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

August 16- 31, 2017

Defence

Indian Navy Commissions Integrated Automatic Aviation Meteorological System (IAAMS)

Indian Navy commissioned its Integrated Automatic Aviation Meteorological System (IAAMS) at INS Parundu on August 24, 2017. The newly commissioned IAAMS has enabled Indian Navy with state-of-the-art Meteorological Sensors including Radar Vertical Wind Profiler, Transmissometer, Ceilometer and Automatic Weather Observation System. The IAAMS undertakes automatic and continuous recording of relevant weather parameters that are vital for accurate weather forecasting and has an inbuilt alarm feature to indicate any abnormal change in weather that may affect safe flying operations. The system is also capable of automatically disseminating routine weather reports to other air stations and the Air Traffic Control tower without human intervention.

Production of Light Combat Helicopter (LCH)

India’s prominent defence Public Sector Unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has officially launched full-scale production of the indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) on August 26, 2017, at its West Bengal production facility. In November 2016, the Ministry of Defence has cleared the purchase of 16 LCHs for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army Air Corps (AAC) as part of a limited series production offer. The AAC has ordered 114 and the IAF has ordered 65 helicopters. The initial operating capability of HAL is expected by 2018. The LCH has advanced electronic warfare suit supplied by SAAB South Africa and its modern Sensor Suit has been jointly developed by HAL and Israel’s Defence Industry. The twin-engine 5.8-ton LCH is a multi purpose weapons platform and can be used against enemy tanks, armoured personnel carriers, slow-moving aircraft, surface warships and even submarines.

India to Participate in Exercise Blue Flag

Indian Air Force (IAF) will participate for first time in Exercise Blue Flag scheduled in November 2017 at Ovda Airbase, Israel. Exercise Blue Flag will see at least eight nations in attendance, including the US, France and Germany. IAF is likely to send its special operations C-130J aircraft for this exercise. In the Exercise Blue Flag, nearly 60 combat aircraft are set to undertake complex tactics and training missions including air-to-air combat, ground attack and special operations deployment. India’s deployment of C-130J for the exercise underscores that it will take part in special operations training with Israeli defence forces which are known for stealthy, deep strike capabilities. The aircraft has demonstrated the capability to operate from high altitude airstrips on the China border as well, including the Daulat Beg Oldie (DB0) landing ground located at 16,600 feet.

MoD Approves Implementation of Majority of Recommendations of Shekatkar Committee

As a part of major reforms for the Indian Army, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), has accepted 65 out of 99 total recommendations of the Lt Gen D B Shekatkar (Retd) Committee and sanctioned to redeploy 57,000 personnel for its roles to increase the ‘teeth to tail’ ratio. Then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley confirmed in a statement that the first 65 accepted recommendations of the committee will be implemented by the end of 2017.

Some of the recommendations include optimization of signals establishments to include Radio Monitoring Companies, Corps Air Support Signal Regiments, Air Formation Signal Regiments, Composite Signal Regiments and merger of Corps Operating and Engineering Signal Regiments. Another second prominent decision which was immediately implemented by the MoD is the closure of all military farms and army postal establishments in peace locations. The Shekatkar Committee was established with an objective to recommend reform measures for enhancing combat capabilities and re-balance defence expenditure of the armed forces in May 2016 with a mandate to submit its report in three months. The Committee submitted its final report in December 2016.

International Terrorism

Europe

Terror Attack in Europe a Major Challenge to Collective Security

Spain witnessed series of terror incidents in which 13 people were killed and more than hundred people were injured. The first terror strike took place on August 17, 2017 at one of the most popular location of Las Ramblas of Barcelona City. The second attack after eight hours of the Las Ramblas rampage. In an intelligence driven operation, the Police killed five suspects who were attempting to carry out a similar rampage in the seaside Catalan town of Cambrils located South of Barcelona. The suspects were planning to use an Audi A3 car. The speedy and efficient response from the Spain Police prevented the planned terror strike. Interior Minister of Catalonia confirmed that the attacks at Barcelona and Cambrils were linked.

Further, on August 18, 2017, Finland one of the most peaceful countries of Europe, witnessed a deadly stabbing rampage at the Market Square in the city of Turku. Similar to the Finland stabbings, on August 25, 2017, a member of the Islamic State (IS) group carried out a knife attack in Brussels that wounded a soldier. The jihadist organisation’s propaganda outlet Amaq, published online on August 26, 2017 claimed responsibility for these attacks. Barcelona attack was planned as sophisticatedly as any major attack like the Paris attack of November 13, 2015, Brussels attack of March 22, 2016, Berlin Attack of May 17, 2017, and London attack of June 03, 2017 of recent past. All these attacks were characterise by attacks carried out by the individuals, motivated by the radical ideology of ISIS and were mainly operating on their own.

The overall trend analysis of the recent terrorist attacks across Europe highlights the emerging new norm of terrorist attacks inspired by the ideology of Daesh. After its defeat in Mosul and consistent setbacks in Raqqa, such low-cost high-payoff kind of attacks driven by Daesh ideology, are likely to be carried out more frequently in vulnerable locations across Europe. In this regard, Europe which is laden with tourists in all season emerged as an ideal target to implement the global outreach strategy of Daesh. Beyond the physical impact of terror, these attacks also impact the economy of the region and raise several security alarms about it.

West Asia

Anti-Daesh Operation at Tel Afar and Raqqa

The Government of Iraq on August 31, 2017, on August 31, 2017, claimed that Iraqi forces have liberated the city of Tel Afar from the control of Daesh. The statement added that the successful anti-Daesh campaign was swift and decisive, lasting over 11 days with minimum collateral damage. The campaign for the liberation of Tel Afar, the second largest city of Iraq had begun on August 20, 2017. As per United Nations reports, nearly 30,000 civilians were displaced during the operations. After Tal Afar, the ISF is all set to launch an offensive against the remaining holdout of Daesh in Nineveh, along with other in Kirkuk, Anbar, and Salahuddin.

The US led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) recaptured major parts of the old city of Raqqa in the last week of August. The clock tower in Raqqa, often the background to beheadings and torture over the past three years, is among the landmarks captured by the SDF in the operation. According to the US Department of Defence, three-fourth of the city has been retaken. It further stated that during the ongoing offensive, 1244 Daesh militants were killed. The SDF is on the edge of security quarters of Daesh where most of its bases are located and where nearly 25,000 civilians are also expected to be holed up in the city center.

Control over the old city of Raqqa has a historical significance and considered to be the moral victory of SDF in its anti-Daesh campaign at Raqqa which was captured by Daesh in 2014 and turned it into the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. During the Darsh occupation, the city witnessed the worst atrocities like public beheadings. However, with such rapid pace of offensive campaign against Daesh, analysts believe that remaining strongholds of Daesh in Syria are likely to fall by the end of October 2017. After that the UN is expected to push for free and fair elections without neglecting minorities. In Syria, Sunni Muslims supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are pitted against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad backed by Shi’a allies including Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah militias.

Africa

Nigerian Armed Forces Neutralize 82 Boko Haram Militants

The Nigerian Army, in a statement issued on August 31, 2017, claimed that in ongoing operations against Boko Haram, its forces have neutralized 82 Boko Haram militants and detained 313 suspected terrorists. Nigeria has deployed 2000 Special Forces as a part of its ongoing counter-insurgency operation against Boko Haram. The deployment began on August 15, 2017, in the Northeast region of Nigeria.

Domestic Terrorism

Jammu and Kashmir
US Lists Hizbul Mujahideen as Foreign Terrorist Organisation

The US Department of State on August 16, 2017, designated Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation under Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. Under this Section the US seeks to deny all the resources to HM to carry out terrorist attacks of any kind and its property and interests is brought under the US jurisdiction and blocked. HM is one of the oldest and largest militant groups operating in Kashmir region led by Specially Designated Global Terrorist Mohammad Yusuf Shah aka Syed Salahuddin. The State Department confirmed that this designation highlighted US commitment to the international community for exposing and isolating organisations and individuals from accessing the US financial system. This designation will also provide a credible basis for various law enforcing agencies of the US and other countries to act against this terror organization.

Encounters by the Security Forces in South Kashmir

Security forces in an intelligence driven operation on August 16, 2017 in Bandipora region of Pulwama district, neutralized Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Ayub Lehri who was responsible for various terrorist actions in the valley. Laheri was the second prominent LeT leader neutralized by the security forces in last fortnight. On August 02, 2017 Abu Dojana another LeT commander was killed by the security forces.

In another encounter, three fedayeen terrorists belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) launched a suicide attack on police line complex of Pulwama on August 26, 2017, killing eight security personnel. During the intense gun-battle, three militants were killed. JeM claimed responsibility for the attack. As anticipated, during the encounter some youth took to streets in Pulwama town and resorted to heavy stone pelting on security personnel. In retaliation, the Police lobbed tear gas canisters. In a proactive measure, the administration sealed off Pulwama town and blocked mobile and internet services across the district.

Union Home Minister convened a review meeting on the security situation in Valley which was also attended by National Security Advisor, Home Secretary, and the concerned security officials. The Army and J&K Police launched an assertive anti-terrorist campaign in South Kashmir in response to various terror incidences in the valley. In these assertive operations, security forces killed a total of 133 terrorists including top seven commanders of various terror organisations Jammu and Kashmir till July 2017. MHA officials confirmed that despite strict vigil at the LoC around 80 militants had infiltrated across the border from Keran, Gurez, Machil and Nowgam sectors of North Kashmir.

NIA Arrests Zahoor Watali in Terror Funding Case

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali on August 17, 2017, for his alleged involvement in funding of terrorist and separatist activities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Watali was produced before the Delhi Court on August 18 where he was sent to NIA Custody for days which was later extended for another 5 days by the Delhi Court on August 28. The Court allowed the NIA’s plea for extension of custody and alleged that the accused was not cooperating in the investigation.

Watali was intensely questioned at NIA Delhi before he was arrested. NIA also carried out searches on 16 August at multiple locations in Srinagar, Handwara, Kupwara, and Baramulla belonging to the relatives and employees of Zahoor Watali. Incriminating material such as receipt of funds by Zahoor Watali from foreign sources and its further distribution to the terrorists and separatists in Kashmir valley for anti-India activities, were recovered. Earlier, on 3rd June 2017, NIA had searched Zahoor Watali’s house in Srinagar and seized incriminating documents pertaining to several financial transactions and land deals. The documents revealed huge amount of cash transactions in sale & purchase of properties. Zahoor Watali was earlier also arrested in the year 1990 by the Jammu & Kashmir Police when some anti-national activists were found present in his house at Bagat Barzulla, Srinagar. He was taken into custody along with Yaseen Malik, Sajjad Gani Lone, Bilal Lone and others and was jailed for eight months at Jammu.

The NIA further pleaded that the accused was required to be confronted with evidence in the case in which Altaf Ahmed Shah, the son-in-law of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and six others were earlier arrested by the NIA in July 2017. The NIA has also summoned Nayeem Geelani and Naseem Geelani S/o Syed Ali Shah Geelani on August 24 in connection with terror funding and money laundering cases.

ISIS in India

NIA filed Charge Sheet in ISIS related Case in Lucknow

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a charge sheet before the NIA Special Court, Lucknow against 8 accused persons on August 31, 2017, for being members of proscribed organisation ISIS. It also accused them of conspiring to carry out terror activities in furtherance of the activities of ISIS in India. The charge-sheet was filed in the case dated March 8, 2017 of PS ATS, Uttar Pradesh under Sections 121, 121-A, 122 & 123 of the IPC, Sections 17, 18, 18A, 18B, 23 & 38 of UA (P) Act, 1967, Sections 3, 25 and 35 of Arms Act and Sections 4/5 of Explosive Substance Act, 1908.

Detailed investigation conducted by the NIA revealed that the accused persons took ‘Bay’th’ (oath of allegiance) and hatched a criminal conspiracy to further various terrorist activities across India. In this regard the accused also had attempted recruitment of persons, collected funds, organised terrorist camps and carried out terrorist acts. The accused are also charged with propagating the ideology of ISIS to attract, motivate and recruit youths in the ISIS for executing various terror activities. The accused attempted to migrate to ISIS held territories in Iraq-Syria. They procured arms, ammunition, and explosives to carry out terrorist acts in India and planned for targeting non-Muslims / Muslims scholars of other Sects and religious places within India. The accused A-1 (Mohammad Faisal), A-4 (Atif Muzzafar) along with Saifullah, killed one person (later identified as Ramesh Chandra Shukla of Kanpur Nagar) on October 24, 2016, in Kanpur. They had conducted reconnaissance of Sufi shrine Dewa Sharif in Barabanki and other religious places for planting IEDs. The accused persons, to further the terrorist activities of the ISIS established terrorist camps at Lucknow. A-4 (Atif Muzzafar), A-5(Mohammad Danish) and A-6 (Sayed Meer) (with the intention to further the terrorist activities of the ISIS traveled to Bhopal and planted an IED in a general compartment of Bhopal-Ujjain Train on March 07, 2017.

Left Wing Extremism

Arms Recovered in Forests of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand

In a joint operation between CRPF and Chattisgarh Police, large amount of explosives were recovered in the Maoist hideout located in the dense forest area in Moranga village of Dantewada district on August 23. The arms cache included 43 grenades, 73 detonators, 77 local made arrow bombs, gun powder, 86 gelatine sticks, 10 KG of powdered Sulfur along with 11 packets of explosives.

On the same day, in separate joint operation by Palamu District Police, Jharkhand and CRPF explosives were recovered from forest region of Chinia Pahar region of Palamau district. In the operations two locally prepared cylinder bombs, two can bombs and two IEDs of 10KG each were recovered. The preliminary investigation of both the incidents suggests that the CPI-M cadres were planning a big strike against security forces.

Surrender by CPI-M Cadre in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh

In a major success of rehabilitation policy of Government of India in association with Left Wing Extremism Affected states four CPI-Maoists cadres including the infamous CPI-M Politburo member who was also a sub-zonal commander Sudhakaran, surrendered at Lohardaga, Chattisgarh. Amongst others, Area Commander Ajay Oraon and Balak Kherwar, wanted in several cases and carried a bounty of ₹ 2,00,000/- and ₹ 5,00,00/- respectively, also surrendered.

Similarly, in Chhattisgarh where maximum surrenders have been recorded so far, also witnessed another major surrender at Dantewada district where nine cadres of CPI-Maoists surrendered on August 27, 2017. Amongst them was one Nanda aka Barse who carried ₹ 5, 00,000/- a bounty on his head. In similar incidence, seven CPI-Maoists cadres surrendered at Narayanpur district of Chattisgarh. In both the incidences, CPI cadres cited their disappointment with the hollow Maoists ideology and expressed their wish to join the mainstream under rehabilitation program declared by the Chattisgarh Government