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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 34, March 8, 2004

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



Crises within Crises
Guest Writer: Ameen Izzadeen
Deputy Editor, Sunday Times, Colombo

By calling a snap general election on April 2, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has played into the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), even as the rebel group is rocked by a rebellion within.

It was not in her reckoning when she dissolved Parliament that the LTTE would turn the campaign into a referendum to legitimize its claim as the 'sole representative' of the Tamil people and assert its right to control the affairs of the merged Northern and Eastern provinces.

The President's February 7 decision to dissolve Parliament, in spite of the fact that the United National Front (UNF) Government commanded a majority, caught the LTTE unawares. Yet, in a profound display of political prudence, the LTTE was quick to issue a statement that it would continue to honour the ceasefire agreement, whatever the crisis in the South, and whatever Government was in office.

And soon it got into action and came up with a game plan that would certainly become a headache or create a Catch-22 situation for whichever party that forms the next Government. Psephological analyses say that no party will be in a position to win the minimum 113 seats required to form the Government. Neither the UNF of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe nor President Kumaratunga's new United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) will be in a position to form the Government or continue in office without the support of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which the LTTE has endorsed as its political vehicle.

However, the LTTE plan has suffered a major setback with its eastern leader Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna, who claims that more than 6,000 cadres are with him, demanding more authority for himself, and challenging the decisions of leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who is not known to tolerate dissent.

In its determination to sweep the entirety of the North and the East at the elections, the LTTE warned Tamils against contesting from either of the south-based mainstream political parties - the UNF and the UPFA - which are still capable of winning some Tamil votes. And the warning was unmistakable. After a Tamil UNF candidate contesting the eastern district of Batticaloa was shot dead, four other Tamil candidates contesting on the UNF ticket withdrew from the contest.

As a warning to other anti-LTTE Tamil parties such as the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), a suspected LTTE pistol gang killed an EPDP member at Valachchenai in the Batticaloa district on March 1, and a couple of days later, another EPDP member was shot at. It is said that V. Anandasangaree, the besieged Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader, who defied the LTTE dictates and runs as an independent candidate in the Tiger stronghold of Jaffna, is also under LTTE threat.

The LTTE aiming at a Tamil political monopoly wants no Tamil to be elected from the North and the East unless he or she is a candidate of the TNA. The TNA says it is confident of winning about 23 of the 31 seats at stake in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. To maximize the TNA's share of the electoral cake, it also seeks to divide the Muslim votes by fielding Muslim candidates on its list. With the main Muslim party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress being hit by internal squabbles and divisions, it will not be difficult for the TNA, a four-party alliance, whose candidates were screened and approved by the LTTE, to help the LTTE achieve its goal. If no south-based mainstream party secures a sufficient number of seats to form a Government on its own steam, the kingmaker will be the LTTE-backed TNA. This gives it the power of making or breaking the next Sri Lankan Government and of dictating terms to any party that seeks TNA support. TNA support will be a sine qua non for any minority Government to win a vote of confidence in Parliament. Even if either the UNF or the UPFA are in a position to form a majority Government, with or without the help of fringe parties such as the Ceylon Workers' Congress which is a force to be reckoned with among Sri Lankan Tamils of Indian origin, the strong TNA presence in Parliament will give the LTTE enough muscle to bargain for concessions and greater political power. It will also create a platform for the rebel group to put up a democratic façade. Thus, whatever the reasons for the dissolution of Parliament - whether it was a coup by Kumaratunga aimed at capturing power, or a necessity to safeguard national security as the President claimed - the move has only strengthened the hands of the LTTE.

The LTTE does not want its plans to go haywire with Karuna's rebellion. Karuna's recalcitrance has been attributed to a variety of factors, ranging from differences between the northern and eastern Tamils, to his opposition to the killing of political opponents, as well as his reported ambition to run an autonomous administration in the Batticaloa district, which has virtually come under the LTTE control largely due to the Wickremesinghe Government's policy of pursuing peace at any cost.

Karuna, in an interview with the Associated Press, said he was seeking a separate truce. Such a move, analysts say, could complicate the peace process. The Government, on its part, is playing it safe. It has rejected reported requests for protection, made by Karuna from his hideout in the Thoppigala jungle in Batticaloa, and indicated that it will abide by the ceasefire agreement it signed with the LTTE. Karuna, reportedly playing the peace card, is said to have objected to Prabhakaran's request to send 1,000 cadres to the rebel heartland of Wanni, questioning such a need during peacetime. "There is no question of reconciliation, everything is beyond reconciliation. In future we will have a full self-administration (in the east)," Karuna told AP. "We'll receive no more command from the Wanni administration or Mr. Prabhakaran," he said, adding that his group would respect the current truce until the Government signed a new one with his group. Echoing the age-old rift between the Tamils of the North and the East, Karuna alleged that northern cadres were favoured for positions, while more than 2,000 Eastern Tamil cadres paid with their lives to build up the organisation and achieve their dream of Tamil Eelam.

Amidst electioneering, the President and the Prime Minister have been kept informed of these developments. Both leaders have adopted a cautious approach towards the emerging scenario in the east and indicated that their dealings are with the LTTE led by Prabhakaran. Political analysts in the south, however, first treated the rebellion as an LTTE ploy to gain full control of the East. They believed the Karuna faction would renege on the ceasefire agreement and resume the war in the East. This would enable the LTTE-led by Prabhakaran to blame the Karuna faction for the war in the east, while it would continue to 'abide' by the ceasefire.

It now appears that there is more to the crisis than meets the eye, though the LTTE says the problem is being solved. Acknowledging the mutiny, the LTTE has described it as 'a temporary problem'. However, Prabhakaran wasted no time to take counter-measures with the twin purpose of damage-control and stripping Karuna of his powers. The LTTE does not tolerate dissent. Many fear that what befell Mahendraraja @ Mahattaya, the group's one-time Number Two, will befall Karuna as well. Mahattaya was killed in mysterious circumstances in 1994. But the LTTE, aware that its every move is currently monitored by the international community, is said to be taking "other measures" to deal with Karuna, an LTTE hero who had won many battles for the organisation.

In all events, the unfolding circumstances in the east do not augur well for Sri Lanka or the peace process. If the LTTE succeeds in bringing the situation under control, it could still put its plan into operation and reap the benefits after the coming elections.

The main charge of the President and her Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) ally was that Premier Wickremesinghe's Government was compromising on national security and paving the way for a division of the country. This was the justification offered by President Kumaratunga for the dissolution of Parliament. It is, consequently, no surprise that the peace process has become the main campaign issue in the run-up to the third General Election in less than four years. Adding to the sense of overwhelming uncertainty that the President's snap polls decision has created in the country, is the confusion the average voter in the south of the country is bogged down in. The voter-confusion is as much over the uncertainty of the outcome of the general election as it is over the fate of the peace process.

Aware that the people are worried about the peace process, the People's Alliance (PA) led by President Kumaratunga and the JVP - the two main parties in the newly formed UPFA - were compelled to make drastic policy concessions with regard to their stand on the LTTE and its proposals for an interim self-government authority. Initially, the two main partners of the UPFA held diametrically opposing views on a possible solution to the country's burning national problem. The JVP vehemently opposed devolution of power - which the PA has accepted - and articulated decentralization of power by strengthening grassroots representative institutions. However, both the PA and the JVP had flatly rejected the LTTE's interim administration proposals. Yet, when the campaign started and the two parties realized the importance of the peace factor, a softening-up process began, with the two parties declaring that a future UPFA Government would talk to the LTTE and honour the ceasefire agreement, which the Wickremesinghe administration signed with the LTTE. The two parties have even gone to the extent of describing the LTTE, which they had, not long ago, accused of violating the ceasefire agreement at will, as a disciplined group.

Whether such a softening of stances is an election gimmick or a genuine desire to continue the peace process remains to be seen.

In many respects, the impending election is different from any previous election this country has seen since Independence. For the first time in Sri Lankan political history, more than 250 monks have entered the fray on the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU, National Sinhala Heritage Party) ticket. Their entry into national politics, observers say, will eat into the vote bank of the PA-JVP alliance, which had the backing of hardliners opposed to the Wickremesinghe peace process. With myriad political parties, projecting diverse policies on issues ranging from the ethnic conflict to the national economy, in the fray, the stage is being set for horse-trading once election results are out.


The Enemy Within
Kanchan Lakshman
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

Even as its military regime comes to terms with the global fallout of the country's role in nuclear proliferation, Pakistan was once again rocked by radical Islamist violence. At least 47 persons are reported to have died and more than 150 sustained injuries when a procession of the Shia sect was attacked by rival Sunni extremists at Liaquat Bazaar in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, on March 2, 2004. President Pervez Musharraf's call for an 'enlightened moderation' in Pakistan is, if events in the past few months are any indication, threatened by the very forces that have long been nurtured by successive regimes in the country. Recurrent Islamist violence, it appears, will remain a significant element in the churning process within Pakistan in the proximate future.

Over the past nine months, Quetta has witnessed a number of lethal incidents of sectarian violence. Among the most serious was the June 8, 2003, incident, when thirteen trainee police personnel belonging to the local Hazara community of the Shia sect were killed during an attack in the Sariab Road area. And on July 4, 2003, at least 53 persons were killed and 57 others wounded as three armed terrorists, including a suspected suicide bomber, stormed a Shia mosque during Friday prayers.

The latest Quetta attacks also coincided with the explosions in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Karbala, which left nearly 200 dead. These attacks also targeted Shias, who were observing Youm-i-Ashur, the 10th day of Muharram (the annual Shia commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad). Although direct linkages between these two incidents are yet to be established, there is a definite pattern of association among the various theatres of jehad across the globe. The spread of disorder and violence are currently being orchestrated by the same forces whose ideological worldview supplements the essential logic and dynamic of their operations.

The near simultaneous attacks at Karbala, Baghdad and Quetta are a clear indication that the Iraq trajectory is crucial. The failure of the US to 'manage the peace' in Iraq and continuing instability in Afghanistan, along with a considerably stretched troop commitment by the United States during an election year, will have critical impact on the future of terrorism in general. No strangers to the advantages of guerilla warfare, warriors of the global jehad are currently seeking to harness the operational possibilities created by the "target-rich environment" in Iraq. A truly global jehadi enterprise will be quick to seize the chances of escalation in the immediate future, and the Muharram incidents are portents of troubles to come.

Subsequent to an attempt on his life on December 14, 2003, General Musharraf had stated that the security of Pakistan was threatened more from within than by outside forces. Pakistan has witnessed a long history of violence between the Sunni and minority Shiite sects (Sunnis constitute approximately 77 per cent of the population and Shias, 20 per cent), most of which has been perpetrated by groups that emerged in the 1980s during General Zia-ul-Haq's rule. Between 1989 and 2004 (till March 5), at least 1,531 people have been killed and 3,572 wounded in 1,822 incidents of sectarian violence by these homegrown jehadis in Pakistan.

A deeper scrutiny of the sectarian trajectory in Pakistan indicates patterns of uncertainty as well as resilience. There are, indeed, periods of apparent calm between high-intensity attacks. For instance, between the July 4, 2003, carnage and December 31, 2003, there were only five incidents of sectarian violence across the country, in which 14 lives were lost. Similarly, between January and July 2003, there were 16 incidents resulting in 36 fatalities. In the first two months of 2004, there was only a single incident in which one person died and four others were wounded. Further, these sectarian jehadis have survived both democratic state structures and military regimes, demonstrating great resilience over extended periods of time. They have also been able to systematically expand their geographical support base and target areas. The Punjab province and Pakistan's commercial capital, Karachi, in the Sindh province, have for long been the primary hubs of sectarian violence. However, continuing violence in places like Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, suggests an extension of the sphere of sectarian strife. Moreover, the task of security agencies is rendered more complex during religious festivals, since large processions in public spaces are always easy terrorist targets. And attacks on mosques at prayer time, and on other religious gatherings, when potential fatalities are high, have been a key tactic of sectarian terrorists.

In the current environment, the apparent failure of the Musharraf regime to counter Islamist extremism and sectarianism, according to many a Pakistani analyst, is all the more inexplicable, since the country has handed over more than 500 Al Qaeda operatives to the US authorities since the war on terror began. The will to contain Islamist extremist groups that are not on America's list of priorities appears to be absent, and a significant number of such groups continue to operate within the country, many of them with apparent immunity. The leadership of several such groups, most visibly the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) - despite an official ban on the first three - is regularly reported in the Pakistani media to enjoy full freedom of movement. Complex linkages exist between some of these groups and the Sunni sectarian groups, such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Ambivalence and piecemeal stratagem have marked the state's response to sectarianism in Pakistan. An Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against sectarian violence was passed only in 1997, despite the fact that the cycle of sectarian violence dates back to the mid-1970s. Sectarian groups were not outlawed until 2002. Raising serious doubts about the ATA being an effective tool in curbing the sectarian menace, a Pakistani analyst pointed out that, "More emphasis seems to have been put on catching the culprits who actually carried out the attacks rather than on catching the masterminds behind them or squashing the infrastructure that breeds, trains, funds and protects the terrorists."

Aileen Qaiser writing in the Karachi-based Dawn on October 20, 2003, noted that, although thousands of people are known to have been detained under the ATA during the past several years, they have been released within days or weeks. According to a report in July 2002, many of the cases which were actually brought before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) have led to acquittals: the ATCs in Punjab acquitted 91 people and convicted only 56 between April and June 2002 for cases involving sectarian violence. It was also reported in June 2002 that there was reluctance on the part of the authorities (who cited security reasons) to initiate cases against many detainees, especially activists of the banned extremist religious groups in the Punjab. Strikingly, a day after Maulana Azam Tariq, leader of the outlawed SSP and Member of National Assembly, was shot dead on October 6, 2003, Dawn reported that the Sectarian Terrorists Activity Record, a body formed in 1998 to gather data on sectarian groups, monitor their activists and suggest remedial measures, had failed to delineate the causes of sectarian strife in Pakistan.

General Musharraf, by his own admission, no longer controls the jehadis that the state had long supported, and the self-proclaimed 'holy warriors' are far from ready to call it quits. The foundations of sectarian terror share their ideological platform with Islamist extremist groupings engaged in a wide range of international terrorist movements, and it is evident that the operational capacities of both these are yet to be significantly eroded. The present regime may 'cast away' some of its former protégés, but these groups appear to be determined to challenge their creators in more ingenious ways than one.

The military regime under Pervez Musharraf has, of course, had some notable successes against sectarian terrorists, but the demobilization of these groups has been rendered difficult because the end-game of the state remains ambivalent, and that of the extremists does not allow any place for withdrawal or compromise: there is either victory or martyrdom. Solutions to Islamist terrorism, including the sectarian offshoot, will remain elusive as long as the infrastructure of terrorism located in Pakistan, and supported by the state structure, is conclusively and irrevocably dismantled and destroyed.




Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 1-7, 2004

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &










Total (INDIA)







 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


ISI using Bangladesh to create Islamic state in northeast India: An Asia Times Online report quoting Indian intelligence sources has said that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is attempting to realize its plan for a sovereign Islamic state in India's Northeast with support from fundamentalist elements within the Bangladesh Government, army, bureaucracy and intelligence agencies. Quoting unnamed sources, the report added that after the cease-fire on the Kashmir border, terrorist outfits are increasingly using Bangladesh as the training ground rather than Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistani nationals owing allegiance to different terrorist outfits have been allegedly using Dhaka as a transit point for entering India and Nepal, and also as an escape route. Asia Times , March 6, 2004.


Seven persons killed in Fidayeen attack outside jail in Jammu: Seven persons, including four police personnel and two under-trial terrorists, were killed and six persons sustained injuries when a lone suicide terrorist (Fidayeen) attacked a police bus carrying 13 under-trials, mostly terrorists, from the district jail to the Court complex in Jammu on March 3, 2004. The lone Fidayeen was shot dead within a few minutes of the attack, thus thwarting the terrorist's attempt of facilitating escape of the under-trials, said Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG Jammu-Kathua range) Farooq Ahmed. He said that the terrorist appeared outside the district jail at around 10.10 AM and started indiscriminate firing on the security picket and a police vehicle in which the 13 detenues, including three Pakistanis and other terrorists, were being taken to the Courts for hearing. Before being killed, the terrorist had injured 12 persons, including three police personnel and two detenues. All were rushed to the Government Medical College Hospital where five of them were declared brought dead. Two of the injured succumbed to injuries later. The jail, located at Amphalla in Jammu city, houses 500 inmates, about 100 of whom are undertrials suspected to be involved in terrorist activities. Daily Excelsior, March 4, 2004.

952 civilians killed in Tripura in last five years: According to a statement by the Chief Minister of Tripura in the State Legislative Assembly on March 2, 2004, 952 civilians and 182 security force (SF) personnel were killed in the State in the last five years, between 1998 and 2003. A total of 633 civilians were injured and 1269 were abducted by terrorists of whom 332 are still in captivity. During the same period, 183 service weapons, including 65 Self-Loading Rifles, twenty nine .303 rifles, 18 carbines and 10 Kalashnikov rifles were looted by the terrorists. According to the Chief Minister, who is also in charge of the State Home Department, 43 major massacres were carried out by the terrorists and 836 terrorists have surrendered between 1998 and 2003. Tripura Info , March 3, 2004.


32 soldiers and 37 Maoist insurgents killed in Bhojpur district: Reports quoting the Minister for Home and Information and Broadcasting, Kamal Thapa, said that, in a fierce battle between security forces (SFs) and a group of Maoist insurgents numbering around 1500 to 2000, 32 SF personnel and 37 Maoist insurgents were killed in the Bhojpur district on March 3, 2004. The insurgents also looted an unspecified quantity of rocket launchers, self-loading rifles, semi-automatic rifles and other weapons from the troops before fleeing. They also reportedly caused damage to properties worth Rupees 25 million. Nepal News, March 4, 2004.


US court convicts three Lashkar-e-Toiba cadres for terrorist conspiracy: Three American Muslims belonging to what the US Government calls a "Virginia jihad" were convicted on March 4, 2004, of conspiracy to wage war on America and provide material support to the Taliban, charges that carry a possible life sentence. US Attorney General John Ashcroft said in Washington that the convictions were handed down against Masoud Khan, Abdur Raheem and Seifulla Chapman in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, by Judge Leonie Brinkema. "The defendants convicted today were associates of Lashkar-e-Taiba," said Ashcroft. Hindustan Times, March 5, 2004

Jaish-e-Mohammed responsible for December 2001 attack on Indian Parliament, says former ISI chief: Senator Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Javed Ashraf Qazi said in Islamabad on March 5, 2004, that the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) was involved in the December 2001 attack on Indian Parliament. "We must not be afraid of admitting that Jaish was involved in the deaths of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, bombing the Indian Parliament, Daniel Pearl's murder and attempts on President Musharraf's life," said Senator Qazi, who is also a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General. Participating in the debate on President Musharraf's address to the joint sitting of parliament, he said that the proscribed Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) "…are producing zombies to kill their Muslim brothers." He also said that the intelligence agencies knew about 10,000 religious institutions which were inciting Shias and Sunnis against each other. Daily Times, March 6, 2004.

47 persons killed and 150 injured during attack on Shia procession in Quetta: At least 47 persons were killed and more than 150 wounded when a procession of the Shia sect was attacked by rival Sunni extremists at Liaquat Bazaar in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, on March 2, 2004. Homes, businesses and a mosque used by Sunni Muslims were set ablaze by rioters following the attack. Eyewitnesses said that, as the Shia procession was passing through a busy shopping area in Quetta, a grenade was thrown, followed by firing from automatic guns. "I was present near the procession when we first heard an explosion and then some people fired shots," said Quetta Mayor Abdul Rahim Kakar. At least five police personnel are amongst those reported dead. No group has claimed responsibility for the massacre thus far. Meanwhile, in another shooting incident during a Shia procession in Punjab province, two persons were killed. Separately, at least 40 persons were injured following clashes between Shias and Sunnis in Phalia, a small town 600 kilometres north-east of Quetta. Dawn, March 4, 2004.


LTTE splits as 'Colonel' Karuna defies chief Prabhakaran: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) military leader for the East, 'Colonel' Karuna, has quit over alleged differences with his leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Karuna had reportedly refused to send 1,000 armed cadres to the North as ordered by Prabhakaran, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation stated in its news bulletin on March 3, 2004. After quitting, Karuna alleged that cadres from the North enjoy all the privileges, while on the other hand, LTTE members from the East have been suffering and nearly 2,300 had died in the protracted ethnic conflict. He also said that he would operate separately with a breakaway group of LTTE members in the East and promised to continue observing the cease-fire. Meanwhile, LTTE Political Wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan announced at a news briefing in Kilinochchi that Karuna had been removed from his post. In a series of new appointments, the LTTE high command has appointed T. Ramesh as the 'Special Commander' of the Batticaloa-Amparai region (the LTTE's nomenclature for their eastern region) in place of Karuna, while Kaushalyan has been appointed as the Political Wing leader. Ram and Prabha have been appointed as the deputies of Ramesh in the military wing. Daily News, March 4, 2004 and March 7, 2004.



Sectarian Violence in Pakistan

*   Data till March 5
Computed from English language media.


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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