Fortnightly Review & Analysis – Defense, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 1 Issue IX)

(October 16-31, 2016)


This fortnight’s FRA on Defence and National Security covers the boost that the Indian arms exports sector has received, and bidding adieu to INS Viraat.

Indian Arms Export Looking Up

Indian arms export received a shot in the arm with foreign buyers showing interest in the indigenously manufactured BrahMos missile. As per the DRDO, post the clearance for marketing of the missiles being given, both Indonesia and Chile have shown interest in purchase of the air-launched version of India’s BrahMos missile. Hence the stage is now set for working out the modalities of marketing of the said missile.

DRDO has further stated that the design and development of the air-launched version of the missile from the SU-30 MKI fighter of the Indian Air Force had almost been completed.Towards this end, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has carried out modification of the fighter aircraft to carry the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the final stage preparation and fine-tuning of the air launch weapon system was in progress. Elaborating upon the same DRDO brought out that the launcher modification had already been completed and a dummy trial with instrumented drop from the SU-30 aircraft was carried out a few weeks ago. The performance and the results of the same were highly encouraging. According to plans, some more dummy drop trials have been scheduled prior to the actual test being carried out.

With the actual test likely to be held in early 2017, it seems that the coming year would bring good tidings for the Indian arms export sector.

Adieu INS Viraat

INS Viraat, currently the world’s oldest aircraft carrier, was accorded a grand send-off from Kochi on 23 Oct 16, for her final voyage to her base port, Mumbai, after a refit prior decommissioning. The ship is being towed back to Mumbai where she will be decommissioned, possibly later this year. Viraat has completed 55 years of service, including 27 years with the Royal Navy. Reports suggest that the Navy has agreed to hand over INS Viraat to Andhra Pradesh government after its decommissioning.

With the decommissioning of Viraat, the Indian Navy will be left with one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya. The indigenous aircraft carrier, Vikrant, is currently under construction in Kochi and is likely to be inducted into the Navy by about 2018. The Indian Navy requires three aircraft carriers to fulfil its role and missions and the decommissioning of Viraat leaves a void. The Indian Navy is in the midst of one of its largest accretion plans with more than 45 ships and submarines on order. The addition of a third carrier, after Vikrant, is currently on the drawing board with reports saying that the design is likely to be finalized by the year end. On the other hand, the Chinese aircraft carrier programme is a study in contrast where the Chinese Navy has already operationalised its first carrier and construction on the indigenous carrier is in full swing.

The Indian Navy is the only resident Navy in the IOR which operates an aircraft carrier, discounting the Royal Thai Navy whose carrier, ChakriNareubet, is more a symbol since it does not even have aircraft. India’s maritime ambitions and its centrality to the affairs of the IOR necessitate a strong Navy which can exert influence in this region. Naval influence is best embodied by a Task Force centered around an aircraft carrier. It is therefore important that the expertise gained by the Indian Navy in operation of these vital assets should not be allowed to atrophy and hence acquisition plans for future carriers need to be accelerated.

International Terrorism

Mosul Liberation Campaign

On 17 October, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi finally announced the beginning of military campaign to liberate the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Right after the announcement, shelling of ISIS targets began in the held villages south of the city. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), in coordination with coalition forces including the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, with support from the US troops, are playing important roles in this phase of the military operation. They are conducting a carefully phased campaign that may take some time to oust ISIS fighters from Mosul but could well ensure slow squeezing of the ISIS forces before the final putsch. On their part, the terrorists, since months, have been reportedly laying mines and filling trenches with oil as part their defense.

The assault is likely to be bloody as the security forces start nearing the centre of Mosul. As expected, on 21 October, ISIS fighters launched a major counter-attack in the Kirkuk Province to stop the advancements made by the coalition forces, particularly Kurdish and Iraqi contingents. Approximately, 40 ISIS attackers targeted several government establishments in and around Kirkuk. According to a report, some 78 townships have already been liberated and more than 700 ISIS fighters were killed in the first week of the operation.

Despite resistance from ISIS, the ISF managed to reach Mosul’s eastern city limits on 30th. October while Shiite militias launched their operation on 29 October “in Mosul's western axis to retake Tel Afar, a district with a significant Shi'a Turkmen population”. With the intensification of this coordinated military campaign, considerable concerns have been raised with regard to the humanitarian crisis that are expected to follow. Along with this, the possibility of sectarian clashes cannot be ruled out as the country is already divided severely on ethno-sectarian lines. On the other hand, observers believe that the battle for Mosul is now entering the most critical phase in which Baghdadi and his forces will come under intense pressure to surrender or face elimination. The coalition forces, by the same token, should also prepare themselves for a do-or-die counter attack by the ISIS forces. .

Syrian City of Dabiq Recaptured from ISIS

Efforts to recapture territories from ISIS are not restricted only to Iraq only but similar campaigns have also been going on inside Syria. Amidst the chaotic meddling of international actors such as Russia and the US in the ongoing Syrian crisis, the regional player—Turkey—played a crucial role during the military operation which resulted in the liberation of the ancient city of Dabiq in Syria on 16 October. Turkey, along with the coalition forces, recaptured this city as a part of the Operation Euphrates Shield that had begun on 24 August this year. This development has come at a time when important leaders of ISIS have been eliminated both in Syria and Iraq, thus hampering their terror planning and operations.

Dabiq is known for the brutal activities of ISIS fighters as they executed American and British aid workers and journalists in the recent times. The loss of Dabiqis a major blow to the ISIS as it “holds symbolic significance for the jihadist group as the site of a future apocalyptic battle against the West”. Notwithstanding this breakthrough, strategic observers are of the view that Turkey’s move is predominantly to counter the rising influence of Kurds in the northern parts of Syria. This, in a way, reflected the divergent interests of different countries which are playing their own cards in Syria, supposedly to bring security and political stability in this war-torn country. With this recapture, the focus for the next operation is on Raqqa, the de facto headquarters of ISIS.

ISIS Presence in the Af-Pak Region

As ISIS is losing grounds in its epicentres—Iraq and Syria—there is an emerging possibility of strengthening of its presence in other foreign lands. Earlier, ISIS tried it in Libya but a few effective US-led military operations weakened their efforts, though some activities are still going on at a low key. Since the beginning of 2015, ISIS-linked activities in Afghanistan have been reported but they were not considered to be major threats. But there is major potential for the ISIS operatives teaming up with local terror groups not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan. As it is, ISIS support groups and its parent organization Al Qaeda are reportedly gaining momentum in the Af-Pak region. The attack at the police training academy in Quetta on 24th. October 2016, is being suspected to be the handiwork of Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and ISIS. ‘Amaq’, the news agency of ISIS, was quick in claiming responsibility for this attack which killed 63 people. Although a direct link was denied by a spokesperson of Al-Alami (a faction of LeJ), he mentioned of collective effort in carrying out this particular attack. This should be a worrisome development as LeJ, a Sunni-dominated outfit, is extreme sectarian and has already targeted Shiite community inside Pakistan.

This is also a cause for concern in India which has arrested several youths for their alleged connection with ISIS, with some of them believed to be in Afghanistan. A channel of communication and exchange of terror ideas between ISIS supporters or inspired radicalized people from India and its neighbours are highly possible. That ISIS has local terror groups which are willing to stage carnage together is a sign of its growing momentum to operate in the Af-Pak region, not only ideologically but also physically. Their capabilities to strike should not be underplayed.

Internal Security & Terrorism

Eight SIMI Prisoners Killed in Encounter in Bhopal

The Anti-terrorist Squad of Madhya Pradesh Police killed in an encounter in Bhopal, eight activists of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) on October 31. These militants had escaped from the Central Jail, Bhopal at night after killing the security guard. The encounter took on the outskirts of the city. Two policemen were also injured during the encounter which lasted for nearly an hour. Some of the militants killed in the encounter were also part of the Khandwa jail break incidence of 2013. The SIMI operatives were under trials and were facing sedition charges. They were arrested for running the banned outfit's activities in Madhya Pradesh and robbing banks to finance their operations.

The eight escapees were part of the 27 SIMI militants detained in the Bhopal Central Jail. While the state police has launched an investigation into the jail break incident and the encounter, fact remains that the Malwa region of the state of Madhya Pradesh has been a hub of SIMI activity for the last two decades due to its central location, good connectivity and porous borders with neighbouring states that facilitate hideouts and clandestine movement. The region gave birth to activists like former SIMI head Safdar Nagori and Andhra Pradesh SIMI chief Kamruddin Nagori (Safdar's brother). They used Malwa as a base to strategise, organise and train their cadres. It may be recalled that in 2008, 13 SIMI leaders were arrested from Malwa region; in 2009, five were held. The Nagori brothers and Shibly Peedicaal Abdul, wanted in connection with the Mumbai train serial blasts of July 2006, were among the prize catches of 2008.

NIA to question Mohmmad Ghani Usman on 26/11 links

The Austrian agencies arrested veteran bomb maker of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mohammad Ghani Usman, a Pakistani national in April 2016. Austrian prosecutors confirmed that Ghani, posing as a Syrian refugee, had arrived from Greece. He is also charged by the French authorities in the November 2015 Paris Attack. He will also face the investigators of the National Investigation Agency soon. The NIA wishes to interrogate Usman Ghani who later joined Islamic State, to ascertain his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The NIA has raised the request in this regard with the Ministries of Home affairs and External affairs.

30 Youth from Kerala feared to have joined IS camps in Afghanistan

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing the disappearance of 21 missing persons from Kerala, has concluded that more than 30 youths from the state had attended IS training camps in Afghanistan. In its report the NIA has stated that, many of them may have returned to India to set up sleeper cells of ISIS. Many educated Muslim youths from Kerala who were working in Gulf countries had strong links with IS terror networks, the report added. Further, some Non-Resident Indian businessmen had funded the activities of these youth. Handlers of terror outfits have used social media effectively to recruit youths from the state without alerting the police and intelligence agencies.

Earlier, the NIA identified Sajeer Abdulla Mangalaseri as the 'chief' of IS network in Kerala. 35-year-old Sajeer, a Civil Engineer from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Kozhikode and a Salafist who hails from Moozhikal in Kozhikode District had been recruiting people from Kerala in IS fold. Intelligence agencies now believe that Sajeer is no more working in United Arab Emirates (UAE), but hiding somewhere in Afghanistan, keeping in close touch with the missing youth from Kerala.

15 Maoists Surrender at Chattisgarh

15 cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M) surrendered before the police at the Bastar district of Chattisgarh. The cadre were active members of the People’s Liberation Gurrila Army and were operating in the Mardoom and Darba areas of the district and were wanted in many cases to Chattisgarh police. It is estimated that nearly 6500 to 9500 cadres are currently controlling parts of territory in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh. Earlier, in July 2016 cadres from Dakapara area of Bastanar local organization squad in Barsoor had surrendered their arms before police.

21 Maoists Killed in an Encounter AlongAndhra-Odisha border

Nearly 21 Maoists were killed in a major encounter at Malkangirialong the border region of the Andhra Pradesh and Odhisha on October 24, 2016. The encounter was carried out by Greyhound commandoes of the Andhra Police. In the encounter, police seized ammunition and weapons which included three AK-47 rifles and a Self-loading Rifle (SLR). This is in accordance with the plan of CPI-M to create a new ‘guerrilla Zone’ along the Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh border region as an extension to its current strong hold of Bastar. The recent seizure of literature from Maoist camp in Chhuikhadan forest discloses that the proposed new ‘red zone’ would support Maoists’ twin strategy of providing escape route to rebels in the face of intensifying counterinsurgency measures in Bastar in Chhattisgarh and reclaim it by engaging the troops in the proposed “extended” ‘guerrilla zone’ along the border region of Rajnandgaon District in Chhattisgarh and Balaghat District in MP (Madhya Pradesh). This will facilitate CPI-Maoist to expand its base towards north and east of Bastar. Of the eight Districts, Maoists have already established their bases in Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, Balaghat in MP and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. They are on their way to expanding their activities to other border Districts of Kawardha and Mungeli in Chhattisgarh, Mandla and Dindori in MP and Gondia in Maharashtra. The new ‘guerrilla zone’ would function under the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), the most powerful entity of CPI-Maoist in India.

UAPA and NIA Act will be strengthened

The Union Government is all set to amend the National investigation Agency Act of 2008 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967. This amendment will enable the NIA to launch parallel probe into terror attacks on Indians and their properties abroad. The amended Act will also give legal protection to sleuths for undercover operations. A clause is also being inserted in UAPA to designate individuals under the banned list. This was indicated by the Union Home Minister during the First National Conference of Investigating Agencies in August 20116. This move is initiated in the wake of arrest of two foreign nationals by Afghanistan security forces, planning to target Indian Consulate in Jalalabad. Once the act is amended, the NIA will be able to conduct a parallel probe into any attacks on Indian consulates, properties and individuals. The NIA had mooted the proposal in 2014, while urging the government to give it broader powers. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has similar powers, which it exercised to conduct a parallel probe after the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which six American nationals were among those killed. Besides other amendments in UAPA, the Home ministry has proposed that any individual suspected of having terror links can be included in the list of terrorist entities. At present, there are 39 groups in the list of banned terrorist organisations under Section 35 of the UAPA, the latest one to have been added was NSCN (Khaplang). These amendments will help the government to issue a ban against the chief of terror organisations like Hafiz Saeed and MazoodAzhar.

Rise in Cross Border Terrorism in Kashmir

The successful surgical strikes conducted by the Indian Army on the terrorist Launching camps across the LoC on September 29, 2016, has forced the Pakistan army and ISI to devise fresh plans to avenge the strikes. It appears the their three-pronged strategy comprises (1) escalating cross border shootings by the Rangers and army units targeting the army and BSF personnel and the civilian population, thereby creating panic, (2) reviving some of the defunct terrorist outfits like orgainsations like Al-Umar Mujahideen ,Harkatul-Ansar, Al-Badr and al-Jehad Force to unleashviolence in the valley in association with Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Taiba and Azhar Masood’s Jaish-e-Mohammed and (3) a change of tactics in the stone palters agitation on the streets to attacks on armed forces and law enforcing agencies. In addition, rising incidents snatching of weapons of the armed police or forces personnel, have also come to notice. On October 15th terrorists attacked a SashastraSeemaBal (SSB) convoy on the outskirts of the city on Friday, killing a jawan and injuring eight others at Zakura. Banned Al-Umar Mujahideen terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for the attack and also warned of similar actions in near future. Al-Umar Mujahideen was dormant in early part of 1990s and ceased to exist after its chief Mustaq Ahmed Zargaralias ‘MushtaqLatram’ was arrestd in 1992. Zargar was one of the three prisoners exchanged for passengers of IC-814 plane that was hijacked by Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group in 1999. It is likely that he will be used to incite violence in Kashmir. It is recorded by Ministry of home affairs that out of 250 mainline terrorists currently active in the valley 107 are locals.

JeM Militants arrested in Jammu and Kashmir

Security forces arrested two militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) module from Baramulla District on October 21. The Indian Army and Jammu Kashmir Police in a joint operation seized AK riffle, one Pistol and other arms and ammunition from these two militants. The militants are identified as Safeer Ahmad Bhat and FarhaanFayazLiloo who were part of the JeM module operating in Baramulla town and adjacent areas for last few months and had established base in the town taking advantage of the unrest in the valley. The investigators confirmed that arrested duo were involved in an attack on the Army convoy on August 16, 2016 in Khwajabagh area of Baramulla district in which two Army personnel and one Police man were killed. The duo was also involved in planning and execution of an attack on the Army camp in Baramulla town in early October in which one BSF man was killed and another was injured.

Four TJI Activists Arrested in Jammu and Kashmir:

The Jammu &Kashmir State Police achieved a major success on October 26, 2016 when they arrested four persons including two active members of a militant organisationTehreek-i-Jehad-i-Islami (TJI). The State Police confirmed that the duo had recently visited Pakistan and received funds to fuel unrest in the Sopore area of the Kashmir valley and were asked to make recruitment for TJI. The state police along with 52 and 22 Bns. of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) arrested two persons Gowhar Ahmed Bhat resident of Mir Sahib Baramulla and Hilal Ahmed Gojri resident of Syed Karim Baramulla. These two are active members of the TJI based in Pakistan.

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