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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 5, July 31, 2017

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


ASSESSMENT


PAKISTAN
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Punjab: Reverses amid Gains
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least 26 persons, including nine Policemen, were killed and another 56 were injured, in a suicide blast near the Arfa Karim IT Tower on Ferozepur Road, Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, in the afternoon of July 24, 2017. The suicide attack was carried out during the demolition of the old fruit and vegetable market. The suicide bomber, aged between 16 and 18 years, apparently riding a motorcycle, reached the spot where the Police were standing guard to avert any retaliation from the owners of the buildings being demolished. The bomber – wearing a suicide jacket containing at least 12 kilogrammes of explosives and shrapnel – triggered the blast at 3:55 pm (PST). An hour after the incident, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it had been carried out by its member Fida Hussain Sawati, and released his photograph on social media. However, on July 25, law enforcement agencies identified a new terrorist network, Taliban Special Group (TSG), an offshoot of TTP, as being responsible for the July 24 attack. This was the first assault by TSG, which reportedly includes some highly trained suicide attackers. 

This was the third suicide attack targeting Lahore in 2017. Six people, including four Army soldiers and an off-duty Air Force airman, lost their lives after a suicide bomber targeted a census team in the Bedian Road area of Lahore on April 5, 2017. At least 19 others were injured in the attack. TTP claimed responsibility.

On February 13, 2017 at least 14 persons were killed and 85 injured when a suicide bomber struck around 6pm outside the Punjab Assembly on Mall Road, Lahore, during a protest. Six Police officials were among the dead, including two senior officers: Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Traffic, Lahore, Captain (Retd.) Ahmad Mobin and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Operations, Zahid Gondal of Punjab Police. A large group of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers were gathered in front of the Provincial Assembly to protest a Government crackdown against the sale of illegal drugs. There was a significant presence of SFs in the area while the protest was ongoing. Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Chief Dr Mohammad Iqbal disclosed, "The suicide attacker was on foot." The Jama’at-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction of TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.

Though the first seven months of 2017 were relatively peaceful in comparison to the corresponding period of 2016, the succession of suicide attacks on law enforcement personnel in the provincial capital come as a reminder of persisting terrorist capacity disrupt the fragile peace. According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, the Province has registered a 33.83 per cent decrease in overall fatalities, from 198 persons killed in the first seven months of 2016, down to 131 such fatalities in the corresponding period of 2017. While fatalities in the civilian and terrorist categories saw 64.63 and 19.79 per cent declines, respectively, in the corresponding period, a 25 per cent rise in the SF category was worrying.        

The report of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) released on July 11, 2017, corroborated a 33 per cent decrease in terrorism incidents in Punjab during the period. The PILDAT report observed that Punjab had apparently improved its performance in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) during first quarter (January-March) of 2017 as compared to the performance in the previous two years (2015-2016), noting: "Punjab had witnessed 12 major terrorist attacks during 2015-2016, bringing the average to 1.5 during each quarter, compared to one terrorist incident during the first quarter of 2017… Of the 15 points pertaining to the performance of Punjab on the implementation of the NAP (20 points), the first quarter of 2017 has recorded upward progress on the implementation of points No 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15 in Punjab.” NAP points in which progress has been noted principally include constraints on operation and finance of terrorism, containment of terrorist formations, steps against religious persecution, the regulation of religious seminaries and measures relating to the abuse of the internet and social media by terrorists.  Points on which performance has remained unchanged relate to the implemented of death sentences for terror convicts, performance of special courts and reform of the criminal justice system, various steps against the media to neutralize promotion of terrorism and glorification of terrorists, dismantling terrorist communication networks, effective action against sectarian terrorists.

The decline in terrorism-related incidents can be attributed to the launch of a Province-wide crackdown on terrorist groups following the February 14-suicide attack on Mall Road, Lahore. The Provincial Intelligence Centre of the Punjab Home Department had issued a letter directing the Police leadership to beef up security in different cities of the Province. The letter was circulated among the Divisional Commissioners, Regional Police Offices (RPOs), Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) of Lahore, Deputy Commissioners, Central Police Offices (CPO) and District Police officers.

Further, on February 19, 2017, during a Provincial Apex Committee meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab Government decided to seek support from the Rangers to combat terrorism in Punjab. On February 22, the Federal Government approved a request forwarded by the Government of Punjab for the deployment of Rangers personnel in the Province. The decision was taken by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan during a high-level meeting attended by National Security Adviser Nasir Khan Janjua, Federal Secretary of the Interior Arif Ahmad Khan, Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed and other officials of the Punjab Government. Punjab had requested the deployment of over 2,000 Rangers in the Province, with policing powers to conduct Intelligence-based Operations (IBOs) against terrorists, wherever required and with full authority. 10 companies of Rangers have been posted in Punjab with Police powers for the next 60 days under the Anti Terrorism Act.

After receiving the official notification on February 22, the Rangers conducted their first combing operation in the Rawalpindi area of Punjab. By February 26, they had conducted over 200 search operations in various areas including Karor, Layyah and Rawalpindi, and had arrested over 600 suspects.

During this period of 60 days (between February 19-April 22), 53 terrorists were killed across the Province in intelligence based operations, including the following prominent actions:

February 19: CTD killed five JuA terrorists in a shootout in Dera Sami Patti area of Chubara tehsil (revenue unit) in Layyah District.

February 24: CTD conducted an operation in which six terrorists were killed in the Patti Sultan Mahmood area of Muzaffargarh District.

March 29: Five terrorists affiliated to al Qaeda and TTP were killed by CTD during an encounter in the Kanja area of Gujarat District.

April 7: CTD killed 10 JuA terrorists in the night in the Manawan area of Lahore.

April 9: Five terrorists and one Pakistan Ranger were killed while one Rangers Deputy Superintendent received injuries during an IBO in Chhera Thal area of Dera Ghazi Khan District.

April 15: At least nine terrorists and three Pakistan Rangers personnel were killed during an exchange of fire in Basti Dadwani near the Choti Zareen area of Dera Ghazi Khan.

April 19: CTD personnel killed eight terrorists, neutralizing a 'big' TTP cell in the Narang area of Sheikhupura District. Two CTD officials were injured in the shootout. 

Encouraged by these results, the Interior Ministry gave approval for a further extension of 60 days for the deployment and powers of the Rangers in Punjab on April 19, 2017. A Ministry statement noted that the ‘present powers’ of the Rangers were to end on April 22. Three days before the expiry of the period, the Federal Government issued a notification for the extension on the request of the Punjab Government under the Anti-Terrorism Act of1997.

Despite the success of the counterterrorism operations, there at least 113 ‘most-wanted terrorists’ from various Districts of Punjab still in operation, according to a April 23 Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control (MINC) report. According to the document, 19 most-wanted terrorists hail from Lahore; eight each from Sargodha and Faisalabad Districts; six from Rawalpindi, a city located next to the Federal capital; five each from Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura, Bhakkar, Multan and Attock Districts. No terrorist on the ‘most wanted’ list belonged to Sialkot, Jhelum, Hafizabad, Vehari, Narowal, Okara, Chiniot, and Rajanpur in Punjab. However, some suspected terrorists from these Districts have been added to Schedule Four of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, which allows for terrorism suspects to be brought under observation.

The MINC document divides wanted terrorists into three categories, with about 22 potential suicide attackers. The Punjab Home Department has also notified head money of PKR 50.33 million for 73 wanted terrorists out of the 113 listed, according to the report. The second category contains profiles of 62 alleged Sunni terrorists, while the third is of 29 alleged Shia extremists. Of the total of 62 terrorists, nine are from Lahore; eight from Faisalabad; five from Rahim Yar Khan District; three each from Multan, Mianwali, Rawalpindi and Sargodha.

The recent suicide attack has blown holes in the Government’s measures to contain terrorism. Reports indicate that the Punjab Police had been warned in advance about possible terrorist attacks in Lahore, with an advisory not to concentrate deployments at one place. At least 72 hours ahead of the July 24 terrorist attack in Lahore, the Punjab Police had been warned, but the message was either not taken seriously or not communicated to the grass root level in time. The suicide attack occurred just a few meters away from 180-H Model Town – the Punjab Chief Minister’s camp office, exposing the called combing operations and vulnerabilities of the provincial metropolis.

Security experts have been dismayed at the failure to follow Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) by Provincial police units across Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, resulting in such tragic incidents. In a number of recent attacks, policemen were hit by terrorists while they were sitting in clusters, often at lunch, without proper guard and without due vigilance against possible attackers.

Further, whenever operations have been launched against terrorists in the tribal areas, they have retaliated in the major cities. The recent launch of Operation Khyber-4 in the Rajgal Valley area of the Khyber Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on July 16, inevitably drew the terrorists’ wrath upon major cities, and security agencies appear to have failed to have taken necessary preventive measures against such retaliatory operations. By targeting Lahore, the terrorists have demonstrated that they are far from being eliminated, contrary to what both the civilian and military leaderships have regularly claimed.

INDIA
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Maharashtra: Maoists Struggle to Survive
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

An ‘area committee member’ of the Aheri Dalam (armed squad) of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), identified as Mangru aka Ram Chinna Portet (48), was killed during an encounter with personnel of C-60, the Maharashtra Police counter-insurgency commando unit, in the forest area of Kopewancha near Rajaram Khanla village under Aheri taluka (administrative division) in Gadchiroli District on July 23, 2017. One 12 bore gun and some Naxal [Left Wing Extremism (LWE)]-related literatures were recovered from the encounter site. Portet had been involved in the ‘movement’ for more than two decades and had more than 40 offences registered against him. He carried a reward of INR 600,000 on his head. Portet was shifted to Aheri (he had earlier been working in the ‘medical unit’ of the outfit elsewhere) in Gadchiroli as a 'doctor' a couple of years ago by senior Maoist leaders in order to help strengthen the base of the party in his home taluka.

On July 12, 2017, two women cadres of CPI-Maoist were killed during an anti-Naxal operation in the Yengao Forest area of Gadchiroli District. Though the identity of the slain cadres was yet to be established, large amounts of weapons, along with ration items, besides a cache of torches and batteries, were recovered from the encounter site.

On July 10, 2017, a woman Maoist cadre was killed in an encounter with the Police near Ranwahi village in Dhanora tehsil (revenue unit) of Gadchiroli District. Following intelligence inputs, the Police descended on the Ranwahi Forest, and the encounter ensued. A press note issued by Gadchiroli Police stated, “During the search operation, Maoists suddenly opened fire on the Police. The Police retaliated. After a while the Maoists, feeling the pressure, decamped. A woman Naxalite was found dead on the spot from where the police have also recovered a rifle and a lot of other material”. The identity of the woman Maoist cadre was yet to be established.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Maharashtra has recorded 10 killings, including four civilians, one trooper, and five Maoists, in LWE-linked violence since the beginning of 2017 (data till July 30, 2017). During the corresponding period of previous year, the State accounted for 21 killings, including eight civilians, two Security Force (SF) personnel and 11 Maoists. A total of 26 such fatalities (12 civilians, two SF personnel and 12 Maoists) were recorded through 2016.

The numbers clearly suggest that civilian population is more secure. In terms of civilian fatalities, Maoist violence in the State was at its peak in 2011, when 34 civilians were killed, of which 27 were killed between January 1 and July 30, 2011. Civilian fatalities recorded in 2011 were the highest ever deaths registered in this category in the State since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004. After registering decline between 2012 and 2014, on year on year basis, civilian fatalities started to rise in 2015, though the increase was marginal.

On the other hand, the SFs continued to record a superior success ratio against the Maoists on the ground, with a positive kill ratio of 1:5 in the current year. During the corresponding period of 2016, the ratio was 1:5.5. Through 2016, the SFs had achieved a ratio of 1:6 trooper:Maoist fatalities.   

Meanwhile, SFs continue to arrest an increasing number of Maoists, with at least 10 such arrests in the current year. Most recently, on June 17, 2017, SFs arrested Pawan aka Soma Phoda Weladi (35), a member of the Maoists’ Gariabandh ‘divisional committee’ in Gadchiroli District. The number of arrests through 2016 was two (one on May 23 and the other on September 17). Five Maoists have surrendered in 2017, so far.

Noticeably, despite the Maoists’ call for a boycott of the polls in the Gadchiroli District, about 68.27 per cent polling was registered in the second phase of Zilla Parishad (District Council) and Panchayat Samiti (block-level local self government institution) elections in the four highly restive tehsils of the Aheri Division in Gadchiroli District on February 21, 2017.

Significantly, all the incidents of LWE-linked killing in Maharashtra in 2017, thus far, have occurred in the Gadchiroli District. Through 2016, all 26 fatalities in the State were also reported from Gadchiroli District. In fact, the last LWE-related fatality in Maharashtra outside Gadchiroli, was reported way back on June 19, 2013, when CPI-Maoist cadres killed a medical store owner, identified as Lekhram Sabu Lilhare, in Darekasa village of Salekasa taluka in the neighbouring Gondia District.

According to the SATP database, out of a total of 472 fatalities (161 civilians, 143 SF personnel and 168 Maoists) reported from Maharashtra since September 21, 2004, 455 fatalities (154 civilians, 134 SF personnel and 167 Maoists) were in Gadchiroli District alone, i.e. a staggering 96.39 per cent. The remaining 17 fatalities were reported from Gondia [14 fatalities (five civilians, and nine SF personnel], Aurangabad (one civilian), Bhandara (one civilian) and Nagpur (one Maoist).   

Gadchiroli is the epicenter of Maoist violence in the State. The reason for the strong Maoist presence here is that the District serves as a transit between Telangana [shared borders with two Districts, Adilabad and Karimnagar] and Chhattisgarh [shared borders with four Districts, Bijapur, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon], which are strategically crucial for the Maoists. Moreover, the District has a 78.40 per cent forest cover, i.e. 11,694 square kilometres, out of a total area of 14,412 square kilometres, making the task of locating and neutralising Maoists hideouts quite difficult.

Moreover, the Maoists are escalating their efforts to increase influence and areas of operation in and around Gadchiroli. According to a May 20, 2017, report, Waman Mandavi (19), a member of the Chetna Natya Mandali (CNM), the CPI-Maoist cultural wing, who was arrested from Gondia District in the last week of April 2017 (no specific date was mentioned), revealed that the old North Gadchiroli-Gondia-Balaghat-Rajnandgaon (NGGBR) zone/division has now been converted into the Gadchiroli-Rajnandgaon-Balaghat (GRB) zone/division. This is an effort to widen Maoist presence in the whole of Gadchiroli, and not just its Northern part, as in the past, and is expected to provide an opportunity to ‘utilize’ the facilities available in strong Maoist ‘base areas’ of the bordering Districts of Chhattisgarh, such as Kanker, Narayanpur and Bijapur, falling under the Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh, the epicenter of Maoist violence. The Maoists are already reported to have started surveying and recruiting in the GRB zone/division, which is currently headed by Surendra, Dama and Santosh, who were earlier associated with the Malajkhand and Tada dalams in the Balaghat District of Madhya Pradesh.

Governments – both at the Union and State – have recognized the consequent imperatives of further strengthening the security apparatus to counter the potential threat.  In a review meeting of LWE-affected States held in New Delhi on May 8, 2017, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had pointed out the need for better connectivity to fight Naxalism. Fadnavis disclosed that, while the State Government had installed 37 mobile towers in the LWE-affected areas of Gadchiroli and Gondia in a first phase, which was launched in December 2014, work on another five was to be completed by end-May. No update is available regarding the completion of the five mobile towers. The state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited's (BSNL) had decided to install 42 mobile towers in the first phase in these two (Gadchiroli and Gondia) Districts. Apart from BSNL's usual capacity addition plans, another 40 towers for connectivity in LWE-affected areas of the State are to be installed in the second phase. An unnamed BSNL official disclosed on May 10 2017, that the second phase, work on which was to be launched ‘soon’, was expected to be completed by March 2018.

In addition, according to a April 19, 2017, report, Gadchiroli District will have Closed-Circuit Television (CCTVs) in around 25 villages for surveillance on Naxalites. These cameras would make the images of these remote places — from Kamlapur in the Aheri division to Hedri in Etapalli division — available at the local Police Station as well as at the District Police control room at Gadchiroli, more than 100 kilometers away. In the first phase, the more sensitive south Gadchiroli is being covered, with distant villages like Challewada, Kodselgudam, Tarigudam and some others already connected.

Further, according to a January 23, 2017, statement Maharashtra was to get 40 anti-mine vehicles worth INR 12.5 million each, and 146 imported night-vision cameras and 76 thermal imagers, among others, to assist SFs in night combat operations, by February 2017. No update is available regarding the actual acquisition and transfer of this equipment to SFs. Earlier, on January 22, 2017, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP, Special Operations), Bipin Bihari, had disclosed, “With only 15 outdated night vision cameras, which are seldom of any use, we were reduced to conducting night operations merely banking on ground experience, making the force vulnerable.”

If the promised measures are implemented as a priority, in a time bound manner, they will go far in enabling SFs to contain the Maoist efforts to engineer a resurgence in the troubled Gadchiroli District. Any loss of this focus at the present stage, which finds the Maoists in a state of extreme weakness, would result in unacceptable future costs in lives and resources.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
July 24-30, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Assam

0
0
1
1

Jammu and Kashmir

0
1
5
6

Manipur

2
0
0
2

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Maharashtra

0
0
1
1

INDIA (Total)

2
1
7
10

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

4
0
4
8

FATA

3
0
0
3

KP

1
0
0
1

Punjab

17
9
1
27

Sindh

0
1
4
5

PAKISTAN (Total)

25
10
9
44
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Operation “Storm 26” was turning point for law enforcers to fight back against country’s rising terror network, says CTTC unit chief Monirul Islam: Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit chief Monirul Islam on July 26 said that the operation “Storm 26” in the Dhaka city’s Kalyanpur in 2016 was a turning point for law enforcers as documents seized at a Neo-Jama’at Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB) den there and information gathered subsequently helped law enforcers fight back against the country’s rising terror network. He said “It was the operation through which we fought back against militancy and it was a turning point for us. The Kalyanpur operation was very important. After the Gulshan attack, the nation got into an embarrassing situation and fear gripped the people and foreigners.” The Daily Star, July 26, 2017.


INDIA

2,753 security personnel killed in Maoist affected States in 20 years, says Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir: Union Minister of State for Home, Hansraj Ahir informed the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) that a total of 2,753 Security personnel were killed in the Naxal [Left Wing Extremism (LWE)] -affected States in the last two decades on July 25. He added that all necessary measures were being taken by the Centre and the States Government to prepare, train and technically equip the Security Forces (SFs) to deal with various kinds of threats emanating from the Naxals. The Hindu, July 26, 2017.

94 civilians killed by Maoists this year till June, says Union Government: As many as 94 civilians were killed by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres in the first six months of this year (2017) after being branded as ‘Police informer,’ says Union Minister of State for Home Affairs (UHM-MoS) Hansraj Ahir in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) on July 26. He added, “The methods of killing include shooting, multiple beatings and hacking with sharp weapons. No case of beheading has come to light in Chhattisgarh so far.” Indian Express, July 27, 2017.

Pakistan officials posing as Indian officers to gather intelligence, states Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju: Posing as senior defence and district administration officers, people in Pakistani intelligence agencies are contacting Indian officials to gather information on troop deployment along the Indo-Pak border, the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) was informed on July 26 by Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju. Rijiju said spillover frequency of Pakistani mobile network into India has been observed in few locations along the Indo-Pak border areas in Barmer, Jaisalmer and Sriganganagar Districts of Rajasthan. Hindustan Times, July 27, 2017.

Area controlled by Maoists has shrunk in three States, DG CRPF: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), on July 26, claimed that area controlled by Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has "shrunk in three states in last two and a half years". Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, the CRPF Director General (DG), however, admitted that South Bastar remains to be an area of problem. He said, "There is substantial decline in areas controlled by Naxals in Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. Disturbance in these areas are very less. Our major concern is in South Bastar of Chhattisgarh." He said that after the attack, in which 25 men of the CRPF died in April in Sukma area, the force has changed their strategy to deal with Maoists. DNA, July 27, 2017.

India condemns 'double standards' in dealing with terrorists in