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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 3, July 17, 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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J&K: Pervasive Negligence
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

On July 10, 2017, at around 8:20 pm, a bus bearing Gujarat Registration number GJ 09 Z 9976, carrying pilgrims returning from the Amarnath Shrine was attacked in the Batangoo area, near Pahalgam, in Anantnag District. At least seven persons, including five women, were killed, and another 19 were injured in the attack. Four of the dead were from Gujarat, two from Maharashtra and one was from Daman. Of the 19 injured, 11 were from Gujarat, and eight from Maharashtra. One of the injured, a woman from Gujarat, died in the hospital on July 16 raising the death toll to eight.   

Though media reports claim that there had been attacks targeting Amarnath pilgrims since 1993, no specific details regarding the early attacks are available in the open source. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, the first attacks on record were between August 5 and 9, when a series of sporadic attacks were engineered by the Harkat ul Ansar (HuA), though there were no casualties.

The first prominent attack, however, took place on August 1, 2000. On that day terrorists had attacked a pilgrim base camp on the Pahalgam Route killing 32 persons, of which 21 were Amarnath pilgrims. This remains the worst attack to date, in terms of fatalities. The second major attack was recorded in the night of July 20, 2001, when terrorists opened fire killing at least 13 people, including six pilgrims, near a base camp on the Pahalgam Route. Seven Muslims, mainly shopkeepers and porters, were also killed. Again, on August 6, 2002, at least eight persons were killed and 30 injured in an attack on the Nunwan camp on the Pahalgam Route.

Since then, according to partial data compiled by the SATP, another at least three attacks targeting Amarnath Pilgrims have been reported, which resulted in two fatalities and 19 injured. The last of the attacks, prior to July 10, 2017, occurred on August 13, 2016. At least 18 persons, including nine pilgrims, were injured, six of them seriously, when a terrorist lobbed a grenade at Bagh Deodi near Akhara Mandir in Poonch town.

The Amarnath cave is situated at an elevation of 13,500 feet, and there are two designated routes to reach to the shrine: the Pahalgam Route and Baltal Route. The Pahlgam Route has 11 base camps (Nunwan, Chandanwari, Pissu Top, Zojibal, Nagakoti, Sheshnag, Wabal, Mahagunus Top, Poshpatri, Panchtarni, Sangam) extending across 46 kilometers. The Baltal Route has six camps (Domail, Rail Pathri 1, Rail Pathri 2, Barari Marg, Y Junction, Sangam) across a distance of 14 kilometers. Though the Baltal Route is shorter, it is less preferred because of the difficult terrain. It is the Pahalgam Route that attracts the largest number of pilgrims.

The Amarnath Pilgrimage had for long remained on the terrorists’ radar. The terrorists had, for the first time, 'banned' the Pilgrimage in 1994, demanding removal of security bunkers around the Hazratbal Shrine [the Shrine had been under terrorist 'occupation' for over a month in 1993 and after restoring orders the Security Forces (SFs) had put up bunkers]. HuA led the demand and was later joined by several other terror groups. The security bunkers were removed subsequently and the terror groups withdrew the 'ban'. The HuA again 'banned' the pilgrimage in 1995 in the aftermath of the Charar-e-Sharief shrine incident – in May 1995 an encounter between SFs and terrorists had resulted in significant damage to the shrine. Such threats have been reiterated time and again thereafter.

The number of pilgrims, on year on year basis, has varied, depending mostly on the terrorism situation in the State, though inclement weather during the pilgrimage period has sometimes also played a role. According to official figures, the number of Pilgrims going to the Amaranth Shrine was 392,653 in 2009;  451,710 in 2010; 635,611 in 2011; 621,145 in 2012; 353,969 in 2013; 372,909 in 2014; 352,771 in 2015; 220,490 in 2016 and 202,705 in 2017 (till July 16, 2017).  

According to partial data compiled by SATP, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) accounted for a total of at least 375 terrorism-linked fatalities in 2009; 375 in 2010; 183 in 2011; 117 in 2012; 181 in 2013; 193 in 2014; 174 in 2015; 267 in 2016 and 183 in 2017 (till July 16, 2017).

The level violence has certainly surged since 2013 and appears to be continuing on an upward trajectory, significantly diminishing the number of pilgrims in 2016 and 2017. Given the circumstances, elaborate and robust security coverage to pilgrimage, particularly around the Pahlgam Route which has witnessed all the four major recorded attacks so far, was an imperative. On June 27, 2017, S.N. Shrivastava, Special Director General, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), had claimed, "This Amarnath yatra will have the highest-ever security setup to ensure an incident-free yatra.” According to reports, in addition to the existing strength of the CRPF in the State, the Centre provided over 250 companies of Central Armed Police Forces to the State Government, adding to five battalions provided by the Army. For the first time ever, drones and helicopters were also used for aerial surveillance.

There was also specific intelligence regarding terrorist plans to target the pilgrimage. On June 25, 2017, Munir Khan, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir Zone, had written a letter to the Indian Army, CRPF, and Deputy Inspectors General of the State Police, stating,
Intelligence input received from SSP [Senior Superintendent of Police] Anantnag reveals that terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 pilgrims and about 100 police officers and officials [this year]. The attack may be in the form of stand-off fire on yatra convoy which they believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation.

laborate security cover ensured that the pilgrims registered with and coordinated by the Shrine Board remained protected, but an incomprehensible lacuna which allowed the unregulated movement of ‘independent vehicles’ and unregistered pilgrims resulted in the avoidable tragedy of July 10, 2017, in which seven pilgrims lost their lives and another 19 were injured. Though the Jammu and Kashmir Police constituted a six-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) on July 14, 2017, to look into the specifics of the attack and to hold people accountable, criminal negligence on the part of the chain of decision-makers in the whole process that allowed unregulated movement of pilgrims across high-risk routes in the night cannot be denied on the basis of information available thus far.

Some knee-jerk responses have already been initiated. The time of patrolling of Road Opening Parties (RoP) has been extended and every (pilgrimage) vehicle is to be checked. No pilgrim vehicle without is now allowed to ply without registration with the authorities, and drivers have been instructed to move to or call the nearest protected point in case of a breakdown of the vehicle or any unplanned delay or change in schedule.

These very rudimentary steps should have been in place well before the attack. Their absence demonstrates an inexplicable blindness on the part of the administration and security setup, despite decades of experience of the disorders in J&K, and despite the visible escalation in violence in the recent past.

SFs have inflicted tremendous losses on the terrorist formations active in J&K – particularly Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) – forcing these groups on to the back foot. At this juncture, attacks such as the July 10 strike, which draw attention to existing faultlines within the security establishment and in the State, provide an impetus to the terrorist machinery and encourage its supporters – both domestic and foreign. SFs and their political masters must out-think and outmaneuver terrorist formations and their sponsors, rather than pursue belated 'corrective measures’ after facing predictable and intermittent reverses.

PAKISTAN
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Balochistan: Forces under Fire
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The Superintendent of Police (SP), Mubarak Shah, and three of his Police guards were shot dead when motorcycle-borne terrorists opened indiscriminate fire at a Police Mobile unit while it was patrolling in the Killi Deba area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on July 13, 2017. Senior Police Official Abdul Razzaq Cheema disclosed that the attackers opened fire from different directions, killing Quaidabad SP Mubarak Shah and his three Police guards, adding that terrorists managed to escape from the scene of the crime. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction, Jama’at-ul-Ahrar (JuA), claimed responsibility for the attack. Asad Mansur, JuA spokesman, claimed in a message issued on social media after the incident, “We carried out the armed attack on police officials.”

Just three days earlier, the District Police Officer (DPO) of Qilla Abdullah, Sajid Khan Mohmand, and his security guard and driver were killed and over 10 other people, including five Police personnel, were injured in a suicide blast in the border town of Chaman in the Qilla Abdullah District of Balochistan on July 10, 2017. Sources indicated that DPO Mohmand was on an inspection of the Eidgah area of Boghara Road with his team, when the suicide bomber riding a motorcycle blew himself up after hitting the Police vehicle. Mohmand died on the spot as the suicide bomber hit the vehicle on the side where he was sitting. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.

On June 23, 2017, seven Policemen were among 13 killed, while 20 others were injured in a suicide attack near the office of the Balochistan Police Chief on Gulistan Road, Quetta. The Police stated that the bomber blew up his vehicle after he was stopped by law enforcement personnel for screening, while he was suspiciously circling the area. The Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) confirmed that the explosives were planted in the vehicle. "The blast took place near the IGP (Inspector General of Police) office and it´s possible the assailants were trying to enter the (Army) cantonment which is close by," Provincial Government Spokesman Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar said. Two separate outfits, JuA and the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On June 19, 2017, two Navy sailors were shot dead and three others were wounded when their vehicle was ambushed by four assailants on two motorcycles in the Jiwani area of Gwadar District. The sailors were transporting iftar items during a routine run from Jiwani town, when their vehicle came under attack. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

On June 11, 2017, three Balochistan Constabulary personnel were killed and one wounded in a gun attack on a check post in the Chakki Shahwani area of the Sariab Road in Quetta. Balochistan Deputy Inspector General of Police Abdul Razzaq Cheema disclosed that four unidentified assailants riding two motorcycles had opened fire on the check post.

Against the backdrop of a renewed wave of targeted attacks against Senior Police Officers in Balochistan, Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Quetta on July 14 and reviewed the security situation prevailing in the restive Province. According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Army Chief was apprised that “terrorists in desperation” were targeting law enforcement agencies and soft targets since there had been a phenomenal reduction in targeted killings on sectarian grounds in the Province.

The first six and half months of the year, however, have registered dramatic declines in violence against Security Force (SF) personnel in Balochistan, as compared to the same period in 2016. A 39.68 per cent decrease in SFs fatalities was recorded, from 63 SF personnel killed in 2016, down to 38 such fatalities in 2017. Nevertheless, Balochistan still leads among all the Provinces of the country on this index. According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), out of the 38 SF personnel killed in the Province in 2017, 26 were killed in Northern Balochistan, while the remaining 12 were killed in Southern Balochistan. As has been noted in the past, the North is afflicted by Islamist extremist groups such as TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ); Baloch nationalist insurgent groups operate in the South. The major Baloch insurgent groups include the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA). 

A North-South breakup of SF fatalities over the last seven years indicates that SF fatalities in North Balochistan are consistently higher than South Balochistan, while extra-judicial killings of civilians account for a large proportion of the killings in South Balochistan.

Balochistan North-South SFs breakup

Year

Balochistan
North
South

2011

122
79
43

2012

178
116
62

2013

137
79
58

2014

83
60
23

2015

90
61
29

2016

153
130
23

2017

38
26
12

Total

801
551
250
Sources: SATP, *Data updated till July 16, 2017.

The higher levels of SF killings in South Balochistan in 2011-13 was the direct result of the extra-judicial killings of civilians by SFs, and the retaliatory targeted killing of SF personnel by ethnic Baloch insurgents. Despite, continued civilian killings, however, the retaliatory killing of SF personnel has seen a downward trend. Through 2016, at least 251 civilians were killed in Balochistan, of which some 138 were attributable to one or other terrorist or insurgent formation. The remaining 113 'unattributed' fatalities were overwhelmingly the work of the State apparatus and its surrogates..

Of the 3,880 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since 2004 [data till July 16, 2017], at least 1,090 have been attributable to one or other terrorist/insurgent outfit. Of these, 371 civilian killings (205 in the South and 166 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations, while Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – primarily LeJ, TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – claimed responsibility for another 719 civilian killings, 660 in the North (mostly in and around Quetta) and 59 in the South. The 373 civilian killings attributed to Baloch formations include at least 155 Punjabi settlers since 2006. The remaining 2,790 civilian fatalities – 1,675 in the South and 1,115 in the North – remain 'unattributed'. A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan). The large and continuously mounting number of unattributed civilian fatalities reconfirms the widespread conviction that security agencies engage in 'kill and dump' operations against local Baloch dissidents, a reality that Pakistan's Supreme Court has clearly recognized.

According to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, at least 936 dead bodies of ‘disappeared’ persons, often mutilated and bearing the signs of torture, have been found in Balochistan since 2011. Figures obtained from the Federal Ministry of Human Rights by the BBC Urdu on December 30, 2016, pointed to large-scale extrajudicial killings by state agencies and their proxies. Most of them were dumped in Quetta, Qalat, Khuzdar and Makran areas where the separatist insurgency has its roots. The irony is that none of mainstream media reported such state sponsored atrocities, as media reporting from these areas is strictly forbidden. The International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP) says it has recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and there are many more it has not been able to document.  

According to IVBMP, Pakistani Forces (military, Frontier Corps, intelligence and Paramilitary) have abducted 480, killed 26 persons including women and children, and torched at least 500 properties in more than 100 offensives from March 1 to March 31, 2017. Only 30 persons among those abducted have been released so far. None of the abducted persons have been presented to any court or given the right to defend themselves. Balochistan’s Dasht, Tump, Mand, Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Quetta, and Makran regions have been the most affected areas, where Pakistani military carried out attacks and offensives against Baloch civilians. Recently on July 8, 2017, three civilians were killed and 265 were abducted by the Army from Dera Bugti and Mastung. The Army also reportedly ‘stole’ civilian property and valuables, including 300 camels.

While the SFs are engaged in a systematic campaign of extermination of the ethnic Baloch people through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, they are, in turn, frequently targeted by Islamist terrorist formations such as TTP and LeJ in the northern Districts. 833 Policemen, including 17 DSPs, two DIGs and other Police Officials have been killed in numerous attacks including suicide hits and target killing in recent years, according to a July, 13, 2017, report quoting data collected from Balochistan Police Headquarters.

The Balochistan Government has prepared a new security plan for Quetta and other troubled Districts in the Province, in the wake of nation-wide terror attacks in the month of January. Official sources claimed, on February 19, that under the security plan jointly prepared by the Police, Frontier Corps and other security agencies, profiling of houses in the provincial capital would be carried out to track down the elements working as facilitators of banned outfits. A ban has been imposed on residing in mosques, seminaries, schools and Government buildings, each of which is required to get itself registered with the Police Station concerned. Registration of tenants has been made mandatory, with legal penalties for any failure to comply. Under the plan, the hosts will have to inform a committee to be formed by the area Police Station about the visit of any guests. 

Terrorist and insurgent attacks on SFs at regular intervals have punched holes in the state’s security approach and orientation in the Province. The complex, multilayered, seemingly never-ending security crisis in Balochistan persists.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 10-16, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

8
0
10
18

Manipur

1
1
0
2

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Bihar

3
0
0
3

Chhattisgarh

1
0
0
1

Maharashtra

0
0
3
3

INDIA (Total)

13
1
13
27

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
7
7
14

FATA

0
0
2
2

Sindh

0
0
1
1

PAKISTAN (Total)

0
7
10
17
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

TATP has become Neo-JMB's explosive of choice in Bangladesh, say bomb experts: Bomb experts said that the deadly explosive Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), used by terrorists in Paris, Brussels and London attacks, has of late become Neo-Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB)’s explosive of choice in Bangladesh. The experts said they had found evidence of its use in militant dens in Rajshahi, Jhenidah and Moulvibazar. The trace of the easy-to-make TATP, known as "the mother of Satan”, was found in surgical belts militants use these days instead of suicide belts, and in other bombs. The Daily Star, July 11, 2017.


INDIA

Majority of active terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir are Pakistanis, says UMHA Official: More than 50 per cent of around 220 active terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are Pakistan nationals, an unnamed Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) official said on July 13. At least 120 attempts of infiltration have been made till May, with 30 militants having been successful at the attempt, he said. In 2016, there were 370 attempts of infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, the official said, adding as many as 119 terrorists had sneaked into the country that year. Indian Express, July 14, 2017.

Militant's body wrapped in Islamic State (IS) flag in Jammu and Kashmir, says report: In a first, the corpse of a militant was wrapped in the flag of the Islamic State (IS) terror group as hundreds of supporters joined his funeral in Srinagar on July 12 protégé Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Musa. This was a departure from previous instances when the bodies of slain militants used to be covered with Pakistani flags. Sajad Gilkar, a resident of downtown Srinagar, was killed along with two other HM militants in an encounter on July 12. Times of India, July 14, 2017.

India raises issue of presence of NE militants with Myanmar's Army chief: India has yet again underscored the need to flush out the Northeast-based militants, including those belonging to the Independent faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), operating from Myanmar. Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Defence Services, Senior General U Min Aung Hliang is currently touring India and he called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other ministers. He also called on Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, besides Army chief General Vipin Rawat. Assam Tribune, July 15, 2017.

India provides USD 500,000 aid to Philippines in fight against IS: India has provided financial assistance of USD 500,000 to the Philippines as it battles Islamic State (IS)-affiliated terror groups in the city of Marawi, 800km south of Manila, in the troubled Mindanao province. The aid follows a conversation between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Philippines' Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on July 6. A statement by the Indian Embassy in Manila says Swaraj expressed "sympathies and condolences for the tragic loss of life in Marawi city." Times of India, July 12, 2017.


NEPAL

TRC