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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 2, July 10, 2017

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


ASSESSMENT


INDIA
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Jammu & Kashmir: Salvaging Order
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

At least three Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) terrorists were killed during a 30-hour long encounter in the Bamnoo area of Pulwama District. The encounter began in the morning of July 3, 2017, when the Security Forces (SFs), who had launched a search operation following a specific tip-off about the presence of terrorists in the area, were attacked by the armed group inside a house. Two terrorists were killed on the same day, while another was killed in the morning of July 4. Four SF personnel sustained injuries.

On July 1, 2017, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)’s Anantnag ‘district commander’ Bashir Ahmad Wani aka Bashir Lashkar and one of his associates, identified as Azad Ahmad Malik aka Dada, were killed in an encounter in the Brenti-Batpora area of Anantnag District. The encounter ensued when SFs after receiving information about the presence of terrorists in the area were attacked by the terrorists hiding inside a house. Bashir, according to media reports, figured in a list of 12 ‘most wanted terrorists’ in the state released by the Indian Army on May 30, 2017. Two civilians, including a woman, were also killed during the exchange of fire.

On June 25, 2017, two LeT terrorists were killed in an encounter that broke out between terrorists and SFs in the Delhi Public School building at Pantha Chowk in Srinagar. The terrorists were hiding inside the school building after carrying out an attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) vehicle at the gate of the school, killing one trooper and injuring two in the evening of June 24. The slain terrorists were identified as Abu Tala and Abu Hurraira, both Pakistanis. Two AK rifles, one Underbarrel Grenade Launchers (UBGL), two grenades and six AK-magazines were recovered from their possession. At least three Army soldiers were injured during the operation inside the building.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 95 terrorists have been killed in the State since the beginning of the current year (data till July 9, 2017). During the corresponding period of the previous year, SFs had eliminated at least 81 terrorists. The number of slain terrorists during the corresponding periods of 2015, 2014, and 2013 stood at 44, 48 and 31 respectively. [Year 2013 has been taken as starting point for analysis because, after recording a continuous decline in overall terrorism-related fatalities since 2002, a reversal in this trend commenced in 2013]. Significantly, total terrorist fatalities through 2013, 2014, and 2015, stood at 100, 110, and 113, respectively, just over the numbers killed in the first six months and a week of the current year.

The number of SF personnel killed in the current year, thus far, stands at 40, as against 30 during the corresponding period of 2016. The number of SF personnel killed during the corresponding periods of 2015, 2014, and 2013 was 22, 16, and 31, respectively. Despite the larger loss of SF lives, the fatalities ratio between SF personnel and terrorists has been maintained at comparable levels: 1:2.3 (2017), 1: 2.7 (2016), 1: 2 (2015), and 1:3 (2014). In the corresponding period of 2013, the kill ratio was at par 1:1.

Meanwhile, at least 30 civilians have already died in the current year, as against five killed during the corresponding period of 2016. The number of civilians killed during the corresponding periods of 2013, 2014, and 2015, were 12, 10, and 12, respectively. Further dissection of the data reveals that, out of a total of 30 civilians killed in the current year, thus far; at least 13 were killed during exchanges of fire between terrorists and SFs. The number of civilians killed in such incidents was one, nil, four, and one, respectively, in the corresponding periods of 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The high number of civilians killed in cross fire in the current year is a disturbing development, and has often resulted from the assembly of violent crowds engaging in stone pelting against SFs, in support of beleaguered terrorists at various locations. SFs are now focusing on a range of measure to secure and segregate encounter sites to prevent public access or supporting action by radicalized crowds.

There have been 168 terrorism-related incidents in 2017 (data till July 2, 2017), as compared to 126 in the corresponding period of 2016, according to a media report. Incidents of explosion and resultant fatalities have increased from 14 and none in 2016 (data till July 9, 2016) to 24 and five respectively in 2017 (till July 9, 2017). Though the number of suicide attacks remained the same – one each in both the years, during corresponding periods, the resultant fatalities in these incidents declined from 10 in 2016 to five in 2017.

These numbers clearly suggest that, though the trends to declining violence have been reversed in the State over the past few years, the current security situation in the State, while disturbing, is far from alarming. Attempts by a section of the media and some ‘experts’ to create an atmosphere of panic are based on ignorance or deliberate deceit.

There are, in fact, indicators that, with stronger SF action, a measure of stability is being restored, despite some big SF losses in the aftermath of the killing of HM ‘commander’ Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016. While SFs had imposed a kill ratio of 1:1.48 during the first six months after the killing of Burhan Wani (between July 9, 2016, and January 9, 2017) this ratio improved significantly in the following six months, at 1:2.3.

Crucially, orchestrated street violence – backed by Pakistan-based terrorist formations and covert Pakistani support – subsequent to the Burhan Wani killing, which had created an environment of disorder and panic, is rapidly subsiding. According to reports, there have been 142 ‘law and order incidents’ in 2017 (till June 30). In July 2016 alone, there were 820 such incidents. On December 19, 2016, the then Director General of Police (Law and Order) Shesh Pal Vaid had disclosed that a total of 2,380 ‘law and order incidents’ had been reported during the ‘Kashmir unrest’, commencing July 8, 2016. Of these, at least 820 incidents were reported in July, declining to 747 in August, 535 in September, 179 in October, 73 in November and just 25 during the first 19 days of December. According to SATP, there were another two incidents of street violence thereafter, in 2016.

Nevertheless, flawed policies and the abject failure of the state in controlling the spiraling violence in the initial stages after the Burhan Wani killing created ample opportunities for inimical forces to broaden radical and extremist mobilization and violence, with a spurt in terrorist recruitment. 88 locals reportedly joined terrorism in 2016, mostly after the killing of Burhan Wani, and another 27 are believed to have already joined terrorist ranks in 2017 (till July 3, 2017).

Governments – both at the state and central level – appear to have started initiating some corrective measures. State Director General of Police Shesh Pal Vaid (who took charge on January 1, 2017) stated on February 14, 2017, that a “course correction” was already underway. Though he refused to divulge any details, asserting that any discussion of the issue would be premature, he admitted, “We are reaching out to the parents and requesting them to convince their children to shun the path of violence. In a few cases, we have achieved success also.” Meanwhile, on July 3, 2017, an unnamed Police spokesman disclosed, “As many as 54 youth have been arrested from different Districts of Kashmir over the past few months. The arrests foiled their attempts to join militancy, thereby saving 54 families getting adversely affected by the militancy. "

Further, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) has reportedly come up with a three-fold plan to eradicate terrorism in the State: launch of an offensive on terrorists, keeping tabs on journalists and writers who inflame the situation, and tightening the grip on separatists. According to sources, the Centre may ask Governor N.N. Vohra to directly oversee the combat operations. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also holds home portfolio and heads the unified headquarters of security agencies, including the Army, will be kept in the loop only when the agencies take on terrorists in an encounter.

Though SFs have once again managed to contain the consequences of irresponsible politics and administrative failure in Kashmir, threats persists. This tragic cycle has been seen again and again, with SFs establishing dominance and a measure of control at great cost and through tremendous sacrifices, only to see these gains frittered away by political adventurism, incompetence or sheer mischief.

INDIA
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Northeast: Talks and Some Troubles
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

The Union Government is considering the partial removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)-1958 from the States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Media reports cited an unnamed Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) official as stating, “The notification extending AFSPA in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is issued for six months after a review twice a year. We have reduced this duration to three months and see if it could be withdrawn completely from certain areas. For the time being, the proposal is only for the two States but we are also looking for a similar solution in Manipur.”

The development can be seen in the context of continuous improvement in the security situation in India’s North Eastern Region (NER). According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), NER has recorded over 21,514 insurgency-linked fatalities (10,272 civilians, 2,473 Security Force (SF) personnel and 8,499 militants) since 1992. By 2016, however, the combined annual fatalities for all the States in the region stood at 160 (61 civilians, 17 SF personnel and 82 militants), as against 273 such fatalities (62 civilians, 49 SF personnel, 162 militants) in 2015. Significantly, this was the lowest figure for overall in the region since 1992. In 2017, the region has, so far, seen 67 insurgency-related fatalities (22 civilians, nine SF personnel, 36 militants, data till July 2, 2017).

India’s NER covers 3,287,263 square kilometers, 7.98 per cent of the country’s landmass. It comprises eight States: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. NER shares India’s international boundaries with Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. With the exception of Sikkim, all other States have a history of violent insurgencies of varying proportion. 

Among various factors contributing to the present improvement in the situation, the most prominent is the ongoing peace talks with several insurgent formations. It is pertinent to recall, however, that these peace talks were preceded by sustained and successful counter insurgency (CI) operations against these groups. These operations were backed by generous surrender-cum-rehabilitation policies, losses of ‘safe havens’ in Bhutan and Bangladesh, the death, arrest or surrender of top insurgent leaders, fatigue and disillusionment with violence, and loss of the limited popular support and legitimacy that many insurgent groups had in the past.

According to the SATP database, at least 158 insurgent groups operated in the region at one point or the other. Currently, however, the total number of proscribed militant formations in the region stands at a modest 13: Assam (3), Manipur (6), Meghalaya (1), Nagaland (1), and Tripura (2). Apart from these, there are 23 active militant groups operating in NER: Assam (4), Manipur (6), Meghalaya (7), Nagaland (4), and Arunachal Pradesh (2). Mizoram and Sikkim have no proscribed or active militant groups. Thus, a total of 36 out of 158 insurgent formations are still operational. The Government is, however, in talks with one of the proscribed groups, the Tripura based Biswamohan Debbarma faction of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT-BM).

Of the remaining 122 outfits which are neither active nor proscribed, 82 have become defunct. The Union Government and State Government have, meanwhile, entered into dialogue with 40 of the remaining groups, which are willing to abjure the path of violence and pursue their demands within the framework of the Indian Constitution. The status of talks with various insurgent formations is:

The Human Rights Council

  • Assam units of Hmar People's Conference-Democratic (HPC-D), Kuki Liberation Army (KLA), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), and United Kukigram Defence Army (UKDA), surrendered on January 24, 2012. All these groups are in dialogue with the Government.

  • Five Assam based Adivasi (tribal groups from Central India brought in as indentured workers in the Tea gardens during British rule) insurgent outfits - Adivasi People's Army (APA), All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), Santhal Tiger Force (STF), Birsa Commando Force (BCF) and the Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA) - are negotiating under the banner of Adivasi National Convention Committee (ANCC). They all surrendered on January 24, 2012.

  • Assam based Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF) is under a Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with the Government of Assam since February 11, 2010. The SoO agreement was valid upto June 30, 2017. No further open source information is available on the current status.

  • On an unspecified date, the SoO agreement with Assam based Pro-Talks Faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-PTF) and NDFB-Ranjan Daimairy (NDFB-RD) was extended for another six months. The SoO with both these outfits was valid till June 30, 2017. No further information is available in the open media. The undivided NDFB [later NDFB-PTF] first signed the SoO agreement on June 1, 2005. Similarly, NDFB-Ranjan Daimairy (NDFB-RD), an NDFB splinter, signed the SoO agreement on November 29, 2013.

  • A SoO agreement was signed with the Pro-Talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA-PTF) on September 3, 2011, and is continuing indefinitely. However, talks between the Centre and ULFA-PTF were on hold for a while due to the impending Supreme Court judgment on petitions seeking 1951 as the cut-off year for citizenship of people residing in Assam, instead of 1971 as per the Assam Accord of 1985. The last meeting was held on June 8, 2017, after retired Intelligence Bureau Director Dineshwar Sharma was appointed as an interlocutor.

  • The Mizoram unit of HPC-D is involved in peace talks with the Mizoram Government. The upcoming fifth round of peace talks between the State Government and HPC-D militants is scheduled to be held sometime in July 2017 and is likely to be elevated to the political level.

  • The Manipur based United Progressive Front (UPF), a conglomeration of eight outfits (that also included HPC-D and KLO), and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), a conglomeration of 15 outfits, (that also includes KRA) are currently under SoO with the Government. The SoO agreement with UPF was valid up to June 8, 2017. No further information is available in the open media. SoO agreement with KNO exists since August 2008 and is valid up to July 21, 2017. Political dialogue with both these grouping commenced on June 15, 2016.

  • The periodic extension of SoO was done away with in the case of the Nagaland based National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) which had signed the Agreement on July 25, 1997, and which came into effect on August 1, 1997. A Framework Agreement, outlining the fundamentals of the eventual settlement of issues, was signed with NSCN-IM on August 3, 2015. Union Further, on April 18, 2017, the Union Government disclosed that 'a ceasefire is in operation' between itself and another two National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) factions based in Nagaland - NSCN-Neopao Konyak-Kitovi (NSCN-NK) and NSCN-Reformation (NSCN-R) - and had been extended up to April 27, 2018. NSCN-NK entered into the ceasefire agreement on April 27, 2012, and NSCN-R on April 27, 2015.

For the Assam and Nagaland insurgent groups, interlocutors have been appointed by the Union Government. On February 2, 2017, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Dineshwar Sharma, was appointed as the new interlocutor for talks with the insurgent groups of Assam, taking over from P.C. Haldar, another former IB Director, who served till December 31, 2016. Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Chairman R.N. Ravi was appointed as the interlocutor for talks with NSCN-IM on August 29, 2014. In other instances, State Government officials along with officials from UMHA were engaged in deliberations.

However, the system of prolonged talks along with poor mechanisms for rehabilitation and poor oversight over the implementation of ground rules have been responsible for many instances of deviance. Indeed, some of these groups under various ceasefire/SoO agreements continued to engage in abduction, extortion and killing, and thus continued to constitute an ongoing security challenge. On June 18, 2017, for instance, Assam’s Additional Director General of Police (ADGP-Special Branch) Pallab Bhattacharya disclosed, “Recently we arrested seven person engaged in decoity case. These person were surrender cadres of NDFB”.

Similarly, news reports indicate that on June 12, 2017, the newly elected Manipur Government had raised the issue of SoO violations with the Union Government. A source close to the Chief Minister was reported to have state, "The Chief Minister will raise the issue of ground rules violations by the cadres of militant groups that have tripartite Suspension of Operation agreement with the State and the Centre." Chief Minister Biren Singh had earlier, on May 20, 2017, criticized the SoO, observing, “It is like having no government at all. There is no meaning of the truce. There is no seriousness in the dialogue with armed groups.”

Across Nagaland, moreover, NSCN-IM and other factions systematically violate ground rules, run a parallel administration, impose ‘taxes’ (extortion) on the public, and engage in continuous and fratricidal turf wars.

The active and proscribed groups, moreover, continue to throw up challenges. The most prominent among these is the Khaplang faction of NSCN (NSCN-K). NSCN-K’s Myanmar based leadership had on March 27, 2015, unilaterally abrogated a ceasefire that had endured since April 2001. Subsequently, the Union Government also called off its agreement with NSCN-K through a statement released on April 28, 2015. NSCN-K had signed the ceasefire agreement with the Central Government on April 28, 2001, and this had since been extended annually.

Other  militant formations such as the Saoraigwra faction of NDFB (NDFB-Saoraigwra) [earlier known as NDFB-IKS], the Independent faction of ULFA (ULFA-I), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT), United People's Liberation Army (UPLA), Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Helem Tiger Force (HTF), National Santhal Liberation Army (NSLA), Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF), Achick Songa An'pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF), Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) and the newly formed People's Democratic Council of Karbi-Longri (PDCK), remain outside the purview of peace talks. Further, there are two umbrella militant organisations in the Northeast – both operating out of Myanmar – continue to engage in violence, particularly attacks against SFs. The United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWESA) is a united front of rebel groups such as the NSCN-K, ULFA-I, NDFB-Saoraigwra, KLO, PDCK. The other is Coordination Committee (CorCom), which comprises some insurgent groups of Manipur. The activities of these groups operating across the Indo-Myanmar border have raised concerns within Security agencies .

The very significant improvements in the security situation in India’s Northeast need a vigorous effort of political consolidation. Taking peace talks with various militant groups under ceasefire and SoO agreements forward in a time bound manner is one critical avenue of progress, absent which frustration, ongoing or escalating criminality, splits and internecine clashes can only mount, making a mockery of various ground rules established under the various transient agreements. At the same time, sustained counterinsurgency operations against those groups that remain outside the talks are an imperative.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 3-9, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
0
3
3

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Jharkhand

2
0
0
2

INDIA (Total)

2
0
3
5

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

7
0
0
7

Sindh

0
0
1
1

PAKISTAN (Total)

7
0
1
8
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


INDIA

CPI-Maoist menace claimed 12,000 lives in past 20 years, says Union Ministry of Home Affairs: According to Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), as many as 12,000 persons have lost their lives in Naxal [Left Wing Extremism (LWE)] violence over the last two decades and out of these, 2,700 were Security Force (SF) personnel. The report states, of the total, 9,300 were innocent civilians which were either killed by the Naxals, labelling them as 'police informers', or were victims in crossfire. The UMHA added that there has been a decline of 25 per cent in LWE-related violence and casualties to SFs has dropped by as much as 42 per cent during May 2014-April 2017 as compared to May 2011-April 2014.The elimination of Naxal cadres rose by a sharp 65 per cent and the surrenders by the extremists recorded 185 per cent increase, the official said. Business Standard, July 10, 2017.

Centre determined for a solution to Naga problem, says UNC: The United Naga Council (UNC) is optimistic and expecting 'remarkable' outcome of the Framework Agreement signed between the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and the Union Government on August 3, 2015. Immediately after a marathon meeting with the Government of India's interlocutor for Naga talks RN Ravi at Chumukedima Police Complex in Dimapur on July 7, UNC 'president' Gaidan Kamei told that the Government of India is 'almost determined' to find a solution to the protracted Naga issue and added that the interlocutor's visit to Nagaland is a clear indication in this regard. Assam Tribune, July 8, 2017.

India, Israel 'strategic partners', send strong message on terror: India and Israel decided to elevate their relationship to a 'strategic partnership', after negotiations and last-minute changes in the joint statement on July 5. "India and Israel live in complex geographies. We are aware of strategic threats to regional peace and stability. India has India, Israel forge 'strategic partnership', send strong message on terror suffered first-hand the violence and hatred spread by terror. So has Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu and I agreed to do much more together to protect our strategic interests and also cooperate to combat growing radicalisation and terrorism, including in cyber space," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his remarks after the talks. Times of India, July 6, 2017.

92 terrorists killed in Jammu and Kashmir this year, says report: As many as 92 terrorists were killed till July 2, 2017 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), against 79 in the corresponding period of 2016. In fact, the numbers of terrorists killed in counter-insurgency operations so far this year have surpassed the year-wise figures for 2012 and 2013 when United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at the Centre. While 72 and 67 terrorists were eliminated in J&K in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the numbers picked up during National Democratic Alliance (NDA)'s tenure, touching 110 in 2014, 108 in 2015 and 150 in 2016. Times of India, July 6, 2017. 

ISIS modus operandi being used to recruit militants in Jammu and Kashmir, says DIG: Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, North Kashmir Range, Nitesh Kumar on July 5 said that there has been growing tendency over past few weeks of young boys attempting to join militant ranks and the recruiters are using ISIS (Islamic State) modus operandi in luring these youths to join militancy. The DIG said that the Police have been able to save five boys from Pattan and Naidkhai areas of Baramulla and Bandipora Districts with the help of their families who approached Police and with joint efforts of family and Police these boys were rescued. Daily Excelsior , July 6, 2017. 

HM 'chief' Salahuddin's interview proves Pakistan's role in terrorism, asserts India: India on July 3, said the interview telecast by a Pakistani TV channel of Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM) 'chief' Syed Salahuddin on July 1, is further proof of Pakistan's role in cross-border terrorism. "The brazen admission by Syed Salahuddin of perpetrating terrorist attacks on India and having the capacity to carry out such attacks