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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 7, August 14, 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


AFGHANISTAN
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Darkening Horizons
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On August 5, 2017, the Taliban and Islamic State (IS, formerly, Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, also Daesh) jointly massacred 50 men, women and children in the remote Mirzawalang village of Sayad District in northern Sar-e-Pul Province. The majority of those killed were Shias. Most were shot but some were beheaded.

On August 1, 2017, a suicide bomber stormed into the largest Shiite mosque, the Jawadia Mosque, opening fire on worshippers before blowing himself up, killing 29 people and wounding another 64 in Heart, the capital city of Herat Province. The attack was later claimed by IS.

On Jul 24 2017, 24 civilians were killed and 42 were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in Kabul city. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing.

On July 1, 2017, Taliban insurgents killed 13 people in an attack on a mosque in the Chemtal District of Balkh Province.

On June 22, 2017, 38 people were killed and 60 were wounded when a car bomb exploded close to the Kabul Bank branch in Lashkargah city, the provincial capital of the Helmand Province.

On 31 May, 2107, in the deadliest incident documented since 2001, 180 civilians were killed and nearly 500 were injured in a truck bomb attack in Kabul city.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in its Mid-year Report released on July 17, 2017, shows a two per cent increase in civilian deaths between January 1 and June 30, 2017, as compared to the same period last year. According to the report, a total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between January 1 and June 30, 2017. UNAMA emphasized that extreme harm to civilians continued amidst a worsening toll from suicide attacks, with greater impact on women and children. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), another 154 civilians have been killed across Afghanistan since July 1, 2017, (data till August 13, 2017).

Meanwhile, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in its most recent quarterly report based on data provided by United States Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Resolute Support, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s mission in Afghanistan, on July 30, 2017, asserted that the Afghan Government continues to cede “less vital areas” in order to “prevent defeat.” According to the report, the Taliban continues to control 11 Districts and influences 34 of Afghanistan’s 407 Districts (11 percent), while the Afghan Government controls 97 Districts and influences 146 (60 percent). Twenty-nine percent of Afghanistan’s Districts remain contested. According to SIGAR, Kunduz Province has the largest percentage of Districts under Taliban control or influence (five of seven). Uruzgan (four of six Taliban controlled or influenced) and Helmand (nine of 14) round out the top three.

Worryingly, on August 10, 2017, Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman Dawlat Waziri stated, “More than twenty terrorist groups are fighting in Afghanistan and regional intelligence services are supporting them.”

The current authorized strength of Afghan National Defense Security Force (ANDSF) is insufficient, at 352,000, including 195,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) and 157,000 Afghan National Police (ANP). Moreover, corruption in general has hampered successes of the ANDSF missions in their fight against insurgents. Addressing the first ever conference on the Government’s campaign against endemic corruption in security agencies, on August 8, 2017, President Ashraf Ghani declared that no one, including him, would interfere in appointments within security organizations. Similarly, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah stated, at the same conference, “The sale of equipment and weapons is shocking. The law should be enforced equally on all. If any neglect occurs, be sure the people will think the law has been abused.”

Having gained strength over the last one year with the integration of several al Qaeda affiliates, the Taliban show no willingness to enter into negotiations with the Afghan Government. The Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in its latest report on July 6, 2017, noted, “Despite several regional and international efforts, the Taliban continue to be reticent and currently do not demonstrate a willingness to enter into negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan.” The report further alleged that the Taliban continued to benefit from safe havens in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, which enables their fighters to rest and recuperate.

Earlier, a June 2017 US Department of Defense Report asserted, “Afghan oriented militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, retain freedom of action inside Pakistani territory and benefit from support from elements of the Pakistani Government. Although Pakistani military operations have disrupted some militant sanctuaries, certain extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network were able to relocate and continue to operate in and from Pakistan.”

Further, unveiling the role of Pakistani Islamists in Afghanistan, Esmatullah, an insurgent belonging to the Punjab Province of Pakistan, arrested in the southeastern Paktia Province of Afghanistan, confessed on August 8, 2017, that he was attracted to insurgent groups and was trained by Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), all Pakistani terrorist formations. According to Esmatullah, the Islamist leaders, Mawlavi Sahak of LeJ, Mawlavi Iqbl of SSP and Dr. Shukor of JeM were luring volunteers to terrorist camps under the name of jihad, claiming that Muslims were being cruelly suppressed in Afghanistan, and their lives, properties, and dignity were at risk.

Meanwhile, Political fractures continue to weaken the National Unity Government (NUG) as the Taliban insurgency expands and the IS strengthens its foothold. Indeed, parliamentary and council elections have been a headache ever since a disputed 2014 presidential vote that saw the creation of the NUG led by former rivals President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah. There have been disagreements between the Ghani and Abdullah camps and issues around voter registration, electoral fraud and security. Further, on July 1, 2017, leaders from three mainstream Afghan political parties, including Jamiat-e-Islami, Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami and Junbish-e-Milli agreed to form a new coalition. Jamiat-e-Islami, led by Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani, has been one of the main critics of President Ashraf Ghani, alongside Junbish-e-Milli and Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami which are, respectively, led by the first Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Second Deputy of the CEO, Mohammad Mohaqiq. The formation of the political front has attracted mixed reactions from the Government, political parties and leaders.

As the war gets worse and most foreign troops are long gone, the combination of unending violence and lack of economic opportunity has displaced many Afghans. On August 3, 2017, Sayed Hussain Alami Balkhi, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, stated, during a Press Conference in Herat city, that about 27,000 families or 153,000 people had been displaced across the country due to the war and insecurity since the beginning of 2017, until August. In 2016, more than 660,600 civilians fled their villages and homes. The recent attacks on civilians added to decades of armed conflict and insecurity, have taken their toll on the population’s mental health. Health experts have voiced concern about the high prevalence of mental health conditions among Afghans, and the lack of community-based mental health services for those with psychosocial disabilities.

Out of people’s growing frustration with the NUG, a civil movement called ‘Uprising for Change’ was born in Afghanistan. The movement was established in the wake of a string of security incidents in Kabul, especially the May 31, 2017, truck bombing that killed 180 people. On June 1, 2017, the Joint Working Group of Civil Society Organizations, an umbrella for around 25 organizations, came together in Kabul. On June 2, 2017, hundreds of protestors from different groups and affiliations marched in Kabul. They condemned the attack and accused the Government of failing to provide security for the population. On June 3, 2017, a statement was issued by the protestors demanding that the international community recognize the May 31 bombing as a crime against humanity and act firmly against local and foreign supporters of terrorism. It also demanded the resignation of the President and the CEO, the dismissal of the National Security Adviser, the head of the Intelligence and the Minister of Interior. Once again, on July 27, 2017, members and supporters of the ‘Uprising for Change’ movement took to the streets of Kabul to protest against the Government demanding the resignation of Government leaders and key security officials. They asked the international community, specifically the United Nations to intervene and prevent Government leaders from taking extrajudicial steps, accusing them of seizing power by force.

Rising insurgency and a fraught political transition are exacerbating an already pervasive sense of insecurity about Afghanistan’s future. Meanwhile, the initiation of a new social movement in the country may be more vulnerable to various forms of manipulation from the old and resourceful mujahedeen parties, as well as the experienced opportunism of the political class. An alarming situation appears primed to get worse.

INDIA
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Manipur: Churachandpur: The Heart of ‘Kukiland’
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On August 2, 2017, unidentified militants killed Kuki National Liberation Front (KNLF) ‘general secretary’, Lalmoi Haokip aka Tonglenlal, at Tuibong Bazar in Churachandpur District. KNLF is one of fifteen constituents of the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), which is maintaining a Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with both the Union and State Governments since August 22, 2008.

On July 27, 2017, a civilian, identified as Thangkhanlun Taitom, was allegedly tortured and killed by Zomi Re-Unification Organisation (ZRO) militants, for ‘stealing’, in the New Lamka area of the District. ZRO is one of eight constituents of the United People’s Front (UPF) which is under SoO agreement with the Union and State Governments since August 22, 2008.

On April 29, 2017, suspected People's Liberation Army (PLA) militants attacked a General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) water bowser (tanker)  killing two local labourers at Beheng near Border Pillar 41 along the Indo-Myanmar border in the Churachandpur District.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) at least five persons, including three civilians and two militants, have died in the Churachandpur District in the current year (data till August 13, 2017). During the corresponding period of 2016, only one fatality (a militant) was reported. In fact, through 2016, it was the only fatality the District recorded, the lowest ever recorded, on year on year basis, since 2000; and matched in 2011 when one civilian was killed.

Fatalities in Churachandpur District: 2000-2017

Year

Civilian
SFs
Militants
Total

2000

3
5
0
8

2001

0
0
6
6

2002

2
0
14
16

2003

0
1
8
9

2004

6
13
30
49

2005

9
12
25
46

2006

10
5
25
40

2007

12
1
9
22

2008

5
1
5
11

2009

5
1
7
13

2010

1
0
2
3

2011

1
0
0
1

2012

0
2
1
3

2013

0
1
6
7

2014

0
3
5
8

2015

3
0
9
12

2016

0
0
1
1

2017*

3
0
2
5

Total- 60
Total- 45
Total- 155
Total- 260
Source: SATP, *Data till August 13, 2017

Over all fatalities after registering continuous increases since 2012, recorded a sharp decline through 2016, but are again on the rise in the current year. The comparatively high number of civilian killings, three, in the current year is worrisome. Significantly, it is the highest number of civilian fatalities recorded during this period (January 1 to August 13) in the District since 2008, when four civilians had died, with the exception of 2015, which also saw three civilian fatalities during this period.

Also disturbing are the fratricidal turf wars between militant groups. Out of 33 militants killed since August 22, 2008 (the date of the signing the SoO agreement), at least 13 were killed in internecine clashes. Another twelve were killed by SFs; one militant was lynched by local people; and the circumstances of the death of the remaining seven could not be ascertained.   

The District of Churachandpur, with an area of 4,750 square kilometers, came into existence in the year 1969. Churachandpur was previously known as Manipur South District, and shares its borders with the Tamenglong, Bishnupur, Senapati and Jiribam (earlier part of Imphal East District) Districts of Manipur; the Cachar District of Assam; and the Champhai and Kolasib Districts of Mizoram. Churachandpur District also falls along the India-Myanmar International border, sharing its borders with the Chin region of Myanmar. ‘Sandwiched’ between these areas, many of which are facing their own sets of insurgency-related problems, Churachandpur provides a perfect setting for insurgency to thrive, serving as a critical transit route for several insurgent groups. The Mizo National Front (MNF), which had launched an armed rebellion against the Government of India on February 28, 1966, had also used this District as a transit route for its operations. That rebellion came to an end with the MNF signing an Accord in 1986.  Even Meitei groups such as the PLA, Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yowel Kanna Lup (KYKL) and United National Liberation Front (UNLF), have occasionally used the District as a transit from Myanmar to India and vice versa.

The insurgency in Churachandpur, was led by Kuki-Zomi tribal groups who claimed to ‘protect and promote’ the interests of their community with the proclaimed objective of creating Zalengam (Land of freedom), a separate Kuki-Zomi State. Apart from Churachandpur, Kangpokpi District (earlier in Senapati District), some parts of the now-reorganized Senapati District, Tamenglong, Chandel and Ukhrul Districts, are included in the imagined Zalengam ‘State’.

In the late 1980s, KNO and the Kuki National Front (KNF) were leading the insurgency in the District. Later, they were joined by their own splinter groups (these two formations faced multiple splits) and by smaller tribal groups like the Hmar, Paite and Kom. Further on, there was a process of consolidation within the various groups and two principal formations emerged – KNO and United People’s Front (UPF). KNO accounted for 15 constituent groups: Kuki National Army (KNA), the armed wing of KNO; Kuki National Front – Military Council (KNF-MC); Kuki National Front - Zogam (KNF-Z); United Socialist Revolutionary Army (USRA); Hmar National Army (HNA); United Komrem Revolutionary Army (UKRA); United Minorities Liberation Front (UMLF); Zou Defence Volunteers (ZDV); Kuki Liberation Army (KLA); Pakan Reunification Army (PRA); Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA); United Old Kuki Liberation Army (UOKLA-Khoipu-Maring); United Tribal Liberation Army (UTLA); and Kuki National Front–Samuel (KNF-S). Similarly, UPF comprises eight groups: Kuki National Front (KNF); Zomi Revolutionary Organisation (ZRO)/Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA); Kuki Revolutionary Army–United (KRA-United); Zomi Defence Force (ZDF), United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF), Kuki Revolutionary Front (KRF), Zomi Defence Volunteers (ZoDV); and Hmar People's Convention-Democratic (HPC-D).

Significantly, the tripartite SoO agreements, between the Union Government, State Government and, separately, the two conglomerates – UPF and KNO – were signed on August 22, 2008, and included an understanding that all the parties involved would abide by the Constitution of India and commit themselves to the territorial integrity of Manipur.

Since then, the SoO agreements have been periodically extended, most recently for another year during tripartite talks held in New Delhi on August 9, 2017. Though the talks did not touch upon any political agenda, it is reported that ‘political dialogue’ would be held with the Government of India's interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, who is likely to arrive at Imphal ‘soon’ (no time frame is specified). In 2016, the Union Government had held two rounds of talks with KNO and UPF. During the first meeting, KNO and UPF leaders had stated on June 15, 2016, that the ‘central core demand is for political settlement within the Indian Constitution in accordance with Article 3, for a statehood that comprise the lands in the hills of Manipur for which the Chieftains possess legal land titles’. The second round of tripartite talks was held in New Delhi on October 19, 2016. No details were published regarding this round of talks.

Meanwhile, the State’s ‘territorial integrity’ continues to remain sacrosanct for many. United Committee Manipur (UCM), a citizen's organisation spearheading the campaign for safeguarding Manipur's territorial integrity, cautioned both the Central and the Manipur Governments against "bargaining" on the State's boundary. Elangbam Johnson, president of UCM, declared, on August 8, 2017, "The agenda should not include creation of a Kuki State. If the agenda include division of Manipur in any form representatives of the Manipur Government should walk out of the talks."

On December 9, 2016, the Manipur State Government announced the formation of a new District – Pherzawl – which was carved out of Churachandpur District. The Pherzawl District compromises Pherzawl, Thanlon, Parbung, Tipaimukh and Vangai Range sub-divisions, which were earlier part of Churachandpur. It is believed that the step was primarily driven by the need to increase the District’s developmental prospects. Infrastructural augmentation and a robust law and order mechanism would impact significantly on such prospects.

The situation in Manipur has shown gradual improvement over the longer time-frame, but remains fragile. In particular, it is vulnerable to political destabilization and the endemic inefficiency and corruption of successive governments.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 7-13, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

1
2
11
14

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Chhattisgarh

0
0
2
2

Odisha

1
0
0
1

INDIA (Total)

2
2
13
17

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

7
8
1
16

KP

0
4
2
6

Punjab

1
1
4
6

Sindh

0
2
0
2

PAKISTAN (Total)

8
15
7
30
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

14 JMB cadres sentenced to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment for 2005 serial blasts: Tangail District Court on August 8 sentenced 14 cadres of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment in a case of August 17, 2005 serial blasts in Tangail District. The convicts are Amanullah, Arman Bin Azad, Abdullah Al Mamun, Habibur Rahman Habib, Mizan, Abdul Ahad, Rustom, Tarik, Delwar Hossain, Yamin Mia, Shahidul Islam, Enayel Ullah, Rasel, and Abdullah Taslim. Of them, convicts Azad, Taslim, Tarik and Rasel were absconding and were tried in absentia. The remaining 10 extremists heard the verdict from the dock. New Age, August 9, 2017.

There will be no major militant attack in Bangladesh at this moment, says CTTC unit Chief Monirul Islam: Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit Chief Monirul Islam addressing a programme at the Dhaka Reporters Unity on August 8 said there will be no major militant attack in Bangladesh at this moment. He said “We've been able to successfully destroy the operational capacity of the militants. The militants' operational capacity increased last year, but they don't have that capacity any more. We've destroyed it by carrying out anti-militancy drives across the country. The militants have no capacity to launch any more big attack right now.” The Daily Star, August 9, 2017.


INDIA

'Six top 'commanders' among 132 terrorists killed in J&K this year', says official report: Six top militant ‘commanders’, including Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)’s Abu Dujana, and Burhan Wani’s successor Sabzar Ahmad Bhat of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), were among 132 terrorists killed in encounters with Security Forces (SFs) in Jammu and Kashmir, so far this year, according to official figures. SFs and Police are going after the militants, as they have fiercely intensified operations to hunt them down by acting on the hit-list of top terrorist leaders in Kashmir. The number of terrorists killed in the past seven months this year is the highest in the same period over the past seven years. Daily Excelsior, August 11, 2017.

36 Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh in last 4 months, informs Union Government: A total of 36 Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed and 651 arrested during the last four months (March 16 to July 15, 2017), in Chhattisgarh, informed the Central Government. Chhattisgarh is among other Left Wing Extremism infested States where highest 38 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were killed in 15 incidents of Maoist attacks during the past six months as on June, 30, 2017, the Central Government added. During the period, incidents of Maoists attacks in other insurgency infested States are as follows — Andhra Pradesh (1), Bihar (3), Jharkhand (4), Maharashtra (8) and Odisha (1).  The Pioneer, August 10, 2017.

42 persons linked to Islamic State and other terror outfits suspected missing in 5 years from Kerala, says Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan: 42 persons linked with various organizations, including terror outfit Islamic State (IS), were suspected to have gone missing from Kerala in last five years, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on August 8. There was no information about these missing people, Vijayan said in a written reply in the State Assembly in Thiruvananthapuram, adding that all cases connected with IS were probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Vijayan also said that the State Government did not receive any confirmation report from central agencies about the death of any of