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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 17, October 23, 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
Click for PrintPrint

J&K: Embryonic Investigations
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow; Institute for Conflict Management

On October 17, 2017, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Delhi extended till November 15, 2017, the judicial custody of seven Kashmiri separatists arrested on July 24, 2017, in connection with the NIA case for funding terrorist organisations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). These arrested separatists included Altaf Ahmad Shah Funtoosh Geelani, Ayaz Akbar Khandey, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Peer Saifullah, Aftab Hilali Shah aka Shahid-ul-Islam, Nayeem Khan and Farooq Ahmad Dar aka Bitta Karate. Farooq Ahmad Dar was arrested in New Delhi and the other accused persons were arrested from Srinagar, the summer capital of J&K. Altaf Ahmad Shah Funtoosh Geelani is the son-in-law of All Parties Hurriyat Conference-Geelani (APHC-G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Aftab Hilali Shah is a close aide of APHC-Mirwaiz (APHC-M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Ayaz Akbar Khandey is the spokesperson for the APHC-G.

According to the NIA website, the investigative agency had registered the case (No. RC-10/2017/NIA/DLI) on May 30, 2017, against the,
…separatist and secessionist leaders, including the members/cadres of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who have been acting in connivance with active militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Dukhtarane Millat, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and other terrorist organizations/associations and gangs for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala (illegal transfer of money), for funding separatist and terrorist activities in J&K and for causing disruption in Kashmir Valley by way of pelting stones on the security forces, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India. In pursuance of this FIR, the National Investigation Agency had conducted widespread searches on the suspected persons in Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Haryana and incriminating documents, electronic devices, cash and other valuables worth crores were unearthed during those searches.

Earlier, on May 19, 2017, NIA had has registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) into the
…funding of Hurriyat leaders namely Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Naeem Khan, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Gazi Javed Baba and others in J&K by Hafiz Muhammed Saeed and other Pakistan based terrorists and agencies to carry out subversive activities in Kashmir and for damaging public property, stone pelting on the security forces, burning of schools and other Government establishments.

The PE was registered subsequent to NIA taking into cognizance news item related to the recording of conversations between the reporter and leaders of the separatist groups operating in Kashmir valley, by India Today TV, on May 15, 2017, in this regard.

Meanwhile, the NIA Court also extended, till November 15, 2017, the judicial custody of businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, arrested in connection with the same case on August 17, 2017. Watali's arrest followed the searches conducted by the NIA on the previous day (August 16) at multiple locations in Srinagar, Handwara, Kupwara and Baramulla, belonging to the relatives and employees of Zahoor Watali. The searches had unearthed, according to the NIA, highly incriminating material pertaining to receipt of funds by Zahoor Watali from foreign sources and its further distribution to the terrorists and separatists in the Kashmir Valley for anti-India activities.

The premier investigating agency (NIA) has also registered three other separate cases related to terror funding since September 2011. These include:

Illegal Transfer of funds in large scale from Pakistan to India through import of California Almonds (RC-17/2016/NIA/DLI): The case was registered by NIA on December 16, 2016, following the Central Government receiving information that
…a large scale transfer of funds from Pakistan to India through the import of California Almonds (badam giri) via the cross-LoC [Line of Control] Trade Facilitation Centers (TFCs) located at Salamabad, Uri, District Baramulla and Chakkan-Da-Bag, District Poonch has taken place. This is in violation of the policy of the prohibition of trade in 'third-party foreign goods' through this mechanism and that these funds are being used for fomenting terrorism/separatism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Terror Funding in Jammu & Kashmir (RC-12/2011/NIA/DLI): The case was registered by NIA on November 14, 2011. It was alleged that
Ghulam Nabi Lone, a distributor of funds for the HM and LeT sent about Rs.4 lakhs [INR 400,000] to Habibullah Lone through Irshad Ahmad Lone during the months of May and June, 2011 for illegally financing HM and LeT cadres. The fund was distributed through various conduits in Delhi and other states to the cadres of HM and LeT and used for anti-national and subversive activities".

Terror Funding in J&K through Hawala Transaction (RC-06/2011/NIA/DLI): The case was registered by NIA on September 7, 2011. The case deals with the information that the "money from Pakistan is being sent to Jammu & Kashmir through hawala channels via Delhi suspected to be used in funding terrorism and secessionist activities. The money so supplied might have been provided to the terrorist and their sympathizers’ active in J&K".

Ironically, despite investigation for over six years during which a charge sheet (dated July 20, 2011) and a supplementary charge sheet (dated December 22, 2011) were filed in these cases, NIA stated that "there has been no considerable progress in the further investigation of the case after the filing of the supplementary charge sheet" in RC-06/2011/NIA/DLI and the case is still under investigation. Moreover, two of the six charge sheeted people still remain absconding; the other four are under judicial custody.

More appallingly, in the terror funding case (RC-12/2011/NIA/DLI) NIA completed and filed a final report in the court of Special Judge, NIA, New Delhi, on March 30, 2013. Subsequently, on September 6, 2104, the court accepted the closure report filed by NIA. Though three people – Gulam Nabi Lone, Habibullah Lone and Irshad Ahmed Lone – were accused, no charge sheet was filed during the entire period of investigation.

Further, no arrest has been made in the Illegal Transfer of funds case (RC-17/2016/NIA/DLI) and the case is still under investigation, though over 10 months have passed. In the case against secessionist and separatist leaders (RC-10/2017/NIA/DLI), eight people (mentioned above) have been arrested; however, no charge sheet has been filed despite the passage of over four months since registration of the case. However, searches were conducted at 27 locations in Delhi and Srinagar by the NIA teams on September 6, 2017, during which "cash amounting to approximately Rs. 2.20 Crores (22 million) has been recovered besides incriminating documents pertaining to financial transactions... The diaries pertaining to contacts of hawala operators/ traders, ledger books containing accounts of cross border LoC trade of various trading companies have been recovered..."

On January 16, 2017, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had informed the State Legislative Assembly that hawala money was being used to fund 'terror' activities and violence in the State and that 173 such cases had been registered in the State since 2001. In a written reply in the Assembly, she stated, "As per reports from CID [Criminal Investigation Department] hawala channels are being used to fund terror and violence in the State. Since 2001, 173 hawala cases have been registered. Challans were issued in 90 of these. Of the total, 45 cases are under investigation, while sanction is awaited in 23 cases. Nine cases were "untraced" and six not admitted."

Other measures to control the menace have also failed. Indeed, contradicting the Central Government's claim that after demonetization terror funding had come down to zero, Mehbooba Mufti informed the State Legislative Assembly on January 16, 2017, that, "The State Government has not received any report so far on effects of demonetization on the recent unrest in the Valley.” In her written reply she had also disclosed that no case had been registered with regard to Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICNs) being used to fund violence during the unrest. On November 14, 2016, a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of INR 500 and INR 1,000 notes, the then Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar had claimed, “In the last few days after PM’s daring move, there hasn’t been stone pelting on security forces. Earlier, there were rates: Rs 500 for stone pelting (on security forces in Kashmir) and Rs 1,000 for doing something else. PM has brought terror funding to zero.” Interestingly, the Central Government continues to push the same narrative, without providing any specific details. Most recently, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed that terror funding had been ‘squeezed’ subsequent to demonetization. 

It is, however, kinetic measures that have had the most significant impact on the trajectory of terrorism in J&K. Operation All-Out launched in March 2017 in Kashmir Division with the aim to ”ensure that Kashmir is freed from violence and peace prevails”, has thus far resulted in the killing of at least 152 terrorists (data till October 22, 2017) in the region (Kashmir Division). Another two terrorists were killed in Jammu Division – one each in Poonch and Jammu Districts – during the same period. The State Director-General of Police S. P. Vaid, however, conceded that these operational successes must be backed by several other measures. Stopping terror funding is indeed one such necessary measure. Regrettably, however, all existing initiatives to stop such flow of funds have failed to produce desired results, so far. 

Given the past record, recent developments including action by NIA, can at best be seen as tentative moves in the right direction and nothing more. It would require superlative work from NIA to take the cases which are still under investigation to any final conclusion. Most prominently in, NIA Case No RC-10/2017/NIA/DLI, where top separatist leaders are under scanner, will require tremendous focus, not only on the part of the investigative agency but, even more importantly, unwavering political will. Terrorist funding by the separatist leadership has long been an open secret in J&K, but enforcement and investigative agencies have always been denied the mandate to take effective action. The NIA can achieve nothing unless there is unvarying support from the political class, both at the Centre and the State. Unfortunately, such support has been conspicuous in its absence within a political leadership manifestly bereft of political sagacity.

AFGHANISTAN
USA
Click for PrintPrint

On Course Again
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On October 21, 2017, 40 Islamic State (IS, formerly, Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, also Daesh) terrorists, including two trainers and 38 suicide bombers, were killed in a deadly United States (US) airstrike targeting a training camp for the suicide bombers in the Achin District of eastern Nangarhar Province. Police identified the two Daesh trainers killed in the attack as Qari Quran and Qari Fida. A significant cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives belonging to the terror group were also destroyed in the airstrike.

On October 20, 2017, a key leader of Daesh identified as Abu Tahir Al-Bajawari and nine other terrorists were killed in a US drone strike in the Achin District of eastern Nangarhar Province.

On October 18, 2017, 23 Daesh terrorists were killed in the airstrikes conducted by US Forces in the Nazian and Achin Districts of eastern Nangarhar Province. Weapons, ammunition, and explosives were also destroyed in the airstrikes.

On October 12, 2017, five Taliban were killed in airstrikes in the Mirza Olang area of Sayad District in northern Sar-e-Pul Province. A local leader of the group identified as Mullah Syed Ahmad was among those killed. At least two Taliban were critically wounded in the airstrikes.

On October 10, 2017, eight Taliban were killed and several others wounded in airstrikes in the Arghistan District of Badakhshan Province. Weapons, ammunition, and explosives were also destroyed in the airstrikes.

On October 7, 2017, seven Taliban were killed and 11 were wounded in an airstrike targeting a Taliban compound in the Dara-e-Alf Safi area of northern Sar-e-Pul Province.

On October 3, 2017, 11 Daesh terrorists were killed in airstrikes conducted by US Forces in the Achin District of eastern Nangarhar Province. Some weapons and ammunition were also destroyed in the airstrikes.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 974 terrorists have been killed across Afghanistan in the 61 days since the announcement of US President Donald Trump’s new “South Asia strategy on August 22, 2017 (data till October 22, 2017).  

Crucially, the US has been conducting airstrikes on the Pakistan side as well. In the first US drone strike after the announcement of the new US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, three Afghan Taliban members were killed and another two were wounded on September 16, 2017, in an airstrike in the tribal regions of Kurram Agency in Pakistan, close to the Durand Line with Afghanistan. In the second air assault by US Forces, 20 terrorists were killed on October 16, 2017, in a series of deadly airstrikes targeting a compound of the Haqqani terrorist network in the Kurram Agency.

Hours after the October 16 US airstrike, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif called on the US to stop the airstrikes. Earlier, amid persistent US pressures on Pakistan regarding terrorist safe havens on its soil that are often blamed for major attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed on September 12, 2017, that Pakistan does not provide safe havens to terror groups. However, Afghan officials and US authorities have long insisted that the leadership councils of the Taliban and Haqqani terrorist networks are based in key cities of Pakistan, where they enjoy freedom of action.

The US has also approved contracts worth billions for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). On August 28, 2017, the US Department of Defense awarded a contract worth around $727 million in support of the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing in ongoing efforts to boost the ANDSF capabilities. On September 1, 2017, the US Department of Defense approved another contract for the Afghan Air Force worth $69.3 million, for contractual action for the Afghanistan Air Force AC-208 armed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft requirements. On September 5, 2017, the US Department of Defense awarded a new contract for the Afghan Air Force worth more than $1.3 billion for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance.

Significantly, on September 18, 2017, as part of a planned replacement of its ageing fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, four US-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were delivered to the Afghan Air Force. The US plans to supply a total of 159 Black Hawks to Afghanistan in the coming years to boost its capacity. The Afghan Air Force is considered one of the best-performing components of ANDSF. According to a July 2017 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. Congressional watchdog, 19 of the Afghan Air Force’s 46-strong Mi-17 fleet were unusable because they were undergoing overhaul or repair.

Reacting to the handover of the first batch of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to the Afghan Air Force, Taliban group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid declared, October 8, 2017, “US commander & Ashraf Ghani (the Afghan President) must remember that our fight is not based on technology but is an ideologically motivated fight. When Soviet and Communist government fell, they left hundreds of aircraft in airbases. US also tested hundreds of various aircraft here 16 years ago. Learn from history; your aircraft will strengthen us and shall work for our interests and goals just like your Humvee and Ford Ranger trucks.”

On July 11, 2017, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, asserted that Pakistan needs to stop interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and instead cooperate with the National Unity Government (NUG), and observed, “The factory of interference must be closed in Afghanistan. In establishing peace, at first we want peace with Pakistan; peace with the Taliban comes next.” Pakistan, however, rejected the calls for the elimination of terror sanctuaries by Kabul and Washington with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa declaring, on September 7, 2017, “We cannot fight Afghanistan’s war in Pakistan.” The groups that have long been nurtured in Pakistan remain intact, despite growing international pressures. Significantly, on September 29, 2017, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawajah Asif admitted that terrorist groups and its leaders, including the Haqqanis had become ‘liabilities’ for Pakistan.

Meanwhile, on September 19, 2017, speaking during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, President Ghani observed, “The Taliban and their backers cannot win militarily. Only through political settlement can we achieve enduring peace and I call upon all ranks of Taliban to engage in an intra-Afghan dialogue.” Again, on October 8, 2017, President Ghani called on the Taliban groups to renounce violence and join the peace process, insisting that the option lies with the group.

Notably, the sixth meeting of Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US was held at Muscat, Oman, on October 16, 2017. The Taliban failed to attend the QCG, as the peace process broke down after a fifth session in May 2016, when a US drone attack killed then Taliban Chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, while he was traveling through the Pakistani Province of Balochistan. The aim of QCG was for members to use their respective influence on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to nudge them to the negotiating table. The insurgents’ reluctance to engage in peace talks with the Afghan Government and Kabul’s strained relations with Islamabad had also hampered previous QCG sessions from making any significant headway.

The first meeting of the QCG had been held in Islamabad on January 11, 2016; the second in Kabul on January 18, 2016; the third in Islamabad on February 6, 2016; the fourth in Kabul on February 23, 2016; and the fifth in Islamabad, on May 18, 2016.

Significantly, on an unannounced visit, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the US Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Kabul on September 27, 2017. Further, on October 18, 2017, the United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his stark message to the Taliban group declared, “We’ll be here as long as it takes until you change your mind.”

However, on October 7, 2017, the Taliban claimed that the group was not tired of war, and since it was the US-led invasion that toppled its regime, it called on the American Forces to withdraw from the country. The statement further added that the nation has neither become tired nor will become tired of the war, and that morale was high.

It is difficult, at this early stage, to assess whether Trump’s Afghan strategy will actually achieve its promised victory. Nevertheless, after years of accelerating withdrawals and phony declarations about ending combat operations, Trump’s renewed commitment to stay the course, add additional resources, take the fight to the enemy, and end Pakistan’s double game, represents a qualitative shift of potentially great importance. If implemented aggressively, adjusted as necessary, and sustained over time, there are improved chances that it may eventually get Afghanistan where needs to go.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 16-22, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Andhra Pradesh

1
0
0
1

Bihar

1
0
0
1

Jammu and Kashmir

4
1
2
7

Odisha

3
0
0
3

INDIA (Total)

0
4
8
12

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
8
1
9

FATA

0
2
20
22

Sindh

0
0
9
9

PAKISTAN (Total)

0
10
30
40
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

China stopping NSCN-K from joining peace talks, says report: The pro-active intervention of China has been stopping the Khaplang faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) from joining the ongoing peace-talks in Nagaland. Disclosing that Chinese agencies were frequently meeting the NSCN-K leaders in Ruli and Kunming in Southern China's Yunnan province, security sources in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) said that they have conclusive intelligence inputs-indicating indulgence of China with Northeast insurgent groups. Nagaland Post, October 22, 2017.

Top Maoist leaders in Bihar and Jharkhand are millionaires, says Intelligence report: Two top Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) leaders in Bihar and Jharkhand who boast of fighting for the cause of marginalised sections of the society are millionaires and their family members lead a lavish life with the extortion money collected by cadres, according to an intelligence report prepared by the Special Task Force (STF) of Bihar Police. The report which has been submitted to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), says that children of top Maoists Sandeep Yadav and Pradyuman Sharma, who are active in Bihar and Jharkhand, study in prestigious colleges, own sports bikes and travel by air. Times of India , October 21, 2017.

Frequency of meetings between Chinese agencies and NE militants increased in recent months, says report: The frequency of meetings between the Chinese agencies and militant groups of the North East has increased in recent months. The Government of India is closely monitoring the situation. The Indian security agencies are also of the view that the Chinese agencies are facilitating the insurgent groups to procure weapons.Sources said that India has definite information about the recent meetings between the Chinese agencies and members of militant groups of the north east India. Most of the meetings have taken place in Ruili and Kunming. Assam Tribune, October 21, 2017.

NSCN-K 'chairman' Khango Konyak replaces SS Khaplang as the new 'chairman' of UNLFWESA: "Lieutenant General (retired)" Khango Konak, 'chairman' of the NSCN-K), has been elected new chairman of the United National Liberation Front of West South-East Asia (UNLFWESA) - a joint platform of four militant groups of north-eastern India having bases inside Myanmar. Reports quoting a press release issued by the UNLFW's 'publicity wing' said Konyak was "unanimously elected" as its new 'chairman' after the post had fallen vacant due to its founder 'chairman' S S Khaplang's death. The indian Express, October 20, 2017.


NEPAL

Broader leftist alliance threat to democracy, says Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba addressing a greeting exchange ceremony organized by the Nepali Congress (NC) Bhaktapur District Committee on October 20 said that the broader leftist electoral alliance and unification after the elections would be a threat to democracy in Nepal. "Democracy, republic and people's rights must be guaranteed. At current time, forces wishing to finish off democracy have come together," he said. The Himalayan Times, October 21, 2017.

Prime Minister reshuffles Cabinet stripping CPN-Maoist Centre Ministers portfolios: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on October 17 reshuffled the Cabinet, stripping