SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Maoist Threat: Inescapable Illusions
Shibu Soren, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, one of the States worst affected by Maoist activities, declared, on October 13, that ‘Naxalism’ (the Maoist movement) was a "minor" problem that can be "solved" by addressing the problems of "humiliation, unemployment and hunger." It is not clear what magical strategy Soren offers for the resolution of the problems of "humiliation, unemployment and hunger" in one of the poorest States of a country where, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, 77 per cent of the population (some 836 million) live on less than INR 20 per day (about USD 0.41), but the Chief Minister has called for a dialogue and ‘negotiated settlement’ with the Maoists, ignoring the disastrous consequences of past ‘peace processes’, including the one most recent, in Andhra Pradesh in 2004.
Soren is not alone in his delusions. In spite of a marginal increase in the total number of fatalities in Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) related violence, in the first eight months of 2008 (till August 31), as against the corresponding period of the previous year, and widespread reports of political mobilisation and consolidation by the Maoists across the country, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would have us believe that its anti-LWE policy is paying dividends. In support, it offers data showing a 10 per cent dip in the number of violent incidents (from 1108 to 993), and a marginal diminution in fatalities among civilians and security forces (SFs). Further, LWE outfits, principally the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist) have lost more cadres in encounters in the current year: The 23.6 per cent increase in extremist fatalities is the sole factor behind the rise in overall LWE related fatalities from 590 in 2007 to 622 in 2008.
In its latest "Status Paper on Internal Security Situation", the MHA discloses that Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand now account of 68.07 per cent of the total LWE incidents and 58.56 per cent of the total fatalities in the country. Chhattisgarh, considered the hotbed of LWE activities for several years now, has, in fact, recorded a significant decrease not just in the number of incidents, but also in fatalities in all three categories. Further, there has also been a marked decline in violent incidents in both Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, though both the States have recorded a marginal increase in total fatalities. The security situation in the eastern State of Orissa has, however, deteriorated significantly, with a 450 per cent rise in LWE related fatalities between 2007 and 2008. In the neighbouring Jharkhand – the State the sanguine Shibu Soren presides over – the rise has been over 100 per cent.Fatalities in Left Wing Extremism – 2007 and 2008
* Data till August 31
Source: Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
These assessments – which have a tendency to spread like a wild fire through the state’s establishment and agencies – are misleading, to say the least. The MHA has followed a long-standing policy of downplaying the threat of LWE – which it insists is limited to just 3.6 per cent of the total number of Police Stations in 76 Districts of seven States in the country. Intelligence sources, however, suggest that at least 220 Districts in 22 States are now afflicted by Maoist activities, at various intensities. There is little evidence, moreover, that the ‘improvements’ in levels of violence or fatalities, are, in any measure, the outcome of an augmentation of SF operations or the capacity of affected States to contain or neutralize LWE activities. With the exception of Andhra Pradesh and, lately, Maharashtra, where pro-active policing has been the factor behind the diminishing LWE activities, there is little the other affected States can boast of in terms of effective counter-insurgency operations or capacity building. The initiative continues to be held firmly by the extremists and any relative lull in violence is nothing more than a tactical decision by the CPI-Maoist to focus on political mobilisation, recruitment and consolidation, before re-launching a full-scale armed campaign in enormously widened theatres across India.
The growing threat of LWE, and its increasing primacy among conflicts in the country, is visible in fragments of available official data. The para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 33 battalions of which are currently engaged in operations against the LWE in eight States, during the first nine months of 2008, recovered over 7,000 kilograms of explosives across India, in all conflict theatres. Of these, 6,000 kilograms, were seized from LWE affected Bihar alone, followed by 893.5 kilograms in Jharkhand. The CRPF suffered its maximum casualties in LWE affected States: of the total of 49 fatalities reported in the Force, 37 were in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Out of the total 189 shootouts the CRPF personnel engaged in, 106 were reported from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand alone.
The inability of the States to secure dominance over their geographical expanse has remained the key to the Maoist ascendancy in vast areas across the country, and there is little improvement in this regard. A sizeable majority of the (modestly) estimated 12,000 Maoist cadres continue to be based in the safety of the dense forests of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar (along the Nepal border), Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Forest areas of Abujmadh in Chhattisgarh, the Saranda Forest range and the Palamu-Chatra belt in Jharkhand and the Dandakaranya areas of the north Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, continue to offer safe haven from the state’s Forces, with SFs failing to supplement occasional raids in these regions with an enduring strategy to secure and hold these territories. As a result, these areas remain virtual ‘liberated zones’, except during the few hours or days of random and localised SF operations.
A vivid example of Maoist dominance in Chhattisgarh has been in full display since August this year. On August 3, a Bell-430 helicopter of the Ran Air Services hired from Andhra Pradesh by the Chhattisgarh Government, went missing on its way to Raipur, 30 minutes after taking off from Hyderabad, after entering Chhattisgarh’s territory. Four persons, including the pilot, co-pilot and two technicians, were on board when it lost contact with the Air Traffic Control in Raipur. While the Chhattisgarh Government was quick to dispel doubts regarding Maoist involvement in bringing down the chopper, nearly two and half months after the incident, there has been no trace of the chopper or its crew members. The Police apparently launched several search attempts in the Bastar region, all of which were tremendously limited in their scope due to the fear of the Maoists. The families of the pilots and other crew have, since, appealed to the Maoists to help find the missing men.
Indeed, a number of senior Police officials – as well as many drawn from the rank and file – have refused postings in LWE affected areas of Chhattisgarh for fear of the Maoists. On October 16, the Chhattisgarh Government decided to suspend 18 Police officers after they failed to join their new postings in LWE affected areas. The officers include four Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs), six Inspectors and eight Sub-Inspectors (SIs). The four DSPs had been transferred to Bastar, the District worst hit by Maoist activities, in September. While the State Administration can now pat itself on its back for having ‘imposed discipline’ among its Forces, the milieu of utter insecurity in the southern Bastar region, where Maoists have been running a de facto administration since 1980s, remains unaffected and inescapable.
In Orissa, again, the Maoists enjoy almost a free run, not just in its worst affected western and southern Districts, but also in areas in the proximity of capital Bhubaneswar. At least three major attacks have been carried out by the CPI-Maoist in Orissa resulting in the death of 66 SF personnel in 2008. The February 15 attack at Nayagarh resulted in the largest single looting of weapons by the Maoists from the Police armoury, and the death of 15 Police personnel. On July 29, at least 35 elite Greyhounds personnel and one Orissa armed Policeman were killed, mostly by drowning, after Maoists fired at their boat in the Chitrakonda Reservoir in the Malkangiri District. On July 16, another 17 Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel were killed in a landmine blast in the same District,.
What has, however, emerged as an extraordinary challenge to anti-LWE planners across the country is the involvement of the CPI-Maoist in the August 23 killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Lakshamanananda Saraswati in Orissa’s Kandhamal District. The Maoist role in the killing was evident from the very outset, but a week after the killing, on August 30, CPI-Maoist spokesperson Azad confirmed that the Swami was killed for "his villainous role in Kandhamal", mostly in the December 2007 riots in the District. The claim has since been confirmed by the Orissa Police who disclosed that the Maoists had also provided arms training to a group of 60 youths, who participated in the attack. Further, an undated CPI-Maoist document, "Party Programme", outlines the outfit’s policy against what it perceives as the persecution of religious minorities. The document declares that the CPI-Maoist "will put an end to all social inequalities based on religion and to the persecution of religious minorities." Maoist sympathisers such as Varavara Rao have further pointed out that, during the Maoists’ 9th Congress in February 2007, the Party had identified ‘fundamentalism’ as the "second biggest threat", after globalisation, to the poor of the country.
The killing, which was followed by large-scale riots between Hindu and Christian communities in Kandhamal District, with some overflows into neighbouring Districts, demonstrates a Maoist intent to exploit existing religious faultlines in the country. Further, it demonstrates beyond doubt that, as the state focuses primarily on dealing with the Maoists’ guerrilla-style attacks, targeted killings of this nature, leading to communal disharmony, can be far more damaging to the authority and legitimacy of the state. Orissa’s vulnerabilities now stand utterly exposed after the 50- plus deaths in the communal riots, undermining state authority to a far greater extent than the three earlier major Maoist strikes.
There is accumulating evidence and even wider suspicion that Maoist Front Organisations and provocateurs have been behind a wide range of episodic violence rooted in caste, political and labour confrontations. This was particularly visible at Khairlanji, Nandigram and Singur, but is also suspected in a much larger number of minor incidents and confrontations, and is in keeping with the Maoist strategy of exploiting a range of ‘partial struggles’ to effect a campaign of mobilisation and recruitment that would advance the interests of their ‘people’s war’ over the long run.
Much of this is, however, neglected in the official approach to, and assessments of, LWE strategies and operations. Pessimism with regard to state responses deepens in view of the shifting strategies of various State regimes to deal with the challenge, and the perverse outcome of the MHA’s periodic assertion that "Force alone can’t solve (the) Naxal problem." In Jharkhand, for example, with the change of political dispensation in August 2008, the official approach towards LWE, represented by five LWE groups with an estimated combined strength of 3,000 cadres, has undergone an evident and dramatic shift, with Chief Minister Soren’s pronouncements on the LWE as a ‘minor problem’ and his proposed ‘strategy’ of response. The previous Madhu Koda Government, despite its many limitations, had initiated a series of security measures against the Maoists. As part of that policy, the State Police Department had drawn up a list of 60 hardcore Maoist cadres operating in its jurisdiction. A proposal to announce an overall reward of INR 1.5 million for the arrest of these hardcore Maoists, in the ranks of zonal commander, sub-zonal commander, area commander and others, was also mooted. The list and the proposal were submitted to the State Home Department in the second half of September. No action has since been reported on the proposal by the Department, which is now headed by the Chief Minister.
Forested areas such as Saranda remain Maoist bastions in Jharkhand. In the last week of September 2008, a team consisting of members of the Thirteenth Finance Commission conducted an aerial survey of the Saranda Forest to monitor the spurt in extremist activities and the manner in which this had hampered developmental activities in Jharkhand. In a recent incident, on October 15, CPI-Maoist cadres swooped on the McCluskieganj Railway Station under the Dhanbad Railway Division, barely 70 kilometres from State capital Ranchi and abducted four employees, including the Station Master and two Deputy Station Masters. Till the writing of the report, the abducted persons had not been traced. Despite his present posturing, Chief Minister Soren is eventually bound to discover that the Maoist problem in the State cannot be solved by mere rhetoric on the eradication of unemployment and hunger.
At root, state responses to what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly deemed as India’s ‘biggest security challenge’, are undermined by divisive and incoherent assessments and the absence of a consensual national strategy. Some variations are noticeable across States – with Andhra Pradesh by far the tallest exception. By and large, however, state responses remain alarmingly amateurish and, worse, infinitely deluded.
Terai: Remains of a Violent Past
With the October 3 invitation by the Coalition Government at Kathmandu to various armed groups from the Terai (in the southern parts of Nepal), the simmering conflict in the region has entered a curious phase. On the face of it, there is now a prospect for a peaceful end to the years of turbulence in the Terai. However, such an eventuality is hedged by several pre-conditions and a conflict-ridden political dynamic. It is, consequently, unlikely that the newly initiated process would easily overcome these inherent constraints.
The Madhesi (as the people of the Terai are known) struggle for autonomy is divided, to say the least. Among those who claim to represent Madhesi aspirations, the most moderate – those who primarily demand an autonomous Terai region within a Federated Nepal – are already part of mainstream politics as a result of the Eight-Point Agreement signed on February 28, 2008. This group comprises the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Nepal Sadbhavana Party-Rajendra Mahato (NSP-RM) and Terai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP). The 14 radical groups – who seek an independent Terai – are still actively involved in armed campaign. The most prominent among these are the Akhil Terai Mukti Morcha (ATMM), the Jwala Singh faction of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-J), the Prithviraj Singh led Liberation Tigers of Terai Elam (LTTE), and the Pawan Giri led Samyukta Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (SJTMM).
Precious little is known about the objectives and vision of the armed formations, although most of them vaguely speak of a "free Terai". Out of these armed groups a few are breakaway factions of the JTMM, originally formed by Jai Krishna Goit after splitting from the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) in 2004. The JTMM has undergone several splits, and its various factions are now headed by Jwala Singh, Rajan Mukti, Bibas Bidrohi, Kris, Ranbir Singh and Bisfot Singh. The proliferation of JTMM factions has forced Goit to change the name of his group, JTMM-G, to Akhil Terai Mukti Morcha (ATMM). Little information regarding the cadre strength, organisational set up, operational capabilities, or specific area of operation of these factions is currently available. Information about other fringe outfits such as the Nagraj led Terai Cobra (TC), Terai Baagi, Terai Army, Madhesi Virus Killers, SJTMM, and LTTE is limited to the occasional reports regarding their engagement in random acts of violence, killing, abduction and extortion in the Terai.
On its part the Coalition Government, on October 3, constituted a three-member team to initiate talks with the armed groups and appealed to them to come to the negotiating table to resolve their grievances. The ‘talks team’ comprises Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Janardan Sharma [of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M)] as the co-coordinator, and the Minister for Local Development Ram Chandra Jha [of the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML)] and Minister for Education Renu Yadav (MJF) as members. This is the first time that the Government has formed a separate team to hold talk with the Terai armed groups. The Government appears to have been encouraged by the cease-fire announcement made first by the JTMM-Ranbir and Madhesi Virus Killers on September 30. A week-long meeting of the 14 armed formations in the Indian State of Bihar in the last week of September also resolved to accept any Government proposal to hold talks, provided they were "formally invited".
The initial reactions of the armed outfits to the invitation for talks have, consequently, been somewhat encouraging. Bibas Bidrohi, who leads a faction of the JTMM thus declared, "If the Government fosters an environment that is favourable and pledges to make the talks meaningful, we are ready to sit for such talks". Though the armed groups are yet to clarify what they would accept as ‘meaningful talks’, the ‘talks team’ said that the Government was ready to discuss all issues. The team also announced that the Government would send invitation letters and give security guarantees to the representatives of the armed groups, if the latter wanted such a guarantee.
The Government has already sent missives to the Jwala Singh and Ranbir Singh led factions of the JTMM. The team is also in the process of sending invitations to the TC, LTTE, Kirant Workers Party (KWC) and SJTMM. Contact with other parties remains elusive, even though two members of the ‘talks team’ are in the Terai to establish linkages.
Difficulties are, however, already cropping up. Jai Krishna Goit’s ATTM has turned down the offer, with Goit declaring, on October 5, "Earlier once I had said that it was possible to hold dialogue at the United Nation’s mediation. However, the Nepal Government did not show any interest at that time. Dialogue is meaningless now." Another important group, the Rajan Mukti faction of JTMM, has defined some preconditions for talks, including a promise by the Government to hold a referendum in Terai, which would further the cause of the ‘liberation’ of the region from ‘internal colonialism’. JTMM-RM has further demanded the formation of a new ‘trustworthy talks team’, withdrawal of all court cases against the outfit’s cadres and the release of all cadres in jail, before the commencement of the dialogue process.
Similarly, JTMM-J, while welcoming the Government’s call for dialogue, has put forth four preconditions: release of the arrested JTMM-J cadres and scrapping of the ‘false charges’ filed against the group; announcement of a formal cease-fire; proper security arrangement for its talks team; and the deputation of security personnel stationed at rural Village Development Committees to the District Headquarters. Reactions of other outfits to the offer of talks are not yet known, though the three member ‘talks team’ has claimed that it has received ‘positive responses’ from all the groups it has managed to contact.
The present Government in Nepal is the product of extended processes of violence and subversion through which the Maoists have secured a dominant presence in the seats of authority. The wheels now appear to have turned full circle, and the Maoist-led Government has been constrained to open a dialogue process with armed formations that have raised questions on the present regime’s legitimacy and capacities to govern the country.
The direction that the conflict takes from here will depend primarily on the strength and willingness of both the parties to the conflict: the coalition Government – which includes the ‘moderate’ Madhesi parties – and the armed Terai groups. While the Government’s strength may include its capacity to be flexible and accommodative, the strength of the armed groups vests essentially in their operational capabilities and their ability to retain popular legitimacy.
It bears mention that an earlier attempt by the then Peace and Reconstruction Minister, Ram Chandra Poudel, to hold talks with the Terai armed groups on the eve of the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in April 2008 had collapsed when the groups began to put forward a multiplicity of preconditions – similar to the current conditionalities being articulated by the Terai groups – for the talks.
In the event – however uncertain – of the talks actually taking off, there are a number of residual concerns that would influence the direction of the incipient process. These include:
First, the Government is yet to decide the criteria for extending invitations to the various groups. Janardan Sharma, coordinator of the ‘talks team’ said the Government would invite the armed outfits after determining whether or not they are ‘political groups’ through consultation with the Home Ministry.
Second, it is also not clear whether separate rounds of talks will be held with each outfit or with groups of such outfits, or through a single process with all formations. Given that little unity exists among these formations, joint talks can be expected to yield almost nothing. Despite the fact that the Madhesi groups held a meeting in Bihar in the last week of September 2008 in a bid to unite under a single umbrella, all that was achieved was an agreement to form a "working unity". The issue of the leadership under which such unity was to be secured remained a vexed issue. Notwithstanding Jayakrishna Goit’s expression of confidence that he would ultimately lead all armed Terai outfits to unity, reports indicated that, during the September meeting, Goit’s proposed leadership was spurned by several formations.
Third, the present Government claims that, as it is yet to resort to use of force against the armed Terai groups, the question of declaring cease-fire does not arise. Further, the reality of the ground is that the Terai outfits are yet to face a concerted campaign against them by state forces, and have, consequently, little incentive to dilute their radical demands, while, on the other hand, there is little sense of urgency in the state’s agencies to capitulate to demands that may be excessive or unjustified.
Critically, the room for maneuver for either side is currently limited. The Government has almost nothing to offer in terms of a ‘settlement’ beyond an autonomous Terai region, a proposal that has already been accepted by United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) in the Eight-point Agreement. Any further concessions would catapult the leaders of the armed factions into political primacy, to the detriment of the ‘moderate’ Madhesi groups, such as the MJF, which are already in the Government.
Unless a majority of the armed groups – including all the most prominent among them – can be brought to the negotiating table, any alternative scenario of a dialogue with the few who are available and willing, would have little impact on the prospects of peace in the Terai.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 13-19, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
115,000 Police posts in various States lying vacant: Figures compiled by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) indicate that there are as many as 115,000 vacant posts in State Police forces across the country. Terrorism and left-wing extremism affected States such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar have vacant posts ranging between 4,400 to 13,000 in the grade of Constables, Sub-Inspectors (SIs) and Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs). On an average 24.15 per cent posts of DSPs, 20.76 per cent posts of SIs and 10.87 per cent posts of constables are lying vacant across the country. The MHA says, Gujarat, which witnessed a series of bomb blasts recently, has a total sanctioned strength of 43,554 Police personnel. But out of this, 8,549 posts, including 7,418 posts of constables, are lying vacant. Karnataka, another State which witnessed terror attacks has a sanctioned strength of 59,442 personnel in its Police force. But 9,429 posts, including of 8,235 constables and 72 DSPs, are lying vacant here. Press Trust of India, October 20, 2008.
Maoists killed VHP leader, say Orissa Police: On October 16, the Crime Branch of Orissa Police confirmed that the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) had killed Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati in the Kandhamal District on August 23 by involving some local armed groups. According to the report, the decision to eliminate the VHP leader was taken by the Central Committee of the CPI-Maoist about seven months earlier, and a group of about six hardcore extremists killed the VHP leader at the Jalespata ashram (hermitage) in Kandhamal. The extremists who committed the crime were armed with automatic weapons, including AK-47 rifles, Police sources said. Local youths also took part in the operation and stood guard around the ashram while the Maoists executed their plan. The youth belonged to four different groups from nearby villages. Three youths belonging to the local groups have been arrested so far. On October 16, they were produced before a court at Baliguda in Kandhamal. The court remanded them to judicial custody. The Hindu, October 17, 2008.
Peace talks between Union Government and NSCN-IM to be held in Hague: Peace talks between the Union Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) would be held at Hague in the Netherlands. Samson Jojo, the ‘chief principal secretary’ of the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim (GPRN), political wing of the NSCN-IM, said the talks would take place in the last week of October 2008. Nearly 60 rounds of talks have been held between the two sides both within and outside the country. Telegraph, October 15, 2008.
Government sends letter of invitation to Terai factions: The Government, on October 13, sent an official letter to Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) factions led by Jwala Singh and Ranvir Singh, respectively, inviting them to come for a dialogue. Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Janardan Sharma who heads the three-member talks team said that Government emissaries were trying to establish contacts with all armed groups in the Terai and were also holding indirect talks with some of the armed groups. On October 16, Jwala Singh of the JTMM-J welcoming the Government's call, but said four "simple conditions" must be met before the armed outfit starts negotiating with the Government. The conditions were: release of arrested JTTM cadres and scrapping the false charges filed against the JTMM-J; announcement of cease fire; ensuring proper security arrangements for its talks team; and deputing the security personnel stationed at rural Village Development Committees to the District Headquarters. On October 17, Minister for Local Development Ram Chandra Jha gave the assurance that the Government would ensure the safety of the representatives of the Terai-based armed outfits expected to take part in negotiation with the Government. The Himalayan Times, October 14 & 18, 2008.
Three persons killed in explosion in Rautahat: A woman and two minors died on the spot and four others were injured when a bomb went off at Chandranigahapur Chowk in Rautahat District on October 14. Two other persons were injured as Police opened fire to control an agitated mob after the explosion. The Terai Tigers initially claimed responsibility for the blast. Subsequently, two other groups, the Tarai Army and the Tarai Sena also claimed responsibility for the incident. The Himalayan Times ; Kantipur online, October 15, 2008.
Anti-Taliban offensive continues in Bajaur: At least 116 Taliban terrorists and eight civilians were killed in the past week in a continued air and land offensive by the SFs against the Taliban in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On October 13, helicopter gunships and artillery killed at least 24 Taliban militants and wounded 10 others in Chinar, Tangi, Kotki and Nawa in the Charmang tehsil (Revenue Division). The military offensive had begun in the afternoon of October 12 and continued into the early hours of October 13. On October 14, air raids targeting Taliban hideouts in the Rashkai, Tang Khatta, Tangi, Chinar, Charmang and Kotki areas killed at least 28 Taliban militants. A lone tribesman was also killed during the operations. Helicopter gunships had to carry our two consecutive raids in the Charmang, Chinar and Kotki areas to destroy the Taliban positions. Another two Taliban militants and a tribesman were killed in a separate incident. On October 15, troops fired artillery and mortars at Taliban hideouts in Loyesam, Rashakai, Chinar and Babra areas, killing 10 Taliban militants and wounding eight others. Six other Taliban militants were killed by helicopter gunship attacks in the same area. On October 16, SFs killed seven militants in daylong shelling in the Charmang, Barbra and Chenar areas of the Nawagai tehsil. On October 17, 12 Taliban militants were killed in operations in the Loyesam area. Operations in the Zor Bandar, Loyesam, Charmang, Kohi and Babara areas killed 13 Taliban militants on October 18. On October 19, seven Taliban militants were killed in bombings by SFs targeting Taliban hideouts in the Loyesam, Zorbandar, Sar Lara, and Enzara areas of Khar tehsil and Sawai, Tangai, Dabara and Zarnawoo areas of Mohamand tehsil. Separately, three Taliban militants were killed in other parts of the Agency when they tried to attack SF posts.
Confrontations between the Taliban and the lashkar (militia) belonging to various tribes, principally aided by the Government, have compounded the conflict dynamics in the Agency. On October 13, four Taliban militants and two locals were killed in an exchange of fire between a tribal lashkar and the Taliban in an unspecified location. In the Kotkai village near Charmang area, Taliban militants killed four tribesmen belonging to a lashkar. On October 14, a Charmang tribal lashkar attacked Taliban positions using heavy artillery and set ablaze a number of Taliban houses. A day after, however, this lashkar refused to cooperate with the SFs, citing lack of Government support. The Government is also pursuing a policy of punishing the tribes which have not yet formed their own lashkars to take on the Taliban. On October 14, the Bajaur political administration arrested 100 people of the Mamoond tribe on charges of not taking action against Taliban militants. On October 16, tribal lashkars set ablaze three houses of local commanders of militants in the Tauheedabad area, 10-kilometres from Khar township. In retaliation, a group of 20 Taliban militants destroyed the houses of two tribesmen in the Inayat Kellay area.
Meanwhile, on October 19, Sahibzada Haroonur Rashid, a Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader from Bajaur Agency claimed that 1,500 children, women and elderly people had been killed in the military operation against militants so far. Addressing a protest demonstration in Peshawar against the Bajaur operation, he said the Government was killing people in Swat, Darra, Bajaur and other tribal areas to appease the United States (US), as a result of which hundreds of thousands of Bajauris had become refugees in their own country. Unidentified officials in the Bajaur Agency, on the other hand, have said that the Taliban militants had killed more than 600 pro-Government tribal leaders until now.
A soon-to-be completed National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of the US indicates that the insurgency based in FATA is intensifying. A US official who participated in drafting the top-secret report summarised the estimate's conclusions about the state of Pakistan: "no money, no energy, no government". The NIE says the Pakistani military is reluctant to launch an all-out campaign against the Taliban in part because of popular opposition to continuing the co-operation with the US. The aim of the assessment is to determine whether a US presence in the region can be effective and if so, what the US strategy should be. Daily Times; Dawn, October 11, 2008.
60 Taliban militants killed in air strikes in Matta: At least 60 Taliban militants were killed when fighter jets bombarded a Taliban training camp and suspected hideouts in Peochar of the Matta tehsil of Swat District in NWFP on October 17. Security officials maintained that the death toll is likely to increase once the dead bodies were retrieved from the caves and other targeted areas. Separately, on October 19, another 27 Taliban militants, including two commanders, were killed as fighter jets bombed a Taliban hideout in the Matta tehsil. Official sources said the commanders killed were closely associated with pro-Taliban cleric Fazlullah. Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, however, denied any of their cadres were killed as a result of the air strike, which killed 35 civilians and only injured Taliban militants. Daily Times; Dawn, October 18 & 20, 2008.
Pakistani Taliban’s annual budget more than PKR Four billion: The annual budget of the Pakistani Taliban is more than PKR Four billion (approximately USD 48 million), unidentified NWFP officials said on October 15. The officials said that a Khasadar force soldier, lowest in the Taliban hierarchy, is paid a monthly salary of PKR 3,000, while a Taliban mercenary gets PKR 6,000 a month. Local Taliban commanders receive as much as PKR 20,000 a month. Daily Times; Dawn, October 16, 2008.
179 LTTE militants among 201 persons killed during the week: 179 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 17 soldiers and five civilians were killed in separate incidents between October 13 and October 19. At least 19 LTTE militants were killed and 12 others injured as security forces (SFs) neutralised eight bunkers and a camp of the LTTE in the areas west of Akkarayankulam and Vannavikulam in the Kilinochchi District. One soldier was killed during the operations. On the same day, 16 LTTE militants were killed and three others injured as clashes erupted between the militants and the SFs in the Mankulam, Nallikulam, Akkarayankulam, Vannavikulam and Paraikandamadu areas of Kilinochchi District. Two soldiers were killed and seven others sustained injuries in the incident. At least 37 LTTE militants were killed and 36 others injured as clashes erupted between the SFs and the militants in the Akkarayankulam north, west and east, Wannarikulam, Madamodei and Pannaikandamdu areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts on October 14. Seven soldiers were killed in these confrontations. On October 19, troops attached to the 57 Division and Task Force I, captured more than a 1.5 kilometre stretch of earth bund in the West of Akkarayankulam and another stretch from the east of Akkarayankulam in the Kilinochchi District, killing at least 75 militants. An unspecified number of soldiers were also killed. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, October 13-19, 2008.