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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 51, July 7, 2003

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



Sectarian Terror in Quetta
Kanchan Lakshman
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

Even as President Pervez Musharraf was addressing a news conference in Paris to round off his 18-day trip to the United States and Europe, at least 53 persons were killed and 57 others injured when three armed terrorists, including a suspected suicide bomber, attacked a Shiite Muslim mosque in Quetta, capital of the Southwestern Baluchistan province, during the Friday prayers on July 4, 2003. Hundreds of worshippers were praying at the mosque, the Jama Masjid-o-Imambargah Kalaan Isna Ashri, when the terrorists opened indiscriminate fire with automatic weapons and set off explosive devices. The Head of the Federal Interior Ministry's National Crisis Management Cell, Brigadier Javed Cheema, said that at least one of the assailants appeared to be a suicide bomber as he had grenades tied to his body and was blown up.

The massacre, the first sectarian attack in Quetta in which a suicide bomber was used, appeared to be an effort to ignite a cycle of violence between Sunnis and Shias (Sunnis constitute 77 percent of Pakistan's population and Shiites 20 percent) and destabilize the country, said officials. Pakistan has witnessed a long history of violence between the Sunni and Shiite sects, most of which has been perpetrated by groups that emerged in the 1980s during General Zia-ul-Haq's rule. Between 1989 and 2003 (till July 6), 1,468 persons have been killed and 3,370 others injured in some 1,813 sectarian incidents in Pakistan (Source: Institute for Conflict Management Database). While no group has claimed responsibility for the latest massacre, members of the Shia community have predictably blamed 'Sunni extremists'. Large numbers of Shias have protested on the streets after the killings, attacking government property and setting ablaze vehicles. Curfew has been proclaimed with troops patrolling the streets of Quetta and other cities in an effort to prevent any retaliatory attacks. The latest attack unambiguously suggests that Islamist sectarian extremists, many of who went underground after a prolonged crackdown during which several top leaders were arrested or killed in 2002, are resurfacing, despite official efforts at containment.

President Musharraf, on his return to Islamabad, condemned the attacks, declaring: "Whether they are religious extremists or sectarian extremists they are ignorant and wild." The incident comes in the wake of increasing Islamist fundamentalist / extremist opposition to his regime's current engagement with the United States. Islamists may have intended to send a message regarding their uneasiness with Musharraf's current agenda. Such incidents also indicate that the jehadis retain substantial striking capacities, negating Musharraf's 'feel-good message' in USA that the Al Qaeda and its affiliates were on the run. While the immediate provocation for the massacre is still unclear, Federal Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that sectarian terrorists could have been retaliating against recent arrests: "In Punjab and in Sindh there was a crackdown… Day before yesterday [July 2], their important people were all arrested".

The incident in Quetta, a city affected by relatively few sectarian killings, suggests an extension of the sectarian strife in Pakistan. The Punjab province and Pakistan's commercial capital, Karachi, in the Sindh province, have been the primary hubs of sectarian violence over the past two decades. However, the two major attacks, including the latest one, during year 2003 have occurred in Quetta. On June 8, 2003, 13 trainee police personnel belonging to the local Hazara community of the Shia sect were killed and eight others injured at Sariab Road in Quetta. There is also a tribal dimension to the Quetta attacks. A majority of the Shia victims are Hazaras, hailing from Afghanistan but who have been living in Quetta for generations. However, officials in the area have said that the Afghan origin of the Hazaras is only a coincidence. Quetta, which lies close to the border with Afghanistan's Kandahar province, has been a hotbed of Islamist extremist activities for years.

In sharp contrast to his ambivalence to Islamist terrorist activities elsewhere, President Musharraf's intent has been unambiguous as far as domestic sectarian terrorism is concerned. His 'war against terror' has vigorously targeted sectarian terrorist groups, and has had substantial impact domestically. Year 2002 witnessed a marked decrease in the fatality index of sectarian violence with 121 persons killed and 257 others injured in 63 incidents, as compared to 261 persons killed and 495 others injured in 154 incidents during the year 2001. Among the major incidents of sectarian violence in 2002 was the February 26 attack at the Shah Najaf Mosque in Rawalpindi in which 11 persons were killed and over 19 others injured when three terrorists opened fire on a group of approximately 40 worshippers. In another major attack, seven women and five children were killed while 25 others were injured in a bomb explosion in the women's section of a Shia religious ceremony at Bhakkar in Lahore on April 25.

The relative reduction in casualties in sectarian violence is primarily traced to the fact that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the main Sunni group, was vigorously targeted by state agencies following its January-12, 2002, proscription. A significant number of its cadres, including the top leadership, were either arrested or killed during various encounters. Approximately 26 LeJ cadres, including many top leaders, were killed and 32 of them arrested during year 2002. Those killed included Riaz Basra and Asif Ramzi, two top LeJ leaders. Basra, Pakistan's most wanted sectarian terrorist, was killed along with three of his accomplices during an encounter in Mailsi on May 14, 2002. He is reported to have established a training camp at Sarobi near Kabul in Afghanistan where recruits from Pakistan were trained in the use of firearms and explosives for carrying out sectarian attacks in Pakistan and against the Taliban's Afghan opposition (the erstwhile Northern Alliance).

Asif Ramzi, a most-wanted LeJ terrorist and a proclaimed offender for over 12 years, was a key link between local Islamist terrorists, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda. He was wanted for involvement in more than 87 cases of murder, attacks on embassies and other terrorist acts, and had a price of Rupees three million on his head. US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials suspected that Ramzi manufactured the bombs used in the May 8, 2002, blast outside the Sheraton Hotel. He was among the seven persons killed in the December 19-explosion at a chemical warehouse in the Korangi area of Karachi.

Akram Lahori, another front ranking LeJ terrorist involved in 38 cases of sectarian killings in Sindh, was arrested in Karachi on June 17, 2002. After Riaz Basra's death, Lahori was acting as the LeJ chief and he had himself monitored and taken part in sectarian killings in Karachi, where he was residing for the preceding one and a half years. Lahori, arrested along with five accomplices from Orangi Town in Karachi, reportedly confessed that dozens of the group's activists had been prepared for suicide missions under the guidance of top Al Qaeda leaders holed up in different parts of the country. In the continuing crackdown, on May 29, 2003, Qari Abdul Hayee, the succeeding acting LeJ chief, was arrested during a surprise raid conducted in the Muzaffargarh district.

Despite these various reversals, however, the group appears to have retained a substantial capacity to strike, and it has emerged as a key provider of logistical support and personnel to the remnants of the Al Qaeda and Taliban currently present in Pakistan. Indeed, many LeJ cadres are reported to have joined various front outfits of the Al Qaeda that emerged in the aftermath of the January 12-proscription. The LeJ was also said to be involved in a majority of the attacks on Christians and Western targets in Pakistan during 2002.

Among the others, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a Sunni group, and the Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), a Shia extremist group, lay low temporarily in the aftermath of their proscription. They did not, however, alter their organizational structure and, though their cadres went underground for some time, openly resumed their political activities after a brief hibernation. The SSP even re-commenced publishing its official organ, the monthly Khilafat-i-Rashida, which it had discontinued immediately after its proscription. It also ran a highly effective electoral campaign for its candidate, Maulana Azam Tariq, who won a parliamentary seat from the Jhang constituency in Punjab province in the October 2002 General Elections. Similarly, while retaining its existing organizational infrastructure, the TJP joined the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) under a different name - the Tehrik Millat-i-Islami Pakistan. The central command of this group also formed new groups to function as front outfits. TJP office-bearers were reportedly accommodated in the new Azadari Council and Haideri Foundation.

At the other end, the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), a militant Wahabi tribal group which operates primarily in the tribal belt, such as in Swat and the adjoining districts of the NWFP, has, according to recent reports, suffered the most in the countrywide crackdown on Islamist extremist organizations with a domestic agenda and activities. A large number of its cadres were arrested in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, while those who managed to escape were subsequently arrested on their return to Pakistan. Under alleged US pressure, Pakistan's military regime could not show any leniency towards the TNSM, as its cadres had more directly challenged the American forces in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Sipah-e-Mohammad Pakistan (SMP), the main Shia group responsible for sectarian violence in the past, remained dormant through 2002 and the first half of year 2003.

While President Musharraf has acted stringently in dealing with domestic terrorism emanating from sectarian groups, the prevailing law and order situation in the country demonstrates that terrorism is not an affliction that can be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion - encouraged and supported in one direction, and suppressed in another. The crackdown targeting sectarian groups, it appears, is failing to produce the desired impact, and incidents like the latest massacre in Quetta suggest that the underground networks and support structures of sectarian groups, particularly that of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, remain unimpaired, and may, indeed, have achieved greater complexity and resilience through their linkages with other terrorist organizations. Clearly, a more comprehensive strategy is required to destroy the source of their lethality.



Arms Trafficking: New Routes Through Bangladesh
Praveen Kumar
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The search for ammunition and explosives is yet to end in the Bogra district of Bangladesh even as the police disclose that they have already seized what is being termed as the 'biggest ever haul' not only in the district, but in the entire country. The seizure in Jogarpara village and its vicinity has yielded, as of July 6, 2003, a total of 95,282 rounds of ammunition and 175 kilograms of high-powered explosives in the Kahalu upazila (subdivision) area in five separate raids, including the 62,100 bullets and 115 kilograms of explosives first seized on June 27 alone. Investigations into the incident have still not established conclusively the place of origin of the contraband and the identities of those involved in the incident., though it has been determined that the seized bullets are of Chinese rifles. The police have also arrested, among others, an alleged cadre of the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), a tribal insurgent group operating in the North-Eastern Indian State of Tripura. Tripura shares an 856-kilometer border with Bangladesh. Claims by the Bangladesh police that the ammunition and explosives were smuggled into the country to destabilize the domestic situation notwithstanding, the incident, rather, highlights India's security concerns, since the group responsible executes its violent activities and agenda on Indian soil. Most of the prominent insurgent groups operating in India's Northeast receive financial and logistics support, including arms and ammunition through the Bangladesh-China-Myanmar border, and many of them have been provided safe haven in Bangladesh.

The insinuation that the seized ammunition and explosives were intended for 'internal destabilization' of Bangladesh is further undermined by the fact that Bogra, situated on the Karatoya river, a tributary of the Jamuna is located approximately 229 kilometres north west of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, and approximately 492 kilometers away from Chittagong, which lies near the Indian border. If reports from Bangladesh and in the Indian media are any indication, the ATTF, headquartered at Satcherri, in the Habiganj district of Bangladesh, is one of the key players in the incident. This would suggest that the transfer of arms and ammunition to Indian insurgent groups in the Indian Northeast occurring through a route different from the traditional Cambodia-Thailand-Andaman Sea-Cox's bazaar circuit that has long been established. Alternately, there is some speculation that the ammunition and explosives were to be smuggled into Nepal for the Maoist insurgents, with the ATTF acting as a mere conduit. This would strengthen reports pointing to the networking between ideologically disparate Northeast Indian insurgent groups with extremist forces outside, creating a bigger security concern for the whole region.

Several possibilities exist given the Bogra location and the kind of ammunition recovered. Bogra is closer to the Bangladesh border with the Indian State of Meghalaya, West Bengal or Assam, than Satcherri from where the Bangladesh police claim the contraband started, after being smuggled in from China through Myanmar. In these conditions, a statement by the Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul Jalil that "No ordinary criminal could dare transport such a big consignment of explosives and ammunition to Bogra without the help of the highest quarter in government" is noteworthy. On July 5, 2003, media sources in Bangladesh also quoted the AL leader, Sheikh Hasina, as saying that the ammunition and explosive recovered in Bogra were produced in the Bangladesh Ordnance Factory (BOF). Sources suggest that it was only after local miscreants including arms dealers and other local people first started looting the pineapples under which the contraband was hidden, and then the bags containing the ammunition and explosives that the police acted.

The possibility of the Nepali Maoists as the eventual recipients of the consignments cannot be entirely ruled out as the insurgents do adopt a strategy of consolidation and regrouping whenever peace talks are on. The Maoists are not known to be using weapons of Chinese make on a large scale, the tedious route from China through Myanmar and Bangladesh, and that too, through the ATTF, does not appear to be a credible option, since Nepal shares an extended border with China to its North. Conditions in India's Northeast suggest that this was the most probable destination of the contraband with a large number of insurgent groups operating in the region using variants of the AK series of rifles.

At least three viable routes existed for the transport of the ammunition and explosives to insurgents in India's Northeast. One, the river route through the Jamuna to the Brahamputra, since Bogra is situated on one of the Jamuna's tributaries, the Karatoya, with the consignment eventually reaching Assam. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which has direct operational linkages with the ATTF, is known to have used this river route for its movement in the past. Second, the consignment could have reached West Bengal through the vulnerable 22-kilometer land stretch of the Silliguri corridor in the North of the State, and then passed to the ULFA through another 'ally', the Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO). Finally, the consignment could also have been taken to Meghalaya and from there, again to the ULFA through the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC).

The pressure to move away from the traditional routes has been increasing, since such routes are now commonly known, and movement on these is relatively easily detected by the increased surveillance along India's international borders with Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

The massive seizure of ammunition and explosives from an Indian insurgent group on Bangladeshi soil go further to strengthen India's claim that insurgency in its Northeast depends on alien support. India has been consistently asking for cooperative regional efforts to check subversive activities, as the international networking of insurgents cannot be tackled in isolation. Regrettably, the response from Bangladesh has been obtuse and obstructive.



Weekly Fatalities: Major conflicts in South Asia
June 30-July 6, 2003

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &










Total (INDIA)



*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


95 per cent people in PoK district favour independence from Pakistan: The Daily Excelsior has reported that over 95 per cent of people in a district of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) favour independence from Pakistan. According to a press release issued by the All Parties National Alliance (APNA), in a survey carried out in the Rawalakote district, over 95 per cent of people favoured independence rather than accession to Pakistan. APNA, reportedly an amalgam of various political parties in PoK, had earlier announced that it would be holding a phased survey in all districts, including areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. Daily Excelsior, July 7, 2003.

Minister escapes assassination attempt in Jammu and Kashmir: Minister for Rural Development, Pirzada Mohammad Sayeed, escaped an assassination attempt at Larnoo village in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir on July 4, 2003. The headmaster of a Government school died and 28 persons, including the Minister and nine police personnel, sustained injuries during the grenade explosion. While no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far, official sources suspect it to be the handiwork of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM). The assassination attempt is the first ever-terrorist attack on any Minister of the eight-month-old coalition Government in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, unidentified terrorists had shot dead the ruling People's Democratic Party's (PDP) Pampore Legislator Abdul Aziz Mir at his residential village of Konibal on December 20, 2002. Daily Excelsior, July 5, 2003.

ISI directs Lashkar-e-Toiba to carry out subversive activity globally, says Union Home Ministry report: Pakistan has been extending covert support to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) to carry out subversive activities globally after the US military campaign against Taliban and the Al Qaeda, according to a Union Home Ministry report. Pakistan's external intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is reported to have been instrumental in providing Lashkar chief Hafeez Saeed with the services of former ISI Chief Hamid Gul in this regard. The directive to LeT is to concentrate their activities globally rather than in only a few countries including India, the report said. The Hindu, July 3, 2003.

Apex tribal council Naga Hoho rejects Centre's new peace proposal in Nagaland: Naga Hoho, the apex tribal council in Nagaland, has rejected the Centre's proposal of providing a statutory status to the body with jurisdiction over the Naga inhabited areas. The Centre had mooted the proposal on July 1, 2003, as a solution to the Naga conflict, which was welcomed by the Chief Minister of the State. According to the plan, the Centre proposed to allocate direct funds to the organisation. However, subsequently the Naga Students' Federation (NSF), the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the Chief Minister's office criticised the move. Telegraph India, July 7, 2003.

Mantu Koloi becomes leader of the Biswamohan Debbarma faction of NLFT: According to a media report on June 30, 2003, Biswamohan Debbarma, who had been leading a faction of the proscribed National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) from a Bangladesh hideout was deposed and Mantu Koloi has become leader in his place. The 'change' was reportedly effected following a meeting of the outfit at the residence of Rais Mia, a senior leader of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in the Magurcherra area in Srimangal district on an unspecified date last week. Telegraph India, July 1, 2003.


53 persons massacred and 56 injured in sectarian attack on mosque in Quetta: At least 53 persons were killed and 56 others injured when three armed terrorists, including a suspected suicide bomber, attacked a Shiite Muslim mosque in Quetta, capital of the Southwestern Baluchistan province, during the Friday prayers on July 4, 2003. Reportedly, hundreds of worshippers were offering Friday prayers at the mosque, Jama Masjid-o-Imambargah Kalaan Isna Ashri, when the terrorists opened indiscriminate fire with automatic weapons and explosive devices. Head of the Federal Interior Ministry's National Crises Management Cell, Brigadier Javed Cheema, said that at least one of the assailants appeared to be a suicide bomber as he had grenades tied to his body and was blown up. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far. Meanwhile, police in Quetta have reportedly detained 19 suspects for interrogation in connection with the massacre. Humayun Jogezai, deputy police chief in Baluchistan, said that police had arrested members of outlawed Sunni groups during separate overnight raids on July 5. Jang, July 7, 2003; Dawn, July 5, 2003.

Jaish-e-Mohammed splits, indicates report: According to the weekly The Friday Times, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), rechristened as Khuddam-ul-Islam, has split following the expulsion of the outfit's Karachi unit chief Abdullah Shah Mazhar by the Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Mazhar and his colleagues have reportedly formed their own faction. The report said that Azhar expelled 12 leaders, including Abdullah Mazhar and Abdul Jabbar, and is also reported to have informed the Punjab Government about his decision two weeks ago. While Abdul Jabbar, now known as Maulana Umer Farooq, is the chief of the breakaway faction, Mazhar has been nominated the nazim-e-aala (chief organiser) and secretary general of the splinter faction. The conflict between the two groups surfaced when the Mazhar faction disallowed Masood Azhar from addressing a sermon at Masjid-e-Bataha in Karachi's Sakhi Hasan locality. About two weeks ago, the two groups reportedly clashed during an attempt to capture a mosque, which is currently in the possession of the Mazhar faction. Later, Masood Azhar attempted to deliver a Friday sermon at the Binori Town Mosque, but the mosque's administrator, Abdur Razzaq Iskander, refused permission for the same. Another scuffle was reported at a mosque in the Korangi area and in this incident, the Azhar faction succeeded in capturing the mosque. The Friday Times, July 4-10, 2003.

French intelligence agency claims Osama bin Laden is living on Pakistan-Afghanistan border: According to the Dawn, France's intelligence agency DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) has claimed that fugitive Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is alive and living on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. According to an unnamed DST operative cited in Le Figaro, "Bin Laden has indeed been able to move about regularly, although in a highly-protected fashion, within networks or tribes which we know ourselves to be practically inpenetratable and where he is known to be in great security… And, as these are the same tribes, which travel back and forth across Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan, or that with Iran, observers along the way believe they've seen him just about everywhere. Which is why nobody can pretend to say, to this day, that Osama bin Laden is in any way dead." Dawn, July 5, 2003.

Three Harkat-ul-Mujahideen terrorists sentenced to death in Sheraton Hotel bombing case: An Anti-Terrorism court in Karachi sentenced on June 30, 2003, three terrorists of the proscribed Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) to death on each of three counts for killing 11 French naval engineers and two others in a suicide car bomb attack near the Sheraton Hotel on May 8, 2002. While Asif Zaheer and Rizwanullah faced trial, Muhammad Sohail alias Akram, the third accused, was convicted and sentenced in absentia. Another absconding accused, Adnan Qamar alias Nooni, was acquitted of all charges for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, the convicts, while talking to the media, claimed that the court had convicted them under pressure from higher authorities. The court, in its 125-page judgment, held Asif and Rizwanullah guilty of manufacturing and using the bomb. It also observed that absconding accused Sohail who had reportedly been using a fake name of Khalid Mehmood was the mastermind of the attack and hence deserved similar punishment. Jang, July 1, 2003.



Sectarian Violence in Pakistan, 1989-2003

*   Data till July 6, 2003
Source: Computed from reportage in the English language press of Pakistan.


The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


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