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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 29, January 15, 2018

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


ASSESSMENT


PAKISTAN
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FATA: Troubled Territory
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

At least two civilians were killed and another injured when a  terrorist attacked a ‘checkpost’ of the peace committee in the Wana area of South Waziristan Agency (SWA) in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) on December 14, 2017. No group has, so far, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On December 6, 2017, one Ali Mohammad, a peace committee member, was killed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)  terrorists in Daggar village of the Chagmalai region in SWA. According to local media, an unnamed spokesman of the outfit claimed the attack and warned that members of the peace committee would continue to be targeted.

On December 2, 2017, a pro-Government tribal elder, Malak Ameer Rehman, was killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in the Olai Shah area of Ambar tehsil (revenue unit) in Mohmand Agency. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. 

On November 30, 2017, five peace committee members were killed and two were injured in a remotely detonated bomb in the Spinkai area, near the Afghanistan border, in SWA. The Sajna faction of TTP claimed responsibility for the attack

The trend of declining civilian fatalities established since 2013 has been reversed in 2017, when selective attacks on peace committee members and civilians increased sharply, with fatalities witnessing an over two-fold jump. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) at least 170 civilian fatalities, including 12 peace committee members, were recorded in 2017, as against 76 such fatalities, including nine peace committee members, in 2016. More worryingly, fatalities in this category (civilian) recorded in 2017 were the highest since 2013, when such fatalities stood at 319. The worst attack targeting civilians in the year took place on June 24, 2017, when at least 67 persons were killed and more than 200 were injured in back-to-back explosions in the Turi Bazaar area of Parachinar in the Kurram Agency of FATA, when the market was crowed for Iftar (the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan) and Eid (celebration that marks the end of Ramadan) shopping. The al-Alami (International) faction of LeJ claimed responsibility for the twin bomb blasts and declared in a statement that it was targeting Shias and threatened more attacks in response to "Pakistanis fighting against Sunni militants in Syria's civil war".

While civilians faced the increased brunt of terror through 2017, the  terrorists also increased their attacks against SFs. Fatalities among SFs increased from 39 in 2016 to 54 in 2017. Here also, as in case of civilians, the trend of declining fatalities, established since 2013, was reversed.

On the contrary, terrorist fatalities continued their steep decline through 2017. The number of terrorist fatalities was 315 in 2016, and declined dramatically to 167 in 2017, the lowest since 2006. Fatalities in this category recorded a remarkable decline in 2016 as well, as there were 1,642 such fatalities in 2015. 

There were 391 total fatalities in 2017, as against 430 in 2016. FATA has, so far, recorded two fatalities, one civilian and SF each, in the current year (data till January 14, 2018). 

Fatalities in FATA: 2006-2018

Years
Civilians
SFs
Terrorists
Total
2006
109
144
337
590
2007
424
243
1014
1681
2008
1116
242
1709
3067
2009
636
350
4252
5238
2010
540
262
4519
5321
2011
488
233
2313
3034
2012
549
306
2046
2901
2013
319
198
1199
1716
2014
159
194
2510
2863
2015
134
106
1642
1882
2016
76
39
315
430
2017
170
54
167
391
2018
1
1
0
2
Total*
4721
2372
22023
29116
Source: SATP, *Data till January 14, 2018

The Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) in its annual report released on January 1, 2018, also recorded a rise in civilian and SF fatalities in 2017. The report shows that FATA recorded 206 civilian and 70 SF fatalities in 2017 as against 81 civilian and 60 SF fatalities in 2016. The number of terrorist fatalities, according to the report, was 152 in 2017, as against 51 in 2016. The number of terrorist attacks also registered an increase: from 119 in 2016 to 160 in 2017.

Meanwhile, the SATP database indicated that the number of major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) increased from 32 in 2016 to 34 in 2017. Though the number of suicide attacks in both these years (2017 and 2016) remained at three each, the resultant fatalities increased from 55 in 2016 to 99 in 2017.

Sectarian attacks also increased in FATA through 2017. As against one such incident recorded in 2016, in which 37 people died, year 2017 accounted for 117 fatalities in three incidents.

Pakistani authorities, nevertheless, claimed overwhelming successes in FATA. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor declared on August 21, 2017, that Operation Khyber-4, which was launched on July 15, 2017, in Rajgal and Shawal areas of Khyber Agency, has been successfully completed. He claimed that the ground targets had been achieved in Rajgal and Shawal areas and 253 kilometres of land had been cleared of terrorists during the operation, in which 52 terrorists were killed and one was arrested, while four terrorists blew themselves up. The Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa claimed, on October 11, 2017, that Pakistan had improved the security situation on the internal front and defeated the challenges to the writ of the State, though a ‘residual threat’ remained. Further, on January 13, 2018, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi declared that Pakistan had achieved remarkable success against terrorism: “The tide has been turned against terrorists and their capacity to conduct activities has been immensely curtailed.”

Not surprisingly, the international community, primarily the United States (US), continues to consider FATA as safe haven for terrorist formations. In a stern warning to Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo on December 4, 2017, stated that if Pakistan did not eliminate the alleged safe havens inside its territory, the United States will do “everything we can” to destroy them. More recently, on January 10, 2018, the US Government issued a new travel advisory to it citizens cautioning them against travel to FATA, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The US State Department statement read:
Reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism. Some areas have increased risk. Do not travel to Balochistan province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, (FATA) and the Azad Kashmir area due to terrorism and armed conflict.

Significantly, US drone attacks surged in 2017, in the terrorist badlands of FATA, where al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur faction of TTP find shelter. There were two drone attacks in FATA, with just seven fatalities, in 2016; in 2017 this number jumped to eight, resulting in 43 fatalities, including some of the senior ‘commanders’ of the Haqqani Network, TTP and Islamic State (IS). Some of the prominent  terrorist ‘commanders’ eliminated in these attacks in 2017 were:

December 26: A US drone strike killed two Haqqani network terrorists, including senior 'commander' Maulvi Jamiuddin, travelling in a vehicle in the Mata Sangar area, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan's border, in Kurram Agency.

October 16: At least 20 Haqqani Network terrorists, including senior 'commander' Sangeen Wali Shah, were killed in a US drone strike on a compound near the border with Afghanistan in the Maqbal area of Kurram Agency.

July 3: Four IS  terrorists, including ‘commander’ Pir Agha, were killed when a US drone fired two missiles at the vehicle they were travelling in, in the Marghalan village of SWA.

May 24: A US drone attack killed three terrorists, including a TTP ‘commander’ Abdullah Kashmiri, at an unspecified location close to the Afghanistan border in North Waziristan Agency (NWA).

April 27: A suspected US drone strike on a house in the Lawara Mandi area of NWA killed at least seven TTP terrorists, including senior ‘commander’ Abdur Rahman.

March 2: A US drone strike killed senior Afghan Taliban ‘commander’ Qari Abdullah Sabari and his associate Shakir’ when they were travelling on a motorcycle in the Sra Ghundai area, along the Pak-Afghan border, in Kurram Agency. 

In spite of these confirmed kills on Pakistani soil, Pakistani authorities continue to claim that there were no terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. Indeed, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif argued that the decrease in US drone attacks over the preceding years proved that there were no more safe havens in Pakistan. The Foreign Minister shared a chart of drone attacks carried out over 12 years from 2005 till Oct 15, 2017, in the Pakistani territory. He tweeted: "12yrs drone attacks chart. If we have sanctuaries why frequency is sharply down? US won’t hesitate attacking funeral, weddings to get targets".

Though total terrorism related fatalities in FATA declined in FATA in 2017, escalating fatalities in the civilian and SF categories are grounds for alarm, and the enormous burden of destruction faced by tribal people over years has made their lives miserable. Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) figure revealed on May 28, 2017, show that at least 5,740 people, including Paramilitary Forces’ officials, have lost their lives in FATA in terrorist attacks during the last six years. Moreover, an estimated 80,000 houses were damaged, of which the Government validated only 22,471 for compensation.

Despite Pakistan’s claim of eliminating terrorist sanctuaries and their bases in FATA, the persisting problem of terrorism has kept insecurities alive. Pakistan’s double standard in dealing with terrorism has provided opportunities to terrorist groups to continue their operation within as well from Pakistani territory. As long as Pakistan continues with its State policy of using terrorist groups as "strategic assets", terrorism will continue to thrive in FATA in particular, and Pakistan at large.

INDIA
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Manipur: Partial Surge
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

United National Liberation Front (UNLF) militants on January 4, 2018, shot dead a civilian, identified as Loukrakpam Sananingthem Singh, at Lamsang Khunou in Imphal West District. The victim was earlier arrested in connection with a sexual assault case in 2015.

This is the lone insurgency-related fatality recorded in the State in the current year, 2018, so far (data till January 14, 2018). There were six such fatalities (four civilians, one trooper, and one militant) in the corresponding period of 2017.

Indeed, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there was a 66 per cent spike in total fatalities in 2017, as compared to 2016. The State registered at least 55 fatalities, including 23 civilians, nine Security Force (SF) personnel, and 23 militants in 2017; as against 33 fatalities, including 14 civilians, 11 SF personnel, and eight militants, in 2016. Notably, fatalities recorded in 2016 (33) were the lowest recorded in the State in a year since 1992. The previous low was 54, recorded in 2014. It is useful to note, however, that the trend of fatalities in the State, on year on year basis, has tended to be cyclic in nature.

Worryingly, the number of civilian fatalities, which had recorded a continuous decline since 2008, increased in 2017. Fatalities in this category (23) were the highest recorded since 2012 when there were 25 civilian fatalities.  

Other parameters of violence were also indicative of a surge in hostilities. There were a total of 41 incidents of insurgency-linked killings in 2017, as compared to 22 such incidents in 2016. Also, six lives were lost and 62 persons were injured in 35 incidents of explosion in 2017; as compared to two killed and 28 injured in 51 such incidents in 2016.

Further, killing incidents were reported from 10 of the State’s 16 Districts in 2017. Kamjong District recorded the highest number of fatalities, nine in five incidents; followed by Tegnoupal, seven in five incidents; Kangpokpi, six in five incidents; Churachandpur, five in three incidents, Chandel, five in three incidents; Imphal West five in five incidents; Ukhrul, five in five incidents; Noney, four in four incidents; Jiribam District, four in four incidents; and Bishnupur, one in one incident. The place of the incident is not exactly known in case of the remaining four fatalities. In 2016, killing incidents were reported from eight of the State’s 16 Districts (including the seven new Districts).

The Naga and Kuki dominated seven Hill Districts accounted for 74.5 per cent of total fatalities (41 out of the total 55 fatalities) in 2017. There were no fatalities in the remaining three Hill Districts (Senapati, Pherzawl and Tamenglong). Manipur currently has a total of 10 Hill Districts: Chandel, Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul, Pherzawl, Noney, Tegnoupal, Kangpokpi, Kamjong and Churachandpur. In 2016, fatalities were reported from five Hill Districts: Chandel, Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Churachandpur  accounting for 69.7 per cent of total fatalities (23 out of 33). In 2016, there were only five Hill Districts in the State. Each of these Districts was bifurcated on December 9, 2016. After bifurcation, between December 9 and December 31, 2016, there was one incident of killing in which three SF personnel were killed in Chandel District on December 15, 2016.

Similarly, three Valley Districts (Imphal West, Jiribam and Bishnupur) registered the remaining 24.4 per cent of fatalities (10 of 55) in 2017. In 2016, three valley Districts (Imphal West, Imphal East and Thoubal) registered 30.3 per cent of total fatalities (10 of 33). Significantly, five of the current 10 Hill Districts are along the porous and volatile Indo-Myanmar border, increasing their vulnerability.

Incidents of fratricidal killings also increased. In 2017, with 19 fatalities recorded in 10 such incidents, as against four fatalities in four incidents in 2016. On September 12, 2017, suspected militants of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) attacked a combined team of the banned People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) at Makan village in Kamjong District near Border Pillar No. 8, along the Indo-Myanmar border, and killed five militants: PLA ‘sergeant major’ Richard aka Wareppam Dinesh, PLA ‘sergeant’ Lalloi aka Khundrakpam Sunil, PLA ‘private’ Nanao aka Moirangthem Tomba, PLA ‘private’ Sinthouba aka Konjengbam Shyamsundar, and MNPF cadre Raikham Jajo aka Nimai Jazo. The NSCN-IM militants took away the weapons of their slain rivals.

The issue of the politico-administrative status of the Hill Districts remained unresolved though 2017. The ‘indefinite economic blockade’ on the two National Highways (Imphal-Dimapur NH-2 and Imphal-Jiribam NH-37) by the United Naga Council (UNC) [the apex body of Nagas in Manipur], over the proposed creation of new Districts, which began on November 1, 2016, continued for the first two months and 19 days of 2017. In the interim, on December 9, 2016, the then State Government led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, created seven new districts. Five of these Districts were formed by bifurcating the five then-existing Hill Districts (Chandel, Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Churachandpur). The newly created Districts were Pherzawl, Noney, Tegnoupal, Kangpokpi and Kamjong. Another two new Districts – Jiribam and Kakching – were formed by bifurcating two Valley districts: Imphal East and Thoubal. The blockade ended subsequent to a meeting between UNC, the State Government, and Union Government, on March 19, 2017, in which all sides reached an agreement. Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, who signed the agreement on behalf of Union Government, stated,
Tripartite talks succeeded in addressing the issues and the UNC has agreed to lift the economic blockade. The government of Manipur took note of the grievances of the UNC, including that of them not being consulted while creating the new districts. The UNC has to now frame what exactly their point of view is. Initially they had asked for non-bifurcation of Senapati and Jiribam districts. They will have to clear their stand about the entire seven Districts. Manipur Government will consider whatever changes they want.

There were six rounds of tripartite talks in 2017. The next round of tripartite talks is scheduled to be held on February 23, 2018

In the valley Districts demands for implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) persist, supported by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS). Safeguarding the State’s ‘territorial integrity’ remains an emotive issue in the Valley Districts, especially after the signing of the August 3, 2015, Framework Agreement with NSCN-IM. In an interview to a news channel on December 28, 2017, United Committee Manipur (UCM) ‘president’ Johnson Elangbam warned, "If the framework agreement is only for Nagaland, give them whatever they want – sovereignty, flag, passport, whatever…. But if it is going to be linked to Assam and Manipur, our voices must be heard. Or else, there could be a repeat of 2001 [violence] and the consequences will be on the Centre [Union Government]".

Amidst these adverse developments, there were also some positives. On December 19, 2017, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir stated, "While the states of Sikkim, Mizoram and Tripura had no insurgency-related violence, the number of these incidents had come down in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya in 2017 (till 30 November), as compared to the corresponding period of 2016."

Moreover, the trend of continuous increase in the number of people abducted for ransom and in extortion between 2013 and 2015 (40 persons in 2013, 50 persons in 2014, 51 persons in 2015) which was reversed in 2016 (44 abducted) continued downward through 2017. A total of 23 persons were reported to have been abducted in 2017 (actual incidence each year is likely to be much higher as a large proportion of cases go unreported).

Further, fatalities in the SF category continued to decline through 2017 and stood at nine, the second ever lowest fatalities recorded in this category since 1992; the lowest was 6, recorded in 2013, while the highest of 111 was recorded in 1997. In the recent past, SF fatalities were 24 in 2015, the highest since 2007, when there were 40 such fatalities.

177 militants were arrested in 2017, adding to 175 arrested through 2016. Mounting pressure also led to the surrender of 71 militants in 2017 as compared to just nine in 2016. In a major incident of surrender, on August 14, 2017, at least 68 militants of six different militant groups laid down arms before the SFs in Imphal West District, in presence of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. The militants who laid down arms included 23 of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), 17 of the United National liberation Front (UNLF), 10 of the People’s Revolutionary Army of Kangleipak (PREPAK), seven each of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Progressive faction of PREPAK (PREPAK-Pro), and four of Kanglei Yowel Kanna Lup (KYKL).

SF successes over the years have brought relative peace to Manipur, and a progressive emphasis on development is now an urgent imperative. The Union Government has rightly recognized the Northeastern States as the pivot of its Act East Policy. Thus, the Union Government’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on July 12, 2017, approved an INR 16.3 billion road project for upgradation and widening of the 65 kilometer road stretch between Imphal and Moreh, to be linked further to Myanmar and Thailand.

The challenge of security, nevertheless, remains within the State and, more prominently, in the areas which fall along the volatile and insecure Indo-Myanmar, particularly as the situation in Myanmar remains worrying. Persistent security threats can undo the planned development efforts envisioned by the State.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 8-14, 2018

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
0
3
3

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

0
0
2
2

Meghalaya

0
0
1
1

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Chhattisgarh

0
1
1
2

Jharkhand

1
0
2
3

Maharashtra

0
0
1
1

INDIA (Total)

1
1
7
9

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

4
5
1
10

FATA

0
1
0
1

KP

1
0
0
1

Sindh

1
1
4
6

PAKISTAN (Total)

6
7
5
18
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.

INDIA

Indian Army killed 138 Pakistan soldiers in 2017 along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, say intelligence sources: The Indian Army killed 138 Pakistan Army personnel in 2017 in tactical operations and retaliatory cross-border firings along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, Government intelligence sources said on January 10. The Indian Army lost 28 soldiers during the same period along the LoC, the sources said. The sources said the Pakistan Army usually does not acknowledge the deaths of its personnel and shows them as civilian casualties in certain cases. Times of India, January 11, 2018.

51 persons killed and 9,000 injured in unrest after Burhan Wani's killing, says Jammu and Kashmir Government: Jammu and Kashmir Government on January 12 said 51 persons were killed and over 9,000 injured, including over 6,000 due to pellets, during the eight months- long unrest in Kashmir after the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) militant Burhan Wani in July 2016. In a written reply to the question of a National Conference MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) Mubarakh Gul in the State Assembly, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on January 12 said 51 people were killed in Kashmir division from July 8, 2016 to February 27, 2017 in the unrest. Daily Excelsior, January 13, 2018.

ISI brass holds meet with top terror outfits in Pakistan, says report: Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) held a meeting with terror outfits this month to plan how to counter Indian Security Forces (SFs) that have inflicted massive damage to them in Jammu and Kashmir. At a meeting held in Rawalpindi (Pakistan), the spy agency had lengthy deliberations with Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Maulana Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and senior Pakistan Army officials to find out the reasons of losses in the Valley and Line of Control (LoC). LeT and other terror groups expressed concern over massive losses during counter-terror operations in Kashmir, leading to a decline in local recruits to carry out attacks. DNA, January 12, 2018.

Pro-Khalistani groups are using social media to radicalise new brand of Sikh militancy in Punjab, says report: According to unidentified sources in Punjab Police, the foreign-based pro-Khalistani groups are luring the young, educated, suave men and women from families with no prior links with Khalistan movement and radicalising the ‘new brand’ of Sikh militancy in Punjab. This is a new medium of spreading terrorist propaganda. The young men and women are getting radicalised via cyberspace. Hindustan Times, January 12, 2018.

Anti-militancy operations to shift from South to North Kashmir, says Army Chief General Bipin Rawat: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on January 12 that this year (2018) Army will shift its focus to North Kashmir from South Kashmir in 2017 to prevent the infiltration attempts and declared that troops would destroy all Pakistani posts from where terrorists are launched into the Indian soil. He said seeds of thought of some kind of ‘separate identity’ are being sown in Government schools among the children, which have separate map of the State besides that of India and called for major revamp of education system in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with the problem. Daily Excelsior, January 13, 2018.


PAKISTAN

US State Department updates threat assessment