Fortnightly Review & Analysis: Defence, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 2 Issue X)

May 16-31, 2017


Indian Navy successfully Test fires Medium Range Surface to Air Missile

The Indian navy successfully conducted the test firing of the medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) from INS Kochi, a Kolkata-class guided missile destroyer of Indian Navy. Simultaneously, the Western Naval Command accurately tracked and intercepted a ‘low-flying high speed target’ at enhanced range. Both the tests were conducted via ship-born Combat Management Suite (CMS). The successful test fire of these missiles marks a significant milestone for Indian Navy’s integration of the missile in association with Fire Control System (FCS) with the ship-borne CMS, but also demonstrates the vital area defense capabilities of Indian Naval vessels. This system of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) which features a command and control system, tracking radar, missiles and mobile launcher system was developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with foreign collaboration.
International Terrorism

Situation in Iraq

Without further significant advancement in the ongoing operation against Daesh, fighting between Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the outfit’s militias intensified during the second half of May. It is, however, still uncertain as to when the city of Mosul will be fully liberated from the control of Daesh, although the outfit’s inability to hold the remaining territories in and around this city is clearly exposed. Iraqi forces, during late May, talked of liberating Mosul completely either by 10th June or before the end of the holy month of Ramadan. There is however some skepticisms to such claims as several previous deadlines have been missed. As of now, approximately 90 percent of Mosul has been recaptured. Out of many establishments, the university and the airport are already under the control of security forces. In a report released on 16 May, it was mentioned that more than 300 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, 200 tunnels and over 1000 fighting positions of Daesh have been destroyed. This gives an idea of the extent of destructions caused to the outfit.

Towards the end of May, Daesh started to block several areas around Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque and even ordered some of the residents to leave their houses. Approximately, more than 100,000 people remain trapped in Daesh-held areas in Mosul. However, security scenario in Baghdad and its nearby areas remain grave due to rising incidents of attacks by Daesh. On 22 May, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on a military convoy in Diyala, north of Baghdad, killing four soldiers and injuring another four. A day earlier, 35 people were killed when a vehicle-borne suicide bombers stormed check posts in Baghdad and Basra. Unleashing further onslaughts, two bombings (by explosives-laden vehicles) on 30 May resulted in deaths of 27 people, including many children. Due to continuous loss of territories and cadres and the resultant frustrations, further attacks of this nature are expected in the days ahead. Successful execution of such terror plots in Iraq is also a moral boost for Daesh fighters to sustain its credibility and commitment to the idea of a caliphate.

Manchester Attack

Terror continued to haunt the United Kingdom (UK) even after security establishment had tightened their operations following the Westminster-bridge attack. The vulnerability of the country to terror attacks, due to the presence of terror cells and networks of radicalized individuals, was however once again exposed on 22 May in the city of Manchester during a musical performance by the American pop star, Ariana Grand, when a 22-year-old Salman Abedi of Libyan origin carried out a fidayeen attack in which 22 people were killed and more than 100 concertgoers were injured. While Abedi’s direct connection with Daesh is yet to be established, the outfit praised “one of the soldiers” for this act of terror against the “crusaders”. He appeared to be an ardent follower of Daesh’s social media propaganda. Rumiyah, the English-language magazine, which has been publishing articles in their recent editions, including information about who to kill and how to kill.

Abedi’s modus operandi of attack and the target audience fit well with these proclamations by the outfit. While initial investigations hinted at a larger coordinated network in carrying out this massacre, officials in the UK have not ruled out Abedi being a ‘lone wolf’. The country is now facing threats from ‘home-groomed’ jihadists and returning foreign fighters with battlefield experiences while serving in Syria and Iraq. What remains worrisome is also that Abedi’s locality of residence—Southern Manchester—is considered to be a “recruiting ground for jihadist” with “Libyan connection”. Apparently, many anti-Gaddafi Islamists who fled to the UK during the 1990s, are residing in this city and were known for promoting the idea of establishing an Islamic government in Libya by overthrowing Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime. This has raised debate on the possible nexus between the UK-based Libyans and those in the native country, and their potential to create chaos in the UK. As it is, until recently, this northern African country was a hotbed for Daesh. As Raqqa and Mosul are getting cornered by regional and international security coalition, the possibility of Libya becoming a hub for radicalization and recruitment in Daesh should not be overlooked.

Deteriorating Security Situation in Afghanistan

Security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating at an alarming pace. During the last fortnight of May, the country witnessed a couple of ghastly terror attacks resulting in loss of several lives, both civilian and security personnel. This began with an attack claimed by Daesh against National Radio Television station located in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, on 17 May. This is apparently the region which has significant presence of Daesh, both fighters and sympathizers. Several gunmen, including a suicide bomber, stormed the station, engaged in a gun battle and ultimately killed seven people and injured at least 18. It may be noted that several of its key leaders have already been eliminated in US airstrikes and by the Afghan security forces. Moreover, its presence is constantly being challenged by Afghan Taliban which enjoys significant support from the locals. However, the outfit demonstrated its capabilities to carry out similar strikes as it still has motivated fighters. It carried out another major terror attack in Kabul on 31 May, near the presidential palace and foreign embassies, killing nearly 90 people and causing injuries to over 100. The victims were mostly civilians.

This was a grim reminder of how the capital city, which is heavily protected and home to international forces, has emerged as a battle field for both Taliban and Daesh. The carnage was described as “a crime against humanity” by the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani. While a spokesperson for Taliban denied his group’s involvement in the attack, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, put the blame on Haqqani network. Since the past few years, the Haqqanis succeeded to carry out major attacks in the capital.

The Kabul attack coincided with the discussions in the US over sending more troops to Afghanistan. Currently, there are about 13,000 international forces in the country out of which 8,400 are Americans, who are mostly assigned as trainers and advisors to the Afghan forces. With insurgency and militancy in the country on the rise, more violent attacks are expected to occur. As it is, a report by a United Nations (UN) mentioned that 3,498 civilians were killed and 7,290 injured in 2016. It will, thus, remain a major challenge for the Ghani-government to ensure safety and security to the people.
Terrorism – Domestic

Jammu and Kashmir

Hizbul Mujahideen Militant Sabzar Ahmad Killed

Hizbul Mujahideen militants Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and Faizan Bhat were killed in an encounter with the security forces in Tral, on May 24, 2017. Sabzar Bhat was also known as propagandist terrorists because of his active presence on social media and his viral images in combat gear and a Kalashnikov on his shoulder were often released on social networking sites. Based on accurate intelligence provided by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Indian Army executed this operation and killed these two terrorists. A large number of weapons including AK-47 and INSAS assault rifles along with huge cache of ammunition were recovered after the operation. Army’s press officials confirm that Sabzar Bhat remained in hideout for nearly 10 hours without firing a single bullet and frantically sent text messages from his handset to gather crowd of stone pelters at the encounter site. The army faced resistance in execution of the operation as a large crowd gathered and pelted stone at the troops. Bhat’s death led to the shutdown across South Kashmir and youth disrupted the streets by throwing stones at security personnel. Overall, the army confirmed that nearly 30 people were injured in violent clashes between protestors and Security Forces (SFs) in various parts of South and North Kashmir. The state government ordered closure of schools and colleges in Srinagar with immediate shut down of mobile and internet services. Some protests were also reported from North Kashmir including Sopore and Kupwara.

Army Foils Fresh Bid of Infiltration and Killed 6 Terrorists

Indian Army foiled a fresh bid of infiltration at Saimu, Rampur sector of Baramullah district of Jammu and Kashmir on May 27, 2017. There has been a rise in the infiltration attempts in this region in recent past. Army confirmed that this has been due to the snow covered passes opening up. The Army has foiled many such attempts in recent past by resorting to punitive fire along the Line of Control (LoC). On May 28, 2017 the Army shot dead an intruder along the LoC in Krishngati Sector of Poonch District in a midnight ambush. Though the intruder was believed to be Pakistani, his identity could not be established but some Pakistani currency and Pakistan made toffees were recovered from his possession.

NIA began Probe on Pakistan’s Funding to Kashmir Separatist
National Investigation Agency (NIA), on May 20, 2017, launched enquiry against separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Naeem Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar (Chairman of so called J&K Liberation Front) for allegedly receiving funds from Pakistani agencies for carrying out subversive activities. Naming all of them in its preliminary enquiry, NIA has stated that funds were allegedly received by Hurriyat leaders for carrying stone pelting, burning schools and other government buildings, attacking security forces and damaging public property. After registering a preliminary enquiry, NIA teams has begun detail investigation including carrying out series of raids and questioning Geelani’s henchmen and other Hurriyat leaders regarding their involvement in raising, collecting and transferring funds through Hawala and other channels for terror funding in Kashmir. The NIA has collected details of 13 accused who have been charge sheeted so far in these cases in the Valley in the recent past, pertaining to the damage caused to schools and public property as part of the larger conspiracy to perpetuate violence and chaos in Kashmir.

This development unfolded after the Hurriyat Conference suspended Nayeem Khan from the organisation after he allegedly confessed, during a TV channel sting operation, to receiving money from Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for Kashmir unrest. In its annual report for 2016-17, Ministry of Home Affairs, had mentioned that 2016 has seen a change in Pak tactics of super-imposition of militancy over "civil resistance" through radicalisation of locals through vested interest groups and social media. This step is initiated in the backdrop of security concern that emerged after most of the terrorists in the valley are from local villages who have joined Hizbul Mujahideen in past 10 months.


Police Busts Khalistani Terror Module

The Punjab Police, on May 29, 2017, claimed to have busted a terror module of Babbar Khalsa outfit in Mohali, Punjab. Four people namely Harbarinder Singh, Jarnail Singh, Randeep Singh and a woman named Amritpal Kaur, were arrested in the operation. Two Pistols, four magazines, 5 live rounds were also recovered from them. The Punjab Police in a press statement confirmed that the arrested four were part of a highly radicalised group called ‘Khalistan Zindabad’, a social networking sites and known for spreading radicalised messages. The press brief also confirmed that the group was receiving logistic and technical support from certain individuals based in Pakistan, some West Asian countries, UK and Canada. The banned militant group Babbar Khalsa was formed in 1978. The group saw decline after many of its men were either arrested or killed in various encounters in late 1980s and 90s. The group is accused for bombing Air India flight AI 182 from Vancouver to Delhi on June 23, 1985.

Left Wing Extremism

Chhattisgarh Police Kill Four Maoists

The Chhattisgarh Police killed four cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoists) in an encounter at Dantewada on May 24, 2017. The operation was conducted jointly by the team of the Special Task Force of Chhattisgarh Police and District Reserve Guard along with Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Police recovered one 12 bore gun and other Maoists literature. Separately on May 25, Naxals released six tribal villagers who were kidnapped by the Naxals on May 21, 2017.