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

Sep 16-30, 2017

Defence

A Glorious Era comes to an End

Mortal remains of the Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh (MIAF) - a legendary icon of IAF were cremated with full state honours at Brar Square Crematorium in Delhi Cantt on 18 September 17. The Marshal breathed his last at the Army Hospital (R&R), New Delhi on 16th September 2017 following a cardiac arrest. He was 98.

Visit of Chief of the Air Staff to Australia

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff visited Australia from 19-22 Sep 17. The visit is intended to further strengthen the existing defence cooperation between the Air Forces of the two countries. During his stay, he held talks with top brass of the Royal Australian Air Force on security challenges being faced by the two forces in the current geopolitical scenario and explore ways to deepen defence cooperation. The main focus of the visit was on improving bilateral relations, promoting defence ties and exploring further area of defence cooperation between the two Air Forces.

Exercise Yudh Abhyas – 2017

Joint Indo-US exercise, Exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas 2017’ concluded on 27 September 2017 at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), Washington, USA. Exercise Yudh Abhyas is an annual bilateral exercise designed to strengthen the US and Indian Army partnership. The two Armies have gained from each other’s expertise and experience in conduct of platoon and company level operations. In addition, the Indian contingent got a first-hand experience of operating with the ‘Stryker’ Infantry Combat Vehicle and the US Army gained an insight on the training of an infantry unit in a mountainous terrain. A closing ceremony, to commemorate the proceedings of two weeks, showcased the flourishing partnership between the two nations.

DGMO Level talks between India and Pakistan

DGMO level talks on behest of Pak DGMO was held on 22 Sep 17. During the talks the Pak DGMO raised the issues of targeting of Pak Civilians opposite the Jammu Sector by own troops. Indian DGMO in response highlighted that all Cease Fire Violations in the Jammu Sector were initiated by Pak Rangers and the BSF troops deployed only responded appropriately to them. It was also emphasised that no targeted firing on civilians was carried out by own troops. Apart from these, firing by BSF troops were initiated onto armed intruders attempting to infiltrate from close proximity of Pak posts along Amritsar Border. DGMO also put across emphatically that the trend of infiltration along the LC continued with active support of Pak forward posts impacting peace and tranquility along the LC and also the internal security situation. This was evident from continued attempts of sniping and targeting of our troops undertaken through cross-border actions duly supported by Pak Army troops. DGMO reiterated that the Indian Army is a professional Army and reserves the right to retaliate appropriately to any incident leading to loss of life of our troop. He reaffirmed the sincerity in the efforts of Indian Army to maintain peace and tranquility along the LC provided there was a reciprocal effort from Pakistan.

Defence Minister Visits J&K, Reviews Security Situation in the Valley

Defence Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman visited the Chinar Corps in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on 29 September 17 to review the overall security situation prevailing in the Valley. She appreciated the effectiveness of the intelligence and operational grids and commended the troops for the excellent operational successes, which had contributed significantly towards a secure environment in the State. The Minister complimented the commanders for the high level of synergy achieved with the J&K Police and Central Armed Police Force. Later in the evening, she called on the Governor Shri NN Vohra and also interacted with the Chief Minister Ms. Mehbooba Mufti. She also visited the forward locations of Leh, Ladakh and Siachen on 30 Sep 17 and reviewed the security situation in the area. The Defence Minister interacted with the soldiers in the remote areas of Siachen Glacier and conveyed her best wishes on the auspicious occasion of Dussehra. She also inaugurated a bridge on river Shyok on the road between Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) which was constructed by the BRO.

A & N Islands: Evacuation of Tourists from Havelock

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been experiencing heavy rains and resultant rough/very rough seas since 13 Sep 17. On 17 Sep, Andaman and Nicobar Command was approached for ferrying the stranded tourists from Havelock Island. Two ships of the Naval Component, INS Bangaram and INS Battimalv were sailed for the mission despite torrential rains and very rough weather. A total of 78 stranded personnel were ferried back to Port Blair on the two ships. In the traditional role of support to civil authorities, the tourists were given accommodation inside the ship as the sea state was very bad and were also served with refreshments. The prompt action by the ANC and the help extended by the ships was highly appreciated by the stranded tourists.

Visit of Admiral Tin Aung San, Commander in Chief, Myanmar Navy to India

Admiral Tin Aung San, Commander-in-Chief, Myanmar Navy, visited India from 18 to 21 September 2017. The visit was intended to consolidate and enhance bilateral defence relations between India and Myanmar. The Admiral visited various naval establishments at Mumbai and Kochi as part of his itinerary prior to arriving at New Delhi where he called on the Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Air Staff. The Admiral held discussions with various dignitaries from the Ministry of Defence also. The visit of the Admiral also closely follows the recent visit of the Commander in Chief, Myanmar Defence Forces in August 2017 and is reflective of the growing level of cooperation between both Navies.

Indian Naval units on Long Range Deployment

Two Indian Naval Ships, a submarine and two Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft of the Western Naval Command are presently on deployment to the Western Arabian Sea and southern Indian Ocean. The Naval units are on a month long deployment with the aim of enhancing surveillance and cooperation with the Arabian Sea rim nations. Another ship, INS Kochi which is also a part of this deployment, is proceeding to the Southern Indian Ocean with a similar aim. The Western Naval Command, which exercises operational control of the naval units in this theatre, has been actively involved in enhancing three-dimensional surveillance efforts by Indian Naval units for strengthening regional Maritime security cooperation with littoral states.

Internal Security

Jammu and Kashmir

Hizbul Commander Killed in Encounter

In a joint operation between the security forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police, one of the most wanted Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Abdul Qayoom Najar, was killed on September 26, 2017 at Zorawar Post in Uri when he was trying to sneak into the valley from across the LoC. Najar (43 yrs) was a dreaded terrorist carrying a bounty of ₹ 10, 00,000/- on his head. According to the statement issued by the Jammu and Kashmir Police Najar was the oldest surviving militant commanders of HM in North Kashmir’s Uri Sector. He had joined militancy at the age of 16. It is believed that Najar was sent to Kashmir by the United Jihad Council Chief, Salahuddin to take control of HM in the wake of the elimination of its top commanders operating in the valley and revive HM network.

J&K Terror Funding Case – NIA Records Confessional statement in Special Court

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), on September 19, 2017, secured recorded confessional statements from two accused persons in the terror financing case. The confessional statements made before a judicial magistrate at Srinagar under the Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), gave detailed account of transfer of funds from Pakistan to various separatists’ leaders in Kashmir. NIA has not revealed the names of the accused due to security reasons. It may be mentioned that NIA has arrested 10 people so far in connection with terror funding activities case registered on May 30, 2017, against the separatist and secessionist leaders, including unknown members of the Hurriyat Conference, who have been acting in connivance with active militants of proscribed terrorist organisations Hizbul Mujahideen, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other outfits.

ISIS India Module

NIA arrests one in ISIS Chennai Module Case

The NIA has arrested wanted Daesh/ISIS-affiliated terrorist Shakul Hameed on September 18, 2017. He was wanted in the case registered with NIA Delhi in January 2017. Hameed is accused along with his associates with involvement in activities of the proscribed terrorist organisation ISIS/Daesh. Preliminary investigation had revealed that Hameed was involved in hatching ISIS/Daesh inspired conspiracy from 2013 onwards. He is also charged with offences to conduct various terrorist activities in India, raising and receiving funds for it, recruitment, and facilitation of travel of some people from India to Syria and Iraq to fight with Daesh militants. The investigation further revealed that Hameed had attempted to migrate to Daesh controlled territory in Syria during August 2015, through Turkey, where he was intercepted by Turkish authorities and deported back to India.

Left Wing Extremism

CPI-Maoists cadre Blow up TATA Solar plant in Bihar

The CPI-Maoists cadre blew up a Tata Solar Power Plat in Gaya (Bihar) on September 19, 2017. In this attack, the control room, worker’s accommodation units were severely damaged. Preliminary investigation by Bihar Police suggests that Maoists were irked over nonpayment of the levy of ₹ 1, Crore from Tata Company demanded by the Maoists.

International Terrorism

Anti-Daesh Operation in Raqqa and Hawija

The Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) fight against Daesh has reached the penultimate stage with assertive military campaign to liberate Raqqa in less than a month’s time. At tactical level as the SDF tightened its grip over Daesh militants in an around Raqqa and the response from Daesh militants is getting more fierce. The campaign for the liberation of Raqqa had begun in June and achieved significant success after a breach of the wall of the Old City of Raqqa. But since then, the slowed down as the SDF and Russia backed forces faced mounting resistance from militants. The SDF campaign for oil rich Deir el-Zour province is competing with the Syrian government forces and allied troops backed by Russia who are also vying for control over this region. The Russia backed alliance has gained control over most of the city and has crossed over the Euphrates River into the area dominated by the SDF. The US and its coalition partners have also intensified their air strikes on the remaining enclaves of the city of Raqqa. The refugee camps in the area have also turned into a security challenge for the SDF as Daesh militants have been sneaking in along with civilians fleeing out of Raqqa. The absence of UN authorities in these camps has added complexities for the SDF which is making its own effort to tackle the situation.

At Hawija, in a statement issued by the Defence Ministry of Iraq on September 27, 2017, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) claimed that in the first offensive they killed over 500 Daesh militants. In this first phase of offensive in the southwest of Kirkuk, 100 villages and regions were liberated from the control of Daesh. The statement further mentioned that the ISF has accomplished the first phase and achieved all targets inflicting huge losses on Daesh militants. It stated that the ISF troops killed 557 militants, destroyed 46 booby-trapped vehicles and 24 others. 381 IED bombs were defused in the first phase. ISF’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service liberated five villages, while Federal Police and al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) freed 63 villages. The army’s ninth armoured division and PMFs managed to retake 35 villages, making the total number of regions and villages liberated reach 103. The ISF launched its offensive on September 21 to dislodge Daesh militants from Hawija and according to the Joint Operations Command of Iraq, nearly 800-1500 Daesh militants are still located in Hawija.

Kurdish Plebiscite

Kirkuk which is situated outside the official boundaries of Kurdistan region, is home to the world’s largest ethnic group called Kurd Peshmerga. These tribes were denied statehood when the West Asian order was reshuffled after World War I. Kurdistan is part of Iraq but since long it had enjoyed broad autonomy with its own government and parliament, language and customs and its own armed forces called Peshmerga. Kirkuk is now claimed by both the Kurds and the central government of Iraq, thus emerging as a new flashpoint between autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government and Arab and Turkmen communities who oppose its breaking away from Iraq. US, Turkey and Iran have joined in supporting Iraq by opposing the plebiscite. The Government of Iraq declared the plebiscite as unconstitutional and appealed to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government to withdraw the exercise which, it considers as an uprising against Bagdhad’s rule. Despite the opposition, plebiscite took place on September 25, 2017. Kurdish Regional Government confirmed that 78.9 percent voters took part. Curfew was resumed after the poll closed and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered deployment of ISF into Kirkuk.

Bagdadi Video Surfaced

Daesh has released, what appears to be the first recording of its self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on September 28, 2017. This seems to have been done to silence the rumours of his death. In the video, Baghdadi praised his foot soldiers for waging tenacious battle in Mosul and threatened the West and appealed Daesh admirers and faithful Muslims to continuously attack the west. The reference to recent underground attacks in London and other terror strikes suggests that the video was recorded in recent past and thus counters Russian claim of his death. Russian military had declared in June 2017 that it might have killed Baghdadi in its airstrikes near Raqqa.

India-Syria Intelligence Cooperation to deal with Daesh

India has agreed to support Syria in its Anti-Daesh operation and assured to provide Syria intelligence support about the terrorist group’s networks with India. This was stated in a statement issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs on September 27, 2017 after the meeting between Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the grand mufti of the Syrian Republic Ahmad Badr Eddine Mohammad Abid Hassoun in New Delhi. In this meeting, the two leaders discussed various issues including counter-terrorism and security cooperation between India and Syria. The Syrian leader sought India’s support in dealing with extremist radicalization and applauded India’s significance of Unity in Diversity.

Kabul Car Bombing and Kabul Airport Terror Strike

Afghan Security forces faced a deadly car bomb attack on September 24, 2017, in which at least 12 Afghan Policemen were killed at a checkpoint in Maruf in the Southern Province of Kandahar, bordering with Pakistan and considered to be the heartland of Taliban. On the same day, militants attacked Kabul airport and fired several rounds of mortars and also initiated suicide bomber attack. This attack took place immediately after the US Secretary of Defense General Mattis landed at Kabul. During the attack, the terrorists fired high explosives ammunition like mortar rounds near the main airports and detonated several suicide vests. Surprisingly the attack was claimed by both the Taliban as well as Daesh, though analyst believe that Taliban in all probability, had carried out the attack.

Africa

Three Suicide attacks in Nigeria-50 Killed

Boko Haram suicide female Fedayeen militants conducted attacks in Mashalari village in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria on September 18, 2017, in which 15 people were killed and more than 50 people were injured. The female Fedayeen targeted food supply chain of displaced person camp in Northeast Nigeria. Terror strikes on such camps have grown multifold in recent past. Mashalari village is about 40 km from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri has been targeted by Boko Haram several attacks since the beginning of August 2017.

In another suicide attack, at least 28 people were killed and more than 80 injured. This attack was also conducted by three female suicide bombers targeting a camp for displaced people outside Konduga region of Nigeria. The Third attack was also conducted on the same day where in Boko Haram militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a camp for internally displaced persons near the border with Cameroon in which seven people were killed. Boko Haram had, it may be recalled, captured the trading hubs of Ngala and neighbouring Gamboru in August 2014 when it took over a swathe of territory across Borno State in the northeast. Nigerian forces regained complete control with the help of Chadian forces in September 2015. However, Boko Haram continues to launch sporadic attacks in this region causing enormous threat in Nigeria in which nearly 20,000 people have been killed and nearly 2.6 million people were displaced since 2009.

Investigations on IS Terror Funding in Ireland

Ireland declared its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-terrorist financing measures called Ireland Mutual Evaluation Report 2017, on September 17, 2017. The report highlighted certain areas of concern where the Irish authorities confirmed that Islamic State (IS) terrorists were using charities in Ireland to raise cash for their fighters fighting in Syria and Iraq. The Irish authorities have identified certain non-profit organisations for their alleged involvement in transferring funds to Syria and Iraq by using different legitimate and illegitimate means. Based on the confirmation of the financial intelligence unit of Ireland, the authorities acknowledge the involvement of small numbers of individuals in Ireland in international terrorism activities and have placed them under surveillance.

India-US cooperation in Counter-terrorism

The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis concluded his 2 days visit to India on September 26, 2017. During his visit, he held extensive bilateral talks with Defense Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman on September 25, 2017on regional and global issues of mutual interest. In their interaction, the growing menace of cross-border terrorism was discussed in depth. Both the ministers recognised the importance of ‘holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism’. Indian side welcomed the new strategy for Afghanistan announced by the US in August 2017. They noted that India-US security cooperation has reached new heights and cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism was an important component of it. It may be recalled that India-US Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism was established in 2001. Since then through the Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) Program, US agencies like Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security have trained several Indian security personnel in counter-terrorism activities. After the Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative (CCI) signed in 2010 both the countries transformed its relationship as a defining counterterrorism partnership for the 21st century in September 2015. Intelligence services of India and US have collaborated on many regional and global threats.