SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
the Eelam War
The resistance of the enfeebled Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres to the military offensive of the Government of Sri Lanka against their shrinking stronghold at Vellamullaivaikkal, a hamlet on the northeast coast of the island about five miles north of the town of Mullaitivu, ended on May 17, 2009. The pyrrhic finale was featured by a series of massive explosions around the bunkers in which the LTTE leaders are believed to have been holed up. According to information trickling down to Colombo, officially unconfirmed, one hundred or more of senior LTTE leaders perished in the conflagration, and, of 78 corpses recovered by the Army, up to 10.00 am on May 18, those of Charles Anthony (Prabhakaran’s son), Nadesan (chief of the Tiger police force), Pulidevan (head of the LTTE ‘Peace Secretariat’) and Ramesh (former Batticaloa area leader of the LTTE) and several other Tiger veterans have been identified from their shattered remnants. Many in the Tiger rank and file had also joined the continuing outflow of Tamil civilians from this locality. An official announcement made in the afternoon of May 18, 2009, over Rupavahini, the main Government-controlled TV channel, said that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, Sea Tigers' chief Soosai and LTTE intelligence unit chief Pottu Amman were among the LTTE leaders killed in the course of an Army atack earlier in the morning.
This victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF) marked the end of an almost continuous counter-insurgency offensive that commences in July 2006 following the ‘riparian’ challenge to Government authority posed by the LTTE in the form of its capture of an irrigation channel network adjacent to the Trincomalee harbour in the Eastern Province, in a locality where it had surreptitiously established a formidable military base. From a long-term perspective, the victory would also be seen as representing the final collapse of the most destructive secessionist insurrection in post-colonial South Asia, initiated by several faction-ridden bands of Tamil militants about twenty-five years ago, and over which the LTTE established its hegemony by the early 1990s by ruthlessly decimating its more formidable rivals.
Both sides of this war have suffered heavy casualties in its final stages. The SLAF was hampered in its advances by the Government-imposed ban on both bombing and shelling in operations within the ‘No Fire Zone’ (NFZ) which was intended to avert heavy casualties among an estimated 35,000 Tamil civilians continuing to be held hostage by the LTTE within its last bastion, even after the exodus of approximately 185,000 from the shrinking Tiger domain between April 21 and May 10, 2009. The progress of the Army offensive through close combat was also retarded by the fact that penetrable paths of access towards the LTTE bastion were saturated with anti-personnel mines, and because Tiger resistance entailed both ‘suicide attacks’ as well as heavy mortar fire from the rear of their human shield of captive Tamil civilians. Given these formidable handicaps, and in the context of the brutal measures that were adopted by the Tigers to dissuade the flight of civilians from their clutches, the fact that an aggregate of almost 220,000 Tamil civilians were able to escape into areas under Government control was, perhaps, the most laudable success achieved by Sri Lanka’s Security Forces (SFs) in the last phase of their operations.
Ever since the retreat of the LTTE to the Mullaitivu area in late January 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka had been subject to intense external pressures to suspend its military offensive and to seek a "negotiated political settlement" with the LTTE. With the advances made by the Armed Forces up to that time, and against the backdrop of entrapment of a large civilian population in the dwindling Tiger domain, there emerged a "humanitarian" outcry, especially from the West, which focused on the need to protect civilian lives in the war zone. The unexpected avalanche of refugees from the LTTE-controlled areas from April 21 had the effect of intensifying such pressures, backed as these have been by campaigns of frenzied agitation by expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils supportive of the LTTE cause in countries like Canada, Britain, Norway, France, Germany and Switzerland, acting with the awareness that, stripped of their civilian protection, the LTTE leadership was doomed.
The protest demonstrations staged by pro-LTTE groups in the Tamil diaspora, intended to induce the Governments of these countries to intervene in the conflict, have taken the form of processions, rallies, sit-ins, fasts, property damage at Sri Lankan embassies, and, in one instance, an attack on an Indian diplomatic establishment. Understandably, their more damning accusations – genocide, indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilian targets, torture of prisoners and other war crimes, ill-treatment of Tamil refugees – were hurled at Sri Lanka through pro-Eelam publications that appear on innumerable websites. The support of international humanitarian agencies such as ‘Human Rights Watch’, ‘International Crisis Group’, ‘Amnesty International’, and ‘Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect’, seemed to reinforce the indictments. With the Army offensive approaching its expected finale, the protest campaign appeared to find sympathetic resonance in the news disseminated by the larger media firms such as BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Washington Post and New York Times which, though more restrained in tone, reflected similar positions, and tended to place the blame for the crisis squarely on the Government of Sri Lanka, while appealing to the Tiger leadership to release its civilian hostages.
More ominously, leaders of some of these western countries – for example, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, Thomas Mayr-Harting, Austria’s Permanent Representative at the UN, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs – added their voices to the crescendo of criticism, while attempting to persuade the UN Security Council to intervene in the conflict, and to block the release of a stand-by credit facility of USD 1.9 billion tentatively pledged to Sri Lanka by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Thus, although the official announcement by the Security Council (SC 9659 of May 13) contained a strong condemnation of the LTTE, it also expressed (implicitly) a suspicion regarding the "continued use (by the Army) of heavy calibre weapons in areas with high concentration of civilians". To the great relief of Sri Lanka, the pressures from India were milder than expected, especially against the backdrop of the fierce inter-party rivalry that prevailed in the run-up to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) elections and the passionate fraternal support which the Tigers draw from certain fringe groups in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu.
The Government of Sri Lanka has vehemently denied the charges pertaining to its military operations, presenting in the process many sets of evidence intended to highlight its essentially humane approach to all aspects of what it constantly referred to as a "hostage rescue operation". These denials often encountered contradictions, at times even from the foreign diplomatic missions in Colombo, some of which, one must remember, have not been favourably disposed towards the Rajapaksa regime. The resulting intractability of the ‘truth’ finds vivid illustration in the story of a recent confrontation between Gordon Weiss, the UN Representative stationed in Colombo and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry. A statement issued by the former quoted unnamed sources to assert that a hospital and the hamlet of Karyamullaivaikkal (within the ‘No-Fire Zone’– intended to serve as a refuge to civilians), where the hospital is located, was shelled by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) causing several hundred civilian deaths. This was widely reported by the international media, some of which even carried photographic embellishments of mutilated corpses and destroyed infrastructure meant to be seen as the resulting damage and loss of lives. When questioned by the Government whether the information on the alleged attack was verified prior to the issue of the statement, Weiss’ response (to cite an official report that has not been refuted) was: "The problem I had was that of verifying my information, given the lack of access to the war zone"! What appears to be a credible refutation of the story of the ‘Karyamullaivaikkal atrocity’ is found in the battle-front observations reported by Muralidhar Reddy, the Colombo-based correspondent of The Hindu, in its issue of May 15, 2009 . But then, in this no-holds-barred propaganda war, the sceptic could riposte that journalists can be bribed.
A fact of overwhelmingly significance that does support the Government claim that, since early April 2009, heavy weaponry has not been used in its attacks on the Tiger stronghold, is the excruciating slowness of its recent progress. Obviously, with their enormous superiority over the LTTE in manpower and arms, the SFs had the capacity to administer a sledge-hammer blow that would reduce the remnants of the LTTE to rubble within a few hours and with hardly any loss of its own personnel. For whatever reason – possibly, even the fear of external reprisals – the Government had refrained from such precipitate action and opted for a far more cautious and careful strategy, albeit at a very high cost.
Despite the diplomatic niceties that continue to figure in personal encounters between the Sri Lankan leaders and visiting dignitaries from the West (except when President Rajapaksa is said to have responded with an uncharacteristically curt ‘no’ to the request for a ceasefire made by Miliband and Kouchner during their recent "peace mission" to Sri Lanka), beneath the surface, there is much disenchantment in the country regarding some of the external interventions. For instance, many large caches of weaponry, heavy machinery and other commodities used in combat and terrorist attacks, abandoned (or carefully stored underground for future use) by the LTTE during its retreat, have fallen into the hands of the Army in the course of its advances. What amazes even those familiar with the massive LTTE transnational network of operations is neither the size of this arsenal nor its contents – sophisticated field weapons including multiple-barrel rocket launchers and other heavy artillery; state-of-the-art electronic and satellite communication equipment; high-powered engines and components for the manufacture of aircrafts, submarines and fast attack vessels – but the fact that certain items found abandoned (cranes, heavy-duty vehicles, earth-moving equipment) could not have been smuggled into the LTTE domain through the usual method of deep-sea transfer from ships to smaller vessels that bring the contraband to staging posts on the northeast coast. There is no way these bulky items could have reached the Vanni except through the port of Colombo; and the required access though the port could not have been obtained except under the lax procedures that were followed in relation to the post-Tsunami reconstruction imports by innumerable ‘humanitarian’ aid agencies that descended on Sri Lanka at that time. To gain such access, moreover, ‘diplomatic’ collaboration was necessary. There is now a fast-accumulating body of evidence pointing to awareness on the part of the personnel involved in these transactions of the fact that their supplies were being channelled to the LTTE secessionist effort. According to local media reports, the evidence against two of the more LTTE-friendly ‘humanitarian’ outfits has been so conclusive that they have been ordered by the Government to cease operations in Sri Lanka and quit the country.
Given the formidable constraints, the Government of Sri Lanka appears to be handling the massive IDP refugee problem at a fair level of efficiency, receiving, especially from India, various forms of assistance such as those pertaining to shelter and health care. According to an official report, 27 ‘Welfare Centres’ had, by May 1, 2009, provided temporary shelter to 184,609 persons. More permanent re-settlement of the displaced has begun in Mannar District (western Vanni), but is likely to be a slow process. However, there is reason for guarded optimism in this regard in the record of progress witnessed in the Eastern Province, ‘liberated’ in late 2007, where the restoration of normalcy has involved, inter alia, the establishment of civilian control under elected institutions of government. Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, alias ‘Karuna’, erstwhile maestro of the LTTE Army in the province, has been made a Minister of the Central Government, and, on May 12, 2008, in a master-stroke of consociational power-sharing in a multi-ethnic polity, appointed Vice-President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – the party headed by President Rajapaksa.
Power-sharing through constitutional and other devices among Sri Lanka’s ethnic groups in a fair and equitable manner would, of course, be a vital ingredient of the efforts to restore peace and stability in the country. The widely prescribed form of such power-sharing is ‘devolution’. In responding to this prescription, however, it would be necessary to grasp the reality that devolving political power within a spatial framework is no panacea to ethnic conflict, especially where the minority communities on whose behalf the ‘self-determination’ demand is being made are spatially diffused. The vitally relevant Sri Lankan specificity in this context is that 54 per cent of the Tamils of Sri Lanka live outside the ‘northeast’– the area on which devolution is expected to focus. Moreover, one does not need to venture even beyond South Asia to find vivid illustrations of both the possibilities as well as the limitations of devolution as a method of diffusing secessionist impulses that endanger the territorial integrity of the State. Thus, present indications are that, in the foreseeable future, the Government is unlikely to extend power-sharing beyond what has been provided for in the existing system of Provincial Councils established under the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted as an appeasement measure based on the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987. One could add to this with a fair degree of certainty that, in its power-sharing offers to the political leadership of the Tamils, the Government will also remain firm in its rejection of the empirically pernicious notion of a ‘Traditional Tamil Homeland’ that encompasses the northeast of Sri Lanka.
There are other reasons that would place devolution beyond the ‘Thirteenth Amendment’ low in the priorities of the Government’s short-term post-conflict agenda:
President Mahinda Rajapakse is at present riding the crest of a wave of popular support of unprecedented magnitude. Political overtures which he has been offering the minority communities in the form of power-sharing at the Centre will, consequently, remain unopposed, at least for a time. This advantage, however, has to be viewed against the backdrop of the bleak fact that popular expectations of a post-war economic boom are unrealistically high and, indeed, fanciful, given the prevailing global recession, the extraordinarily heavy demands of reconstruction of the north, and the likely retaliatory/punitive curtailments of external aid to Sri Lanka in the years ahead.
the Age of the Spoiler
The wise men of Hindoostan have, once more, been utterly blind-sided by India’s electorate. Most pre-election projections had predicted the doom of the national parties and a rag-tag coalition – the Third Front, and uncommitted fragments inventively combined into a Fourth Front – catapulted to power under the uncertain leadership of one among numberless pretenders. Even the ‘scientific’ prestidigitations of learned psephologists making ‘precise’ calculations on exit poll data saw no more than unstable coalitions, at best, of one of the national parties, backed by a gaggle of ideologically irreconcilable groupings. The national formations themselves appeared to suffer a collapse of confidence, and had reconciled themselves to one of these outcomes, and enormous public apprehensions had been provoked by the specter of disorders that would come in the wake of the opportunistic, rickety and volatile alliances that were expected to seize power at Delhi.
Abruptly, however, public anxieties appear to have crystallized into what one commentator described as a "flight to stability". The fictional Third Front has been decimated, with its principal advocate, the Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M) suffering the most humiliating reverses just five years after its supreme triumph, shrinking from a strength of 43 seats to a poor 16. Significantly, however, 76.79 per cent of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha are now occupied by the national alliances, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA, 258) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA, 159). Crucially, the two principal national parties, the Congress (206) and the BJP (116) together account for 59.3 per cent of the House (322 seats), suggesting that the era of ‘spoilers’ may well be at an end, at least for the time being. Some of the most disruptive political formations have, moreover, been cut to size and will have little coercive influence over the new dispensation at Raisina Hill.
From a purely non-partisan perspective, there is an encouraging stability in this outcome, and this will impact crucially on national security policy. For one thing, the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai had made terrorism and internal security central electoral issues – and both the leading national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress had made elaborate and detailed commitments on these issues in their manifestos and pre-election declarations. Clearly, the divisive cacophony that has long impeded and undermined the evolution of effective counter-terrorism (CT), counter-insurgency (CI) and internal security policy will now abate, at least to some extent, creating the mandate and the space that the new Government – hopefully – will better use.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has, of course, long offered some of the more coherent assessments of India’s many internal security crises – though, in the past, he apparently failed to carry many of his own Cabinet colleagues along with him. The Prime Minister had noted, moreover, "South Asia is in turmoil. And therefore in planning for our own development, we have to be mindful of the environment within which we have to operate." Union Home Minisiter P. Chidambaram, in late March 2009, at the height of the run-up to the elections, had noted, further, that "India finds itself in a ring of fire. Our neighbours are countries in difficulty. Some of them even qualify to be called failed states." It is evident that a UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh is now irrevocably committed to placing India’s security among its highest priorities.
It is significant, within this context, that the "ring of fire" may, in some measure, already have been breached by circumstances not of India’s making. In Sri Lanka, a determined Government has destroyed one of the world’s most lethal and inventive terrorist groups, and there is now reasonable expectation that Colombo will pursue an inclusive solution that will address at least the most urgent of Tamil grievances. India certainly has tremendous leverage to encourage such an outcome, and an international community, appalled by the bloody endgame in the Sri Lankan North, will exercise enormous pressure to ensure that Sinhala triumphalism is held in abeyance. There is, in any event, a very real opportunity, now, for peace and development in Sri Lanka, after over 25 years of relentless strife.
In Bangladesh, while the February revolt in the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) triggered grave concerns, the Awami League’s sweep in the elections of December 2008 has opened up new vistas. It is evident that the Sheikh Hasina Government has committed itself to reversing the trends towards Islamist radicalization and quasi-Governmental and establishment support to Islamist extremism and terrorism – including their ‘export’ to India. There is also a clear effort and intent to delink Bangladesh from the pernicious Pakistani gameplan in this region. While Dhaka’s initial postures have been encouraging, it remains to be seen how sustained the Government’s efforts will be, and whether they will be successful in containing and neutralizing what may be an inevitable extremist-terrorist backlash. In any event, there appears to be a greater opportunity for peace in Bangladesh than has been the case for some years now, and the new dispensation at South Block would certainly have something to build on to consolidate these gains.
Nepal, of course, continues to stare into the abyss, though from a position of ‘ugly stability’. Despite abrasive confrontations with the various political parties, the Maoists have remained within the ‘peace process’, and violence – beyond levels that have become ‘acceptable’ within this troubled country – is not an immediate risk.
It is Pakistan alone that remains a rising inferno, and will be the most urgent security challenge – both from an internal and external perspective – for the new regime. Regrettably, there is little evidence of any emerging coherence in India’s foreign or defence policy postures towards Pakistan, though "The Congress Party’s Pledge: Protecting India From Terror" document (Pledge Document), released during the election campaign, does, in passing, state that "Counter-intelligence measures must be designed to foil activities of foreign intelligence agencies. Counter-terrorism measures must be crafted in a manner that they act as warning and strong deterrent to potential terrorists." India, however, remains apparently committed to restoring the ‘peace process’ with Pakistan if there is perceptible action against those who were involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and there is little evidence of any new strategic orientation towards this relentless enemy. The myth that "a strong and stable Pakistan is in India’s interests" remains firmly entrenched in the Delhi establishment, though there is little evident that any instrumentalities or agencies exist to secure this eventuality. The reality is, neither India nor the paltry billions in aid that are flowing from the ‘great powers’ and international community, have any significant impact on Pakistan disastrous trajectory. It is critical, now, to recognize the distinction between wishful and strategic thinking, and to accommodate Pakistan’s accelerating descent within India’s national policy projections. It is imperative, consequently, that India reviews its ‘end state’ objectives with regard to Pakistan, to accommodate emerging realities. This includes the growing possibility of a ‘regime change’ that transforms – or destroys – the existing state structure in Pakistan, and the consequent risks of rising instability, export of terrorism, and the transfer of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to extremist and non-state elements. A strategy to tackle Pakistan’s implosion and possible collapse is now necessary, even if an alternative track of negotiations is kept alive. There will, moreover, be a progressive urgency to addressing the evolving disaster of President Barack Obama’s AfPak policy.
Within the internal security context, the shock to the system administered by 26/11 has resulted in a greater focus on the threat of terrorism and insurgency in the country, and a number of new measures have already been announced or initiated. Long pending sanctions to strengthen the Intelligence Bureau have been cleared. The Multi Agency Centre (MAC), the Congress Pledge Document claims, has been established and "connectivity has been achieved between MAC and S-MACs in the State Capital and the Special Branch of the Police in the State. All these Centres are now functioning on a 24x7 basis…" Surprisingly, however, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) Website claims that "Sanction has been issued for site preparation at 30 locations in India to establish connectivity between the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), SMAC and the Special Branch of the State Police concerned". There is obviously some routine fudging here, and what is ‘sanctioned’ is evidently projected as having been achieved. The reality, of course, is that the MAC-SMAC structure remains in its infancy, as does the national intelligence database it is intended to create – but the impediments that had long obstructed these initiatives are now quickly being removed. The sheer burden of cumulative capacity constraints will, however, continue to dog these projects for some time to come.
Among other post-26/11 initiatives, whatever their actual implementation or utility, that the MHA lists, are:
Significantly, the Pledge Document also makes a number of quantified and time-bound commitments. Recognizing terrorism as "the single most important issue", the Document asserts that this is "a challenge that any responsible government must address on a war footing" (emphasis added). To this end, the most significant objective commitments include:
These and other measure are proposed under a five pronged strategy with two overarching objectives, comprising:
‘Intra-agency collaboration’ is to be a ‘cardinal principal of governance’, and ‘greater powers and funds’ are to be provided to ‘our frontal security agencies’. There is a promise to "deal with the scourge of terrorism squarely and decisively, but without weakening the delicate strands that have, together, bound our society for centuries."
In broad terms, these proposals appear to address the issues relating to major capacity deficits that have crippled India’s CT-CI responses in the past, and made the country a soft target for terrorism and proxy war. Regrettably, there are, within the Indian constitutional scheme, acute limits to central power, and the fragmentation of State responses, or the unenthusiastic implementation of central schemes, has long undermined capacity building where it is most needed, despite increasing central support for the augmentation of necessary State capacities. Securing effective Centre-State collaboration will have to be another ‘cardinal principal of governance’ if the Central schemes are to secure desired impact, and this has been enormously difficult in the past. Fortunately, a measure of consensual clarity has appeared across party lines regarding the need for sustained and coherent effort to address deficits within the security apparatus and confront the threats of terrorism, insurgency and the covert wars that are being directed against the unity and integrity of the state and nation in India, and this may provide the context of somewhat greater efficiency of operation.
The surprise electoral outcome will provide the new regime unprecedented stability. It has also ensured continuity, and will give greater authority to the Prime Minister to translate his understanding and assessment of India’s internal security threats into an effective framework of response. A range of firm commitments have already been made to implement a ‘zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism’ and to "guarantee the maximum possible security to each and every citizen". The clear electoral mandate ensures that, to the extent that the new regime succeeds in fulfilling its pledge, this achievement will be entirely its own; to the extent it fails, there will be no one else to blame.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 11-17, 2009
12 Policemen and a civilian killed in Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh: 12 Policemen and a civilian were killed and six people sustained injuries after 150 heavily armed cadres of the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist) ambushed a 41-member Police contingent in the hillside Risgaon village of Dhamtari District on May 11, 2009. The Policemen were part of the Kanker District Force search convoy and were travelling in three vehicles. Girdhari Nayak, the Additional Director General of Police, said, "The heavily armed rebels first triggered multiple (landmine) blasts and then opened indiscriminate fire from hilltops on jawans. Ten constables, one hawaldar, one special police officer (SPO) and a civilian, who was the driver of one of the vehicles, were killed." He further said local Police authorities were unsure whether the Maoists had walked away with arms of the slain Policemen. This was the first ever attack by the Maoists in Dhamtari District. The Hindu, May 12, 2009.
More than 450 persons killed during the week in NWFP: As troops closed in on militants in the Matta sub-division on Swat District, Security Forces (SFs) on May 17, 2009, said they had killed 25 militants in the Arkot and Peuchar areas during the preceding 24 hours. One officer was killed while seven soldiers sustained injuries during the fighting. Earlier, 47 Taliban militants were killed in various areas of Malakand Division during the preceding 24 hours, the ISPR spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told reporters on May 16. Claiming ‘significant achievements’ in the ongoing military operation against Taliban, he also confirmed the presence of hardcore foreign militants in Swat.
While asking the internally displaced people to help identify the fleeing militants, SFs on May 15 claimed to have killed 55 militants in the Swat and Buner Districts. SFs conceded three fatalities, besides injuries to 11 soldiers. The SFs also claimed to have gained success in their actions in different areas of the Valley, but the areas were not specified. The ISPR said SFs had credible reports that the Taliban militants had shaved off their beards and trimmed hair to escape action. It said these militants were fleeing the Swat Valley in the guise of civilians. It asked the people to help identify the fleeing militants to SFs.
60 Taliban militants and nine soldiers were killed in Swat District on May 14. Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas confirmed 54 Taliban deaths in a daily briefing, and said the military was taking "extra-ordinary measures to avoid collateral damage". He said the Army destroyed at least 15 Taliban hideouts in the Ramotai Loe area of Shangla District. Abbas said SFs in Barikot removed roadside bombs and eliminated the remaining Taliban resistance to clear areas up to Udigram, six kilometers short of Mingora, the main town in Swat. While 13 militants were killed in the Tursak suburb of Mingora, three militants, including a key commander, were killed in Udigram. Further, Frontier Corps sources said 30 Taliban militants were killed in Kalpani and 20 more were killed in the Hayasarae area of Lower Dir District when troops destroyed the house of a local administration official, which the Taliban had occupied.
11 militants and four SF personnel were killed in clashes in the Swat District as troops dropped from helicopters on May 12 gained a toehold in Peuchar, the Taliban headquarters. In addition, five beheaded bodies were found in and around the Mingora city on May 13. Further, there were reports of 24 casualties, including 18 militants, in Lower Dir District. The Swat Media Centre (SMC) said 11 militants, including ‘commander’ Naseebur Rahman, were killed in the ongoing military operation against Maulana Fazlullah-led militants in Swat. The SMC said four soldiers were also killed and 12 others sustained injuries during operations in the preceding 24 hours. Though there was no official account, local sources on May 13 reported the killing of 24 people, including six civilians. They said an attack on a veterinary dispensary in the Kethiari area of Adenzai left 12 militants dead. In Tandodag and Berarai areas, there were reports about the killing of six militants and as many civilians.
Reports from Mingora and Peshawar, quoting Frontier Corps (FC) sources, said SFs killed 13 militants in the Torwarsak area of Buner District, while there were reports about the killing of 37 Taliban militants in an assault in the Gulabad area of Dir Lower District and four others in Swat on May 12. Six bodies were found in parts of Swat Valley, while one person was shot dead in Kanju. The SFs said four militants were killed in a clash triggered by Taliban’s firing at Mamdherai. Further, six beheaded bodies of unidentified persons were recovered from Suhrab Khan Chowk, Peopleís Chowk, Rahimabad, Landikas and Green Chowk. Arshad Kanju, a resident of Kanju, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Fierce clashes between militants and the SFs were reported from Gulabad and Chakdara towns of Dir Lower. Sources said 37 militants were killed in an attack on Government Degree College Gulabad, which was occupied by militants. Sources said that 17 bodies were recovered from the building, damaged in clashes. One soldier was also reported to have been killed in the clashes. Nine militants, including a commander, were arrested in Chakdara and Gulabad.
SFs claimed to have killed 52 militants in the Swat District during the preceding 24 hours, while 31 persons, including three civilians, were killed in Lower Dir District on May 11. Three soldiers were also killed and 14 others wounded in Swat. In addition, seven bodies, including one of a prayer leader at a mosque, were found in different towns of Swat Valley. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 12-18, 2009.
23 militants among 66 persons killed during the week in FATA: Nine Taliban militants were killed and 13 others wounded when the Security Forces (SFs) attacked Taliban hideouts in the Upper Orakzai Agency on May 16, 2009. SFs targeted Taliban hideouts in Dabori, headquarters of Upper Orakzai, using helicopter gunships. Locals said all the dead were local militants and that no key Taliban commander was killed in the attack. Further, 25 people were killed in a suspected US drone missile attack on a seminary and a nearby vehicle in North Waziristan on May 16. US drones reportedly fired two missiles in Mir Ali sub-division, with one missile hitting the Anwarul Uloom Islamia seminary and the other a vehicle. "It was a drone strike on a compound where militants were staying," an unnamed security official told AFP. Other intelligence officials put the death toll as high as 28, saying the dead were mostly local militants who had been preparing to leave for Afghanistan to carry out attacks. The officials added, however, that the bodies of most of those killed were burnt beyond recognition.
Three soldiers were killed and four others sustained injuries when their convoy came under a bomb attack near Miranshah in North Waziristan on May 14. Troops besieged Pir Kala, about 10 kilometres north of Miranshah, and fired on suspected militant positions. Helicopter gunships were called in to support ground forces. According to local people, militants fired back and the ensuing exchange of fire continued for over three hours. Separately, three militants, including a local Taliban ‘commander’, were killed in a bomb blast in the Sheikhan area of the Khwezai subdivision of Mohmand Agency on May 14. SFs on May 14 also killed five militants in the North Waziristan Agency after a military convoy was targeted with an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Pir Killay area, in which three soldiers were killed and four others sustained injuries. Sources said the SFs convoy was on its way to Bannu in NWFP from Miranshah when it was attacked with the IED, leaving three soldiers dead and four others injured. The troops retaliated by resorting to artillery shelling at the militants’ positions from the Miranshah Tochi Fort, killing five militants.
12 people were killed in a US drone attack in South Waziristan Agency near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on May 12. Tribal sources said six, or possibly more, missiles were fired at three to four houses at Sunrai Zyara Leeta border village at 8 am. One of the houses was destroyed and others were damaged. An unnamed senior Government official claimed the targeted compounds were being used by local militants as a training and transit camp to launch attacks in Afghanistan. He conceded there was no Government presence in the area. He also had no information about the identity of those killed and injured.
A Taliban commander close to Baitullah Mehsud was among six people found dead from various areas of South Waziristan on May 11 – two months after the men went missing, Daily Times reported. The bullet-riddled body of commander Tikka Khan Burki – the Taliban chief for Salayrogha area in upper Kaniguram region – was found in Karwanmanza area of Ladah sub-division. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 12-18, 2009.
834,000 civilians displaced by fighting in NWFP, says UN: More than 834,000 civilians have fled the recent military operation in the NWFP, the UN refugee agency chief said on May 14, 2009. The figure was an increase of more than 163,000 people registered since May 13, as families piled onto trucks and tractors, or streamed on foot out of the affected Districts to hastily set up camps. "Some 834,000 internally displaced persons have been registered so far. This is a massive, massive displacement in today’s world," said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. Daily Times, May 15, 2009.
Jama’at-ud-Da’awa active in Swat District under a new name: The Jama’at-ud-Da’awa (JuD, the front for Lashkar-e-Toiba [LeT]), designated by the United Nations Security Council as a terrorist outfit in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, has resurfaced as a charity organisation providing food and other relief to the thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Swat District. Eyewitnesses said that the JuD was active in Mardan, where most of the refugee camps are located. They were distributing food and medical care. One eyewitness, who visited the area on May 9, 2009, said JuD workers were organised under a charity organisation called Falah-i-Insaniyat. They had set themselves up at a roundabout in Mardan town called College Chowk, where they were collecting food donations for the displaced. Despite the Government crackdown on the group after the U.N. designation, the canopied stall was openly flying the black-and-white flags of the JuD, with the insignia of the sword and the Kalma, the Islamic doctrine of faith. The organisation has also set up a relief distribution centre at a village called Rustam, on the outskirts of Buner. The Hindu, May 14, 2009.
11 persons killed in suicide attack on Frontier Constabulary camp in NWFP: 11 people were killed and 13 others injured on May 11, 2009, in a suicide attack on a camp of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) in the Spina Thana area of Darra Adamkhel. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Darra Adamkhel chapter, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying more suicide attacks would be carried out if the military operation was not stopped in Swat and other parts of the country. 12 shops, a car, a coach and two trailers were also destroyed in the blast. Eyewitnesses said a white double-cabin pick-up narrowly missed the FC camp and went off at the entrance of the military establishment. They said the explosives-laden vehicle was driven by a young man. Police said around 200 kilograms of explosive material was loaded sin the car. Spina Thana is located between Matani village of Peshawar and the gun-manufacturing town of Darra Adamkhel. The News, May 12, 2009.
LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran killed: An official announcement made in the afternoon of May 18, 2009 over Rupavahini, the main Government-controlled TV channel, stated that the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, LTTE intelligence unit chief Pottu Amman and Sea Tigers' chief Soosai were killed in the course of an army attack earlier in the morning. Rupavahini, May 18, 2009.
Humanitarian mission declared over: The humanitarian mission launched to liberate civilians taken hostage by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for months reached an end in the afternoon of May 17, 2009 in Mullaitivu with the last batch of civilians arriving in Government controlled areas through the Vadduvakal causeway towards Mullaitivu by 2.30pm whilst troops surrounded the last batch of militants inside a less than half square kilometre stretch in the No Fire Zone (NFZ). According to Military officials, more than 52,000 civilians have arrived in the Government-controlled areas and nearly 30,000 were due to be screened by the troops before being dispatched to welfare centres in Vavuniya. "An estimated figure exceeding 82,000 civilians have so far arrived in the military controlled areas since May 14," military officials in Mullaitivu added. As the last batch of civilians were fleeing from the NFZ, many explosions were heard inside the NFZ as troops were fighting with the last batch of militants trapped inside.
In addition, at least 150 militants were killed in a fierce battle in the Karaiyamullivaikal area inside the NFZ on May 17. The dead include Charles Anthony, the elder son of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, political unit chief Nadeshan, head of the LTTE peace secretariat, Pulidevan, and Ramesh, a senior special military leader. Their bodies were recovered on May 18 (today).
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, however, said that the war is not over yet. "We have rescued all the civilians from the area, now we are searching for any more civilians. In the meantime, we have restricted the LTTE to one square kilometre-like area, so we will mop up and seize the rest of the LTTE cadres and the leadership."
The LTTE international relations head K. Pathmanathan said, in a statement issued from outside Sri Lanka, the war had reached its bitter end and the outfit had decided to silence their guns in the interest of saving the lives of innocent Tamil citizens. "This battle has reached its bitter end. Against all odds, we have held back the advancing Sinhalese forces without help or support, except for the unending support of our people. It is our people who are dying now from bombs, shells, illness and hunger. We cannot permit any more harm to befall them. We remain with one last choice — to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer. We can no longer bear to see the innocent blood of our people being spilled," he said. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page; The Hindu; BBC News, May 17 -18, 2009.
1,852 civilians among 2,217 persons killed during the week in North: 1,852 civilians and 366 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants were killed in the North during the week. The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) fired artillery shells on the makeshift hospital which was functioning at Mullivaaykkaal junior school inside the No Fire Zone (NFZ) in Mullaitivu District, killing 47 civilians in the morning of May 12, reported the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net. At least 55 patients sustained serious injuries in the attack. On the same day, troops in the Karaiyamullivaikal area of Mullaitivu recovered 43 dead bodies of militants. In addition, Security Forces (SFs) moving from the north entered the new NFZ in Mullaitivu, countering LTTE attacks. Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said, "Three LTTE suicide bombers hiding inside underground bunkers have blown themselves up as advancing 58 Division troops closed in on them. In a subsequent search operation, troops recovered 25 bodies of Tiger cadres, 20 T56 assault rifles and other warlike items." More than 100 civilians, including many children, patients and an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker, were killed in a SLA artillery attack that targeted a makeshift hospital and the surrounding areas which comprises of many tarpaulin huts in the Mullivaaykkaal area of Mullaitivu District inside the NFZ on May 13, reports Tamil Net.
1,700 civilians were killed and over 3,000 wounded within the preceding 48 hours as SLA ‘continued its indiscriminate shelling’ inside the new No Fire Zone, according to a statement released by the LTTE Peace Secretariat in the afternoon of May 14, Tamil Net reported. Further, SFs in the Karaiyamullivaikal area of Mullaitivu District recovered dead bodies of 19 militants on the same day. During their advance into the Mullaitivu front, SFs recovered dead bodies of 40 LTTE militants and arrested three female Sea Tigers (cadres of the sea wing of the LTTE) on May 15. Separately, SFs continued their advance further into the LTTE-held areas inside the new NFZ and attacked groups of militants, causing extensive damages to the outfit. During subsequent search operations in Palamattalan, they recovered 35 dead bodies of the militants.
At least 150 militants were killed in a fierce battle between the two sides in the Karaiyamullivaikal area inside the NFZ on May 17. The dead reportedly include Charles Anthony, the elder son of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, LTTE political unit chief Nadeshan, head of the LTTE peace secretariat Pulidevan and Ramesh, a senior special military leader of the outfit. Their bodies were recovered on May 18 (today). Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, May 12 -18, 2009.
To receive FREE advance copies of SAIR by email Subscribe.
Recommend South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) to a friend.