PAKISTAN:Catastrophic Deluge, Surging Terror ,INDIA: Assam: Goalpara – Militant Habitat :: South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR),Vol. No. 9.10
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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 9, No. 10, September 13, 2010

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Catastrophic Deluge, Surging Terror
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management
Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

The worst ever flood in the last 80 years, which has inundated almost a fifth of the country, and which has been described by the United Nations (UN) as "one of the worst humanitarian disasters" in UN history, is bound to impact adversely on every single person – either directly or indirectly – in Pakistan, potentially endangering the very structure of the nation. More alarmingly, with the Government failing to cope adequately with the calamity and once again allowing terrorist and Islamist extremist formations to ‘help’ the people, there is every possibility of even greater entrenchment of such groupings among a widening section of the masses. Significantly, these moves will dilute elements of Islamabad’s ‘war on terror’ and will enormously aid militants in expanding their capacities and operations.

Unexpected and unprecedented rains in end-July first flooded Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly known as North West Frontier Province). The water subsequently made its way down the Indus River system, inundating the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Punjab, Balochisatn and Sindh. At least 1,745 people have died in the natural calamity, which has affected more than 21 million people. Giving details of the disaster, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, on September 1, 2010, declared that the unprecedented floods had caused losses worth USD 43 billion to the country. He added that some 1,000 bridges and 4,000 kilometres of roads had been damaged by the water.

Despite the political rhetoric, however, Islamabad’s response to the crisis has been slow and lacklustre. The country already had almost 3.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of sweeping and indiscriminate ‘counter-terrorism’ operations, and is estimated to have added another 2.2 million to this number as a result of the floods. Complaints about the callousness of approach and indifference of the authorities, both in Islamabad and the respective Provinces, have been widespread.

Even the international community has failed to deliver in the appropriate manner. The United Nations, which initially urged the international community to provide USD 460 million, and doubled this estimate later, has so far received pledges of just USD 325 million towards relief aid for Pakistan. The international community has also made some direct donations and pledges to the country, taking total pledges to USD 1 billion. However, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Pakistan has so far received just USD 291 million in aid from the international community. It is not clear what proportion of this aid has actually reached the target populations, and there are widespread allegations of corruption and the siphoning out of funds. The Pakistan Government has conceded that, till now, more than a million flood-affected people have received no relief at all. Meanwhile, the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) has urged the Pakistan Government to reject Western aid for flood victims, claiming that the monies would only be siphoned off by corrupt officials.

With official and international relief operations failing to deliver, militant groups, including the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Jama’at-ud-Da’awa (JUD), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), and radical Islamist political formations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), are taking advantage of the flood situation, coming to the fore in collecting funds for ‘flood relief’. Reports indicate that some foreign funding, including contributions from Saudi Arabia, could flow directly to these organisations and through them, eventually, to al Qaeda and its network of affiliates.

The risks of further militant mobilisation through relief operations are manifest and significant. As Abdul Jabbar, 50, whose home was destroyed in Mingora town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, commented, "The Taliban are bringing us rice. We are hungry. People here have simple lives and are easily influenced. They have short memories and don't remember the blood spilled when the Taliban were more active here." Worryingly, the TTP, according to reports, is attempting to enlist 50,000 new fighters in return for food and medicine. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has emphasised that more aid was needed to stop terrorists from becoming heroes, saying, "There's huge need. Desperation gives birth to terrorism." President Asif Ali Zardari on August 24, also warned that the TTP could take advantage of the crisis and could kidnap children dislocated by the flooding to put them into terrorist training camps. Earlier, on August 19, expressing the fear that the children of flood-affected people and orphans could end up at terrorist training camps, he had noted, "We are giving them everything we’ve got. There is a possibility that some negative forces would exploit this situation. For example, militants can take orphaned babies and put them in terror training camps."

An unnamed senior US official also noted, on August 26, "There are certainly clear indications that the insurgents and affiliated groups are trying to use the flood and the relief from the flood to try to gain support for their broader effort of being able to control large parts of Pakistan... They're delivering aid. They bring money. They bring food."

Taking advantage of the floods, the militants are also relocating themselves. Significantly, the KP Government has demanded that the Federal Government launch an operation against militants who are regrouping in FATA to attack KP and Punjab. "TTP terrorists have started targeting settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa once again…," KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain stated on September 7. "Security Forces should now focus on terrorists’ activities rather than the flood (relief) activities. TTP are taking advantage of the flood situation and have restarted killing innocent citizens," he added. Hussain added that any further delay in operations against the TTP could put the whole country at risk, and that TTP-affiliated groups had once again strengthened their presence in Darra Adamkhel, Khyber, Mohmand and the Peshawar suburbs.

Though it is quite evident that militants have ‘utilised’ the floods to their own advantage, some damage has also been inflicted on al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, TTP and various Punjabi terrorist organizations as a result of the floods, though its exact quantum is difficult to estimate. A substantial proportion of the training camps of these groups Afghan Taliban, were located in areas which are presently under water. However, the Afghan Taliban, which operates from the Quetta area of Balochistan, has not been significantly affected, as the flood has had only marginal impact in these areas. The Afghan Taliban has been able to sustain its operations in Afghanistan even after the deluge.

Nevertheless, the intensity of the floods has failed to mitigate the intensity of terrorism in Pakistan. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database a total of 874 people were killed in terrorism related violence in the month of July, when the flood started to create havoc. As the floods peaked in August, fatalities came down to 320 – but principally because of a decline in terrorist fatalities, as Army operations were suspended under the impact of the natural catastrophe. Fatalities categorised as ‘terrorist’ declined from 618 in July, to 177 in August. With the waters receding, terrorist activities have again gathered force, with fatalities touching 300 in just the first twelve days of September, including 95 ‘terrorists’. While 44 major incidents (involving three or more than three killings) were recorded in July, the number came down to 24 in August, but was up at 20 during by September 12. The number of suicide attacks in these months stands at five, two and five respectively.

Alarmingly, it is for the first time since January 2009 that the number of civilians killed during a month has been more than the militants killed, indicating that the militants are on rampage even while military operations have been enormously hampered. The precarious flood situation has led to massive deployment of the Army in affected areas, with some 60,000 troops deployed for relief and rescue operation. Mohammed Anwar, a soldier, reportedly stated, "We are stretched to the limits. The Government has pulled thousands of soldiers away from Swat to help in relief across Pakistan. So the Taliban have returned with bags of money. It was a war we were winning – and because of the flood we are losing it again." Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Army’s planned operations in the North Waziristan Agency in FATA will be delayed due to the devastating floods.

This is a disaster of major proportions, and will have long-term impact on the capacities of terrorist groupings and the state’s agencies, and consequently on the trajectory of terrorism and the stability of the state in Pakistan. As the flood waters recede, the challenge of managing diseases, IDPs and massive rehabilitation and reconstruction work will be compounded by rising depredations of significantly strengthened terrorist formations, even as Pakistan’s chronic economic crisis worsens. As in the earthquake of October 8, 2005, the state in Pakistan has chosen to look the other way as Islamist terrorist and extremist formations take advantage of the state’s failure to deliver efficient relief to the affected populations. The current catastrophe is of a far greater magnitude than the calamity of 2005, and the advantages that will eventually accrue to the terrorists will be comparably greater.

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Assam: Goalpara – Militant Habitat
Chennabasaveshwar A. Patagundi
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On July 30, 2010, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast was triggered at Bhalukdubi in Goalpara District, killing at least five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and injuring 33 others. The IED was placed under a staff bus carrying troopers to Goalpara town from their Agiya Balijana camp through dense forest. The ambush was orchestrated on the Soulmari-Goalpara PWD road, one of the busiest stretches in the area, three kilometres from Goalpara town. Soulmari is the point where the road meets National Highway-37 and connects Bongaigaon, Dhubri, and Guwahati, and the Garo Hills in Meghalya. After the attack, according to the Police, militants fled into the Bhalukdubi Reserve Forest, which connects the Pancharatna and Khutamari Reserve Forests. Emphasising the advantage of terrain for the militants, a source noted, "A group of militants, after carrying out an operation, can sneak into Meghalaya or take a country boat and disappear along the river."

Subsequent to the IED blast, Anu Buragohain, who introduced himself as the ‘spokesperson’ of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), called up a local television channel to claim responsibility for the attack. He said that, though ULFA had ‘remained quiet’ for some time, the SFs continued to target its cadres and that was why it had retaliated. He warned of more such strikes. Later, ULFA leaders issued directives to their cadres to target SFs and Central Government installations, though they were asked to avoid killing of civilians as far as possible.

The ULFA, which divides its areas of influence in the State of Assam into four zones, designates the District of Goalpara in its Paschim Mandal (West Zone). The District has witnessed infrequent, yet, major militant ambushes targeting the Security Forces (SFs) engaged in the counter-insurgency operations over the years.

The SATP database records that at least 75 persons, including 38 militants, 24 SFs and 13 civilians, had been killed in 64 militancy-related incidents in the District since 1998. Notably, out of the 45 incidents of violence in which ULFA was involved, eight were incidents of explosion, killing at least 22 persons, including 15 SFs and seven civilians, and injuring 103 others, including 58 civilians and 45 SFs. ULFA killed a total of 12 civilians and 20 SFs, while the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) was involved in four incidents, resulting in one civilian and four SF fatalities. Of 38 militants killed in the District, 27 belonged to ULFA, three were Islamist militants with suspected links to Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), two belonged to the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), and one to the NDFB. The remaining militant fatalities remain unidentified.

In addition to the July 30, 2010, IED attack, some of the major incidents (involving three or more than three fatalities) in Goalpara include:

July 1, 2009: Five unidentified militants were shot dead in an encounter between SF personnel and a group of militants at Dehikata Reserve Forest under Mornai Police Station.

February 11, 2008: Three Islamist militants with suspected links to the ISI were killed and three others were arrested in an encounter with SFs at Binajuli village under the Agia Police Outpost.

June 3, 2004: Three ULFA terrorists were killed in an encounter at Bhalukdabi village.

August 26, 2004: Two troopers and the daughter of an Army Officer were killed and 17 people were injured when an IED exploded at Paikan village, and damaged a bus carrying Border Security Force personnel from Tura in Meghalaya to Guwahati.

March 16, 2003: Six civilians were killed and 55 were injured in an IED blast set-off by ULFA terrorists under a passenger bus, on National Highway No. 7, at Bamunghopha.

August 21, 2002: Alleged NDFB terrorists kill four Police personnel and a civilian in an IED blast at Maladhara, in the Lakhipur Police Station limits. 17 Police personnel were also injured in the attack.

March 15, 2001: Six ULFA terrorists belonging to the outfit's 'Enigma Unit' were killed in an encounter in a forest area under the Krishnai Police Station.

July 29, 2001: Seven CRPF personnel and the driver of the vehicle they were travelling in, were killed in an IED explosion at Bhalukjuli.

September 28, 1998: Seven persons, including five CRPF personnel, were killed and seven others were injured in an ambush on a patrol party between Goalpara and Rongjuli.

The July 30, 2010, ambush on the CRPF was preceded by the arrest of six suspects from Goalpara and Kamrup Districts, including two from Guwahati, on April 27, 2010, on charges of planning to carry out bomb blasts in Guwahati city. Sources confirmed that a team of ULFA’s "109th battalion" had carried out a survey of the city and was planning to carryout blasts, under the leadership of Drishti Rajkhowa, 'commander' of the '109th battalion'. Earlier, intelligence sources revealed that an ULFA team was located somewhere in Goalpara, and explosives had already been procured. Explosives were suspected to have been smuggled in from Bangladesh to Goalpara via the Garo Hills in Meghalaya. 21 ULFA cadres and linkmen have been already arrested in Goalpara in 2010, indicating a surge in ULFA activities in the border District.

Spread over an area of 1,911 square kilometres, Goalpara is located on the banks of river Brahmaputra. Low forested hills such as Pancharatna, Sri Surjya, Tukreswari, Nalanga and Paglartek, with elevations ranging from 100 to 500 metres, intersperse the 1,511 square kilometre plain area. The terrain is characterised by numberless chars (riverine tracts and sandy river islands) in the river, Brahmaputra which flows from East to West along the District’s Northern boundary. 400 square kilometres of forest cover provide safe heaven for the militants. Koch Rajbongshi, Yogi, Goal, Hira, Sutradhar, Rabha, Bodo, Garo, indigenous Muslim and immigrant communities inhabit Goalpara. Its population of 8,22,306 is administered under five Revenue Circles, 10 Police Stations, including two River Police Stations (RPS), and five Police outposts.

Goalpara borders Garo Hills in the neighbouring State of Meghalaya, which shares a 443 kilometre international border with Bangladesh, the longest after Tripura amongst North-eastern States. The proximity to Bangladesh, where the Northeast militants still have their bases, has made Goalpara vulnerable, with militants often using the routes through the Garo Hills to enter Assam.

ULFA’s "109th battalion", long active in Goalpara, has remained largely immune to the recent wave of surrenders by other ULFA formations. Security sources indicate that, at the instance of the "battalion’s commandant", Drishti Rajkhowa, Gulit Das and Pradeep Basumatary have been operating an extortion network in the District since March 2010. While Drishti Rajkhowa has been camping in Bangladesh, Gulit Das acts as the de facto ‘commandant’ of the ‘battalion’. The ‘109th battalion’ is the logistics division of ULFA, helping cadres from Assam to cross over to and from Bangladesh, and arranging supplies and weapons.

According to an August 2010 report, a top ULFA militant, Tarak Rabha, recently arrested by the SFs, disclosed that the main objective of the recent blasts were to demonstrate the strength of the outfit and to frighten people into meeting extortion demands. The ULFA leadership has been increasingly concerned as a majority of those who had received demand notes had failed to pay.

The ‘central committee headquarters’ of the ULFA is still located in the Bakapura area of Sherpur District in Bangladesh bordering Meghalaya, despite a ‘crackdown’ against Northeast Indian militant groups by the Bangladesh Government. Apart from central committee members, the ULFA has created three rank categories among the remaining senior cadres. The G1 comprises Biju Deka and Bhaiti Barua alias Apurba; G2 comprises Pallab Saikia, Pradyut Gohain, Antu Chowdang and Pranjit Saikia; and G3 comprises Drishti Rajkhowa, Dipijjyoti Mahanta and Arpan Saikia. ULFA has also divided the upper Assam region into three zones for its extortion drives. The Districts of Jorhat and Golaghat are in the first zone, Dhemaji and Lakhimpur Districts and Majuli River Island are included in the second zone, and the Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia District are included in the third zone. The '109th battalion' has been tasked to manage the extortion drive in the Boko, Palasbari and Chaygaon areas of Kamrup District and in Goalpara District.

While ULFA, followed by the NDFB, are the dominant forces in Goalpara, the activities of Islamist groups are also causing significant concern. In 2008, the Assam Public Works (APW), an organisation linked to ULFA, which demanded Army operations to target Islamist groups in char and other riverine areas of Assam, claimed that the combined cadre strength of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and HuJI in Goalpara District was 8,000. Significantly, on October 16, 2008, two suspected HuJI militants were shot dead by troops during an encounter at Krishnai in the District. There is also evidence of a Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) presence in the District, with MULTA cadres arrested by troops in at least three search operations at Rakhaldubi, Tarai Bari and Kumri areas in the District in 2010.

Goalpara remains an easy entry point for armed groups operating in Assam and beyond, given its tricky terrain, vulnerable demography and strategic location, and there is little scope for choking off these operational advantages to violent sub-national movements in the District.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 6- 12, 2010



Security Force Personnel







Jammu and Kashmir




Left-wing Extremism








West Bengal


Total (INDIA)








Khyber Pakhtunkhwa







Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


War crimes probe lacks coordination, says Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith: Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith, on September 8, admitted the lack of coordination between prosecutors and investigators in the war crimes trial. Daily Star, September 9, 2010.


Infiltration attempts in Jammu and Kashmir increasing, says Army's Northern Command Chief Lieutenant General B. S. Jaswal: The Army has noticed "a lot of attempts" by terrorists to infiltrate into Indian territory along the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir in 2010. Daily Excelsior, September 8, 2010.

Maoists gaining strength in Kerala, says Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai: Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, on September 6, said that, according to reports reaching the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the activities of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) are gaining strength in Kerala. The Hindu, September 7, 2010.

APHC-M chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq rejects bilateral talks over Jammu and Kashmir: The All Party Hurriyat Conference-Mirwaiz (APHC-M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on September 10, said that bilateralism has failed to resolve the Kashmir issue and the only way to settle the dispute was to implement the United Nations resolutions or hold a dialogue involving India, Pakistan and the leadership of Jammu and Kashmir. Daily Excelsior, September 8, 2010.


PM parleys with envoys of UN permanent member States over UNMIN status: Caretaker Prime Minister (PM) Madhav Kumar Nepal, on September 9, held joint discussions with ambassadors of three United Nations (UN) permanent member states (United States, United Kingdom and France) on the recent briefing of the chief of the United Nations’ Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), Karin Landgren, to the UN Security Council and the recent report of the UN Secretary General on Nepal's peace process. Nepal News, September 10, 2010.

Maoists making preparations for "decisive people's war", says UCPN-M leader Gajurel: The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) is making final preparations for "a decisive people's war", but top party leaders are discussing new approaches to wage it, a senior Maoist leader, C.P. Gajurel said on September 6. Nepal News, September 7, 2010.


34 militants and 22 civilians among 56 persons killed during the week in FATA: A US missile strike killed six persons and injured several others at Newey Adda village in the Datta Khel area near Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on September 11.

Mortar shells fired from Afghanistan killed three persons and injured five others in Saidgi area of North Waziristan on September 10.

At least 12 persons, including three children and two women, were killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb explosion near Palaseen village in Kurram Agency on September 9. In addition, six Uzbek militants were killed and five others injured when a US drone fired missiles into a compound in Machus Camp area of North Waziristan Agency. Further, a US drone strike killed at least four militants in the outskirts of Miranshah.

Fourteen suspected militants and four children were killed when US drones carried out three attacks targeting a compound, a car and a house in Dandy Darpakhel near Miramshah in parts of North Waziristan Agency near the Afghanistan border on September 8. Later in the night, a house in Dandy Darpakhel was attacked with three missiles. Four suspected militants were killed in the incident. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, September 7-13, 2010.

46 civilians and three militants among 50 persons killed during the week in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa: Four activists of the Awami National Party (ANP) were shot dead in Doaba town of Hangu District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the night of September 8.

Three of the 10 labourers abducted by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from Chitral District on August 29, were killed on September 9.

At least 20 persons, mostly women and children, were killed, while more than 94 were injured, in a car bomb attack near the Kohat Police Lines in Kohat District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on September 7.

19 people, including nine Policemen and three students, were killed and 34 were injured, when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the Lakki City Police Station in Lakki Marwat District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 7am (PST) on September 6. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, September 7-13, 2010.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government demands ‘decisive’ operation in Tribal Areas: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government has once again, on September 7, demanded a conclusive military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which it said was strengthening its position in the tribal belt. Daily Times, September 8, 2010.

No operation in Balochistan, says Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani: Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, on September 10, stated that the Federal Government had no intention of launching a Swat-like military operation in Balochistan.

Earlier, on September 7, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that the Government had decided to take stern action against miscreants in Balochistan based on the approach used to restore peace in Karachi. Daily Times, September 8-11, 2010.

Orakzai Agency cleared of militants, says Army: The Army operation against militants in the Orakzai Agency has now come to an end, claimed the operations-in-charge, Brigadier Pervez, on September 7. Dawn, September 8, 2010.


Large hauls of gold were recovered from LTTE areas during my tenure, says former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka: Former Army Commander and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Parliamentarian Sarath Fonseka said that 200 kilograms of gold belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was unearthed from the Vellamullivaikkal area in the Mullaitivu District during his tenure as Army Chief. Fonseka told the Parliament during the debate to extend the emergency regulations that, while larger stocks of gold had been recovered after his tenure as Commander; no one knew what happened to the gold. Colombo Page, September 8, 2010.

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.

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