2017, remains of seven dead bodies were recovered from a Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) hideout in the capital Dhaka city’s Darus Salam area after the terrorists blew themselves up, ignoring the Rapid Action Battalion’s  (RAB’s) repeated calls to surrender. A large quantity of bombs and bomb making materials, including 24 high-impact explosive devices, 60 improvised hand grenades, 70 chemical bombs, 15 kilograms of splinters, nine empty cages, 20 kilograms of charcoal, and 1,500 pieces of igniting cord were also recovered.

On August 27, 2017, a JMB terrorist was killed in an explosion while making bombs at a house in the Kashor area of Mymensingh District. Police recovered four bombs and more than eight kilograms of gunpowder from the house. Of the four bombs, two were pressure cooker bombs, each weighing around 2-2.5 kilograms, and two hand grenades.

On August 25, 2017, a Neo-JMB militant was killed in a gunfight with the Police in Boalia village of Kushtia District. Police recovered a foreign pistol, two bullets and three sharp weapons from the spot.

On August 15, 2017, a Neo-JMB militant was killed by the Police during an operation codenamed ‘Operation August Bite’ at a suspected hideout near the Square Hospital in Dhaka city.

Indeed, Security Forces (SFs) are continuing their unremitting efforts against terrorist formations in Bangladesh. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the Gulshan Cafe attack on July 1, 2016, 103 Islamist terrorists have been killed and another 1,284 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); the 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); Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) ‘chief’ Mufti Abdul Hannan; and HUJI-B ‘regional commander’ Tajul Islam Mahmud aka Mama Hujur (46) (data till September 17, 2017).

Claiming that there will be no major militant attack in Bangladesh at this moment, Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Chief Monirul Islam disclosed on August 8, 2017,
We've been able to successfully destroy the operational capacity of the militants. The militants' operational capacity increased last year, but they don't have that capacity any more. We've destroyed it by carrying out anti-militancy drives across the country. The militants have no capacity to launch any more big attack right now.

Likewise, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Mohamad Asaduzzaman Mia claimed, on August 16, 2017, that there was no threat of any major terrorist attack or security risk in the country, as the organizational capability of terrorist formations such as Neo-JMB and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) had waned.

Further, to boost the anti-terrorism drives, CTTC Additional Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Sanowar Hossain on August 11, 2017, noted, bomb disposal robots were increasingly being introduced to deal with explosives:
We have been using people instead of bomb disposal robots, which was very risky. The robots will be controllable at a safe distance from the operation sites. They can move swiftly on land and waterways, and can blast open the entrances of locked or barricaded militant hideouts. The robots can send instant pictures of 360-degree views of the hideout. After getting all the information from the robots, the main CTTC team will begin the operation. The robots will be imported from the United States at an estimated cost of BDT 1 crore, and will lead from the front of the CTTC team during anti-militant operations. The procedure of procurement has already begun.

Notably, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, talking to reporters after a meeting of the National Committee on Militancy, Resistance and Prevention at his Ministry on August 21, 2017, observed that intelligence agencies were closely monitoring Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other social media to control all sorts of cyber based militant activities. Separately, Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) officials on September 9, 2017, disclosed that, as with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), CPM was going to introduce a full-fledged counter terrorism (CT) unit for the Chittagong region with the aim to expedite the ongoing drives against terrorists and terrorism-related activities. CMP officials said that forming a full-fledged CT unit was a timely move, as Chittagong was geographically vulnerable to terrorism.

However, a new security dilemma for Bangladesh is the problem created by Rohingya refugees. At least 74,000 Rohingyas crossed the border into Bangladesh after Myanmar began a military crackdown in northern Rakhine State. The crackdown followed attacks on border guards on October 9, 2016, in which nine Myanmar Policemen were killed and four were injured when hundreds of armed Rohingya men with knives, slingshots and rifles attacked three separate police posts along the Rakhine border with Bangladesh. Highlighting the Rohingya crisis as an important issue, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali stated in the Parliament on June 15, 2017, "Twenty to 25 percent people in Cox’s Bazar are now Rakhine Muslims. Such huge presence of Rakhine Muslims in the area will pose a threat to the national security in future. The Rakhine people have been engaged in various misdeeds, including drug smuggling on bordering areas and arms and human trafficking. They've become a national security concern for Bangladesh." The Minister further noted that some 33,000 Rohingyas, registered as refugees, were living in two camps run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cox's Bazar. It is estimated that some three to four hundred thousand unregistered Myanmar citizens (Rohingyas) have been staying in five Bangladeshi Districts, including Cox's Bazar.

A second wave of refugees swept in after the incident of August 25, 2017, in which hundreds of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents armed with machetes and rifles attacked 30 security posts in the Rakhine State, killing 12 Policemen, a soldier and an immigration officer. In response, the military unleashed what it called "clearance operations" to root out the insurgents. On September 14, 2017, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) claimed that up to 400,000 Rohingya had fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, with thousands more arriving every day. Separately, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner George Okoth-Obbo and International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director Mohammed Abdiker Mohamud in a joint press conference held in Dhaka on September 14, 2017, stated, “The Rohingya influx towards Bangladesh may reach 10 lakh (One million) this year if the refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State continues.”

Denouncing Myanmar for the atrocities and calling upon the international community to mount intensified pressure on Naypyidaw to stop the atrocities and take back the refugees, Bangladesh Parliament on September 11, 2017, passed a resolution:
A handful of people of a shadow group had staged the attack which we (Bangladesh) also condemned, but should the entire community of one million populations be punished for that?

Further, in a statement issued on September 13, 2017, the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) acknowledged the initial attacks on Myanmar Security Forces, but "condemned the subsequent violence," and called for "immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, and ensure the protection of civilians.”

Disturbingly, terrorist outfits are looking to cash in on the Rohingya crisis. The terrorist formations both at home and abroad are fishing in troubled waters, trying to provoke their followers to go to Myanmar and fight the country’s military in the name of ‘protecting Islam’ and saving the Rohingya people who face brutality at the hands of the Myanmar Army. On September 3, 2017, in a video message released by al Qaeda’s al-Malahem Media Foundation, Khaled Batarfi called on Muslims in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia to support their Rohingya Muslim brethren against the “enemies of Allah.” Similarly, on September 12, 2017, Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) Chief Maulana Masood Azhar declared, “All of us must do whatever we can for the Myanmar Muslims. Just say your prayers and get up to help them. You don’t need to show off what you are doing: just do it, and never stop." On the home front, Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) Secretary General Junaid Babunagari issuing an ultimatum on September 9, 2017, threatened to siege of the Myanmar Embassy at Dhaka on September 19, if the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state of Myanmar continued. Similarly, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, pasted posters on the street walls in Dhaka, Chittagong and other cities of Bangladesh, condemning the oppression on Rohingyas and urging countrymen to raise their voice.

Bangladesh has taken giant strides against terrorism and Islamist extremism. However, the scope for a coalition of terrorists with the radicalized elements among the Rohingyas who have been forced across the Bangladesh-Myanmar border could create new headaches for authorities. The Rohingya crisis is no longer only a humanitarian calamity but a potential threat to the internal stability and security of Bangladesh as well.

 

INDIA
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Manipur: Violent Highlands
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

Suspected militants of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) attacked a combined team of the banned terror outfit People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) at Makan village in Kamjong District near Border Pillar No, 8 along the Indo-Myanmar border, on September 12, 2017. NSCN-IM cadres killed five militants of the rival groups, identified as PLA ‘sergeant major’ Richard aka Wareppam Dinesh, PLA ‘sergeant’ Lalloi aka Khundrakpam Sunil, PLA ‘private’ Nanao aka Moirangthem Tomba, PLA ‘private’ Sinthouba aka Konjengbam Shyamsundar and MNPF cadre Raikham Jajo aka Nimai Jazo. The NSCN-IM militants took away the weapons of their slain rivals.

Dead bodies of four suspected Hmar Peoples' Convention- Democratic (HPC-D) cadres were recovered from Barak River. While two bodies were recovered on June 26, 2017, another two bodies were recovered on June 27, 2017. According to reports, the deceased were shot dead by their fellow cadres at an unspecified place in Pherzawl District, on an undisclosed date, for their alleged involvement in a robbery incident which had taken place in the night of June 21, 2017, at Sivapukar in Pherzawl District.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 44 fatalities, including 19 civilians, six Security Force (SF) personnel, and 19 militants,  have been reported from across Manipur in 2017 (data till September 17, 2017). The 10 Hill Districts accounted for 39 fatalities (15 civilians, five SF personnel and 19 militants) constituting 88.63 per cent of the total. Manipur comprises 16 Districts – 10 in the Hills, and six in the Valley region.

In the corresponding period of 2016, the State had recorded at least 27 fatalities, including 12 civilians, eight SF personnel, and seven militants. The five Hill Districts accounted for 17 of these fatalities (four civilians, seven SFs and six militants), i.e. 62.96 per cent of the total. Through 2016, the State recorded at least 33 fatalities; 23 (69.96 percent) in the 10 Hill Districts.

On December 8, 2016, the pre-existing five Hill Districts were bifurcated and new Districts were formed. Tamenglong District was divided into the Noney and Tamenglong; Churachandpur into Pherzawl and Churachandpur; Chandel into Tengnoupal and Chandel; Ukhrul into Kamjong and Ukhrul; and Senapati into Kangpokpi and Senapati. In Valley, two Districts - Imphal East and Thoubal - were bifurcated: Imphal East into Imphal East and Jiribam; Thoubal into Thoubal and Kakching. The remaining two Valley Districts are Bishenpur and Imphal West.

Significantly, while overall fatalities in the State, on year on year basis, are broadly following a declining trend since 2010, although with sharp spikes in 2012 and 2015, the share of violence in the Hill Districts has been increasing.

In the volatile Hill areas, there are now apprehensions of further danger. Reports indicate that the minority Rohingya Muslims under threat of Government Forces in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, could attempt to sneak into Manipur’s Hill areas. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh on September 9, 2017, thus observed, “The international border with Myanmar is porous and all steps have been taken to check any attempt to sneak into Manipur.” Five out of the 10 Hill Districts – Ukhrul, Churachandpur, Chandel, Tengnoupal and Kamjong – fall along the Indo-Myanmar border. Two (Churachandpur and Chandel) of these have contiguous border with Myanmar’s Chin State, which shares it borders with the Rakhine State. No District in Valley has contiguous borders with Myanmar.

The trouble in the Rakhine State escalated dramatically on August 25, 2017, when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militants wielding sticks, knives and crude bombs carried out coordinated attacks on 30 Police Posts and an Army Base – killing one soldier, 10 Policemen, and one immigration officer. Subsequently, the military launched a counter-offensive and media reports indicate that at least 400 people, including at least 59 militants, have been killed since then, and nearly 380,000 Rohingyas have fled into Bangladesh.

Though there are no confirmed reports about the number of Rohingyas residing in Manipur, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh reportedly stated, on September 13, 2017, that there were at least 22 inmates from Myanmar, including 10 Rohingyas, in the Sajiwa Central Jail in Imphal East District, even after their jail terms had expired (date not specified). Reports stated that nine of the 10 imprisoned Rohingyas have been in prison since 2012, and one since 2014.

Any influx of Rohingya Muslims could further destabilize the situation in Manipur at a time when a Joint Committee on the Inner-Line Permit System (JCILPS), a civil society group, on September 4, 2017, had renewed the call for the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system to check the entry of “outsiders” into the State. JCILPS had first raised the demand for the ILP system in 2012.

Manipur has experienced the presence of armed Islamist militant outfits in past, though these secured minimal ‘success’. The People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), founded in 1993, was the most prominent among these. Though the group remains active, the last incident of violence it was found to be involved in was way back in 2013. On March 23, 2013, suspected PULF militants had set ablaze a private truck in the Yairipok area of Thoubal District. The truck owner P. Jiban Singh (32) testified that PULF militants had demanded money some months earlier. The militants hijacked the truck, which was en route to Machi village from Yairipok, on March 22, and the driver was let off. Other lesser known Islamic groups that once operated in Manipur include the Islamic Revolutionary Front (IRF), Islamic National Front (INF), United Islamic Liberation Army (UILA), and United Islamic Revolutionary Army (UIRA). Significantly, most of these groups were under SFs radar again in the aftermath of ethnic clashes between Bodos and Muslims in the Bodoland Territorial Administrated Districts (BTAD) of Assam and the adjoining District of Dhubri (also in Assam) in July 2012, in which at least 80 persons were killed. At that time, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), according to a August 7, 2012, report, had prepared a list of at least 19 Islamist outfits – 14 in Assam and five in Manipur – for their suspected involvement in violence. The five Manipur based groups included – PULF, IRF, INF, UILA, and UIRA, listed above.

Reports indicate that some measures to check any future influx have already been initiated. The media cited an unnamed official source on September 9, 2017, as stating, "The Police Headquarters alerted the Superintendent of Police of the border Districts two days ago, asking them to be on strict vigil to check influx of displaced Rohingya Muslims into Manipur. Police teams, led by respective Sub-divisional Police Officers and officers-in-charge of Police Stations, have been patrolling the border round-the-clock." Reports also indicated that 46 suspected illegal migrants (not Rohingyas) were detained in the State between September 10, 2017, and September 13, 2017.

Tight vigil along the Indo- Myanmar border and sustained action against surviving militant formations would be necessary to deal with the evolving situation in Manipur, particularly in the Hill Regions.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 11-17, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Manipur

0
0
5
5

Jammu and Kashmir

0
0
4
4

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Chhattisgarh

1
0
0
1

Jharkhand

0
0
2
2

Maharashtra

0
0
1
1

INDIA (Total)

1
0
12
13

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

1
0
0
1

FATA

1
4
3
8

KP

3
0
0
3

PAKISTAN (Total)

5
4
3
12
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

HeI threatens to launch jihad against Myanmar if it does not immediately stop persecuting Rohingya: Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) on September 15 threatened to launch jihad against Myanmar if it does not immediately stop persecuting the Rohingya. The hardliner Islamist organization held a nationwide programme on Friday after the Jumma prayers to protest the ongoing military crackdown on the minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state. "We will launch a long march towards Myanmar if its army and their associates do not stop torturing the Rohingya Muslims. We will be compelled to launch jihad against Myanmar," said HeI Secretary General Junaid Babunagari at the protest rally in front of Anderkillah Shahi Jame Mosque in Chittagong. Dhaka Tribune, September 16, 2017.

Police began scanning security guards as militants are taking up jobs at security service companies, say Police officials: Police officials on September 12 said that Police have started vetting private security guards to prevent militants masquerading as security staff from plotting acts of sabotage against important buildings. They began scanning security guards on intelligence that militants are taking up jobs at security service companies following the recent busting of several militant dens across the country. As the security guards have access to important establishments, militants may take advantage of getting appointed to such a position to easily execute their plans, the officials told. Dhaka Tribune, September 13 2017.


INDIA

Kashmir unrest result of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, India assert at UN: India on September 12 held Pakistan responsible for disrupting peace in the Asian subcontinent by providing succour to terrorism on its soil. Dr Sumit Seth, first secretary at the Permanent Mission of India to United Nations (UN) said Pakistan's actions had affected not just India but all the countries in its vicinity. Nevertheless, India was willing to assist Pakistan in removing the scourge of terrorism from the region. Times of India , September 13, 2017.

Rohingya refugees are a threat to national security, says Rajnath Singh: Terming Rohingya refugees as a threat to national security, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on September 12 that the issue will be dealt with a firm hand. "The illegal foreign immigrants will be strongly dealt with," Rajnath said in reply to a question about Rohingya Muslim refugees living in different parts of the country, including Jammu.Times of India , September 13, 2017.

UK Government seizes assets owned by Dawood Ibrahim, says report: The United Kingdom (UK) Government has confiscated the property owned by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. On August 22, 2017, news agency PTI had reported that Ibrahim remains the only "Indian national" on an updated list of financial sanctions released by the UK which also listed 21 aliases for the underworld don. It added that the mafia boss appears on the UK Treasury department's 'Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK' update on August 21, 2017, with three recorded addresses in Pakistan, where he is reportedly based. Times of India , September 13, 2017.

Over 40,000 foreigners either absconding or dead, says Assam Government:Altogether 41,033 people, declared as foreigners by Foreigners Tribunals in Assam, have gone missing since 1985, according to data available with the State Government. The data reveals that between signing of the Assam Accord in 1985 and June this year, 484,381 cases were referred to Foreigners Tribunals and 86,489 people were declared foreigners. Of these, 29,663 were pushed back and 71 deported to Bangladesh, while 833 are lodged in detention camps awaiting