Chapter 2. Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview
"We are fighting the menace and we will continue to fight. But this is the fight for the peace of the world. This is the fight for the future of generations to come. The fight against extremism is a fight for the hearts and minds of people. It can’t be won only by guns and bombs. The fight must be multifaceted."
-- Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan
UN General Assembly, New York City
September 25, 2008
Already terrorism plagued, South and Central Asia experienced more tragedy in 2008 as terrorists expanded their operations and networks across the region and beyond. The impact of the region’s terrorist problem on the United States and its citizens grew more severe as dozens of U.S. citizens were attacked, kidnapped, or killed by violent extremists. In response, the U.S. worked to increase counterterrorism cooperation with its partners in South Asia. However, continuing political unrest in the region, weak governments, and competing factions within various South Asia governments, combined with increased terrorist activities, resulted in limited progress and made South Asia even less safe for U.S. citizens and interests than it was in 2007.
Although hundreds of terrorist attacks were conducted throughout South Asia, the year was punctuated by several high-profile and immensely destructive acts of terrorism, including the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, the November 26 attacks in Mumbai, India and the September 20 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan.
The Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan remained strong and resilient in the south and east. Although the insurgency absorbed heavy combat and leadership losses, its ability to recruit foot soldiers from its core base of rural Pashtuns remained undiminished.
Pakistan continued to suffer from rising militancy and extremism. The United States remained concerned that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan were being used as a safe haven for al-Qa’ida (AQ) terrorists, Afghan insurgents, and other extremists.
India ranked among the world’s most terrorism-afflicted countries. It was the focus of numerous attacks from both externally-based terrorist organizations and internally-based separatist or terrorist entities. Several attacks inflicted large numbers of casualties, including the most devastating attack of the year on November 26 in Mumbai. Although clearly committed to combating violent extremism, the Indian government's counterterrorism efforts remained hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems. In the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, India’s Parliament has introduced bills to restructure its counterterrorism laws and has proposed a new agency, the National Investigative Agency, to create national-level capability to investigate and potentially prosecute acts of terrorism. Since the Mumbai attacks, India has also greatly increased counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.
Leading up to the national elections on December 29, Bangladesh’s Caretaker Government attempted to crack down on those accused of terrorism and criminality. The Awami League won a landslide electoral victory, claiming 230 of the 299 seats in Parliament. It has pledged to focus serious attention on Bangladesh’s counterterrorism needs and has championed the creation of a South Asia counterterrorism task force to enable countries to work together regionally to stamp out the rise of violent extremism.
In Sri Lanka, the government continued its military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. Both sides continued to engage in “any means necessary” tactics to fight the war. The LTTE used suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks, some of which caused serious civilian casualties. The government has been criticized for using paramilitary organizations that rely on abduction, extra-judicial killings and other illegal tactics to combat the LTTE and their suspected sympathizers. At the end of the year, the military recaptured most of the LTTE-held territory, including Killinochchi, but the LTTE continued to fight, reverting to more asymmetrical tactics, including the continued use of suicide bombers in the capital Colombo.
In April, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) won the national Constituent Assembly election, and took control of various government ministries as well as the Prime Minister’s position. Despite their electoral victory, the Maoists remained a U.S.-designated terrorist entity under the Terrorism Exclusion List.
The Central Asian region's most significant terrorist organizations include the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and a splinter group, the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG). However, radical extremist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) foment an anti-Semitic, anti-Western ideology that may indirectly generate support for terrorism. HT, an extremist political movement advocating the establishment of a borderless, theocratic Islamic state throughout the entire Muslim world, has followers in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. The United States has no evidence that HT has committed any acts of international terrorism, but the group's radical anti-American and anti-Semitic ideology is sympathetic to acts of violence against the United States and its allies. HT has publicly called on Muslims to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight Coalition Forces.
Afghanistan continued to confront the challenges of building a stable, democratic, and tolerant government in the face of an insurgency that more and more relied on vicious and increasingly sophisticated terrorist attacks by anti-Afghan forces on coalition forces, civilians, international NGOs, and other soft targets, most notably through improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombings. Supported by the international community, the Afghan government has made suppression of such terrorist attacks and the establishment of effective law-enforcement mechanisms a high priority.
Reconciliation of members of the insurgency remained a priority, with the government undertaking a number of initiatives. Under the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) program, the follow-on to the earlier Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program, authorities have disbanded 362 illegal armed groups and collected over 42,000 weapons in 84 districts since its inception in March 2005. In April 2007, in an effort to achieve greater local government support, DIAG began offering development assistance to qualifying districts. Forty-eight of the 84 targeted districts currently qualify for this assistance and are considered to be in compliance with DIAG disarmament regulations. DIAG operations expanded, intensifying efforts to build political will at the provincial and local levels to target the more threatening illegal armed groups.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led the coalition forces’ counterinsurgency campaign, using a combination of counterinsurgency means and methods, including synchronized use of combat (air and ground forces) and non-combat means (building civil governance and aiding reconstruction and development in conjunction with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to fight extremism.
The Commander, U.S. Central Command, maintained command and control of U.S. counterterrorism forces operating in Afghanistan. Counterterrorism operations were coordinated with U.S. forces at Headquarters of U.S. Forces–Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Combined Joint Task Force 101. Special Operations Forces conducting combined operations and foreign internal defense operated under the Commander, USFOR-A. United States CT forces target insurgent leaders, and insurgent training and logistics centers, with the objective of eliminating terrorists and facilitating reconstruction and development. The Afghan National Army (ANA), and to a lesser extent, the Afghan National Police (ANP), took the lead in the majority of counterterrorism operations, in close cooperation with coalition forces. In August, the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) assumed lead responsibility from coalition forces for Kabul City, and assumed the lead on the majority of security operations across the country. The insurgents, partly in response to their growing inability to confront coalition and ANSF forces in conventional encounters, increasingly resorted to terrorist tactics to intimidate ordinary Afghans. These tactics included greater use of IEDs along key travel arteries, assassination of lower-level Afghan government officials, and the use of suicide bombers and direct fire attacks against Afghan civilians.
Integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency approaches in the east have continued to yield some successes. Nonetheless, the anti-government insurgency remained a capable, determined, and resilient threat to stability and to the expansion of government authority, particularly in the south and east. The insurgency continued to suffer heavy combat losses, including among senior leaders, but its ability to obtain al-Qa’ida (AQ) support and recruit soldiers remained undiminished. Taliban information operations were increasingly aggressive and sophisticated.
Streams of Taliban financing from across the border in Pakistan, along with funds gained from narcotics trafficking and kidnapping, have allowed the insurgency to strengthen its military and technical capabilities. To address this issue, a “mini-jirga” between Pakistani and Afghan officials and tribal leaders was held in October. The participants also discussed other ways to end terrorism along their border, including the possibility of holding talks with the Taliban insurgents—a proposal the Taliban subsequently rejected.
Insurgents continued to target police, police recruits, government ministers, parliamentarians, civil servants, and civilians, including urban crowds, in numerous violent incidents. Terrorists, often supported by criminal gangs, also increasingly turned to kidnapping Afghans and foreigners, most notably several reporters and at least one district governor were kidnapped. Most of these kidnappings were done for ransom, presumably as a means of raising money to support their operations.
Insurgents also targeted international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Afghan journalists, government workers, UN workers, and recipients of NGO assistance. They attacked teachers, pupils (especially girls), and schools. They also threatened and often brutally killed those who worked for religious tolerance, including ex-insurgents, tribal leaders, and moderate imams, mullahs, and religious scholars. Insurgents coupled threats and attacks against NGOs with continued targeting of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, de-mining teams, and construction crews working on roads and other infrastructure projects. The most notorious incident was an acid attack on female students outside of an all-girls school in Kandahar. That particular attack injured several students and resulted in the school being closed for a time, but the school has since re-opened.
Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), the banned domestic Islamic extremist group responsible for a wave of bombings and suicide attacks in late 2005, remained a threat. During the national Parliamentary election campaign in December, authorities arrested several suspected JMB members and uncovered weapons caches that included grenades and chemicals that could be used to make explosives.
Neighboring India alleged that the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and other anti-India insurgency groups operated from Bangladesh with the knowledge of senior Bangladeshi government officials. India also blamed the terrorist group Harakat ul-Jihadi-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-B) for bomb attacks within India. Bangladesh strongly denied those allegations. The absence of counterterrorism cooperation between India and Bangladesh fueled mutual allegations that each country facilitated terrorism inside the borders of the other.
In April and June, the caretaker government established the Money Laundering Prevention Ordinance and the Antiterrorism Ordinance. These laws facilitated international cooperation in recovering money illegally transferred to foreign countries and mutual legal assistance in criminal investigation, trial proceedings, and extradition matters. The new ordinances are part of the effort to enable Bangladesh to enter the Egmont Group, the international body of Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) that plays a critical role in fighting terrorist financing.
U.S. and Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies cooperated well on several cases related to domestic and international terrorism. Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry. The United States began human rights training for the Rapid Action Battalion, the country’s premier counterterrorism law enforcement force.
In 2008, India ranked among the world’s most terrorism-afflicted countries. On November 26 in a pivotal moment that is now called "26/11", terrorists struck at a variety of locations in Mumbai on November 26, killing at least 183 people, including 22 foreigners, six of whom were Americans and 14 members of the police and security forces. Over 300 more were injured.
The attacks in Mumbai targeted places frequented by foreigners and wealthy Indians. The attackers entered Mumbai from the sea and attacked people in two hotels, a Jewish center, the main train station, and additional locations. They also planted bombs in two taxis that later exploded in different locations in the city. The terrorists appeared to have been well-trained and took advantage of technology, such as Global Positioning System trackers. Local and state police proved to be poorly trained and equipped, and lacked central control to coordinate an effective response. This attack was the most recent in a long list of lethal terrorist incidents this year.
Among the major events:
- On May 13, Jaipur experienced serial bomb blasts at crowded market areas and at Hindu temples. At least 60 people were killed, and more than 150 injured.
- On June 29, Maoist insurgents attacked and killed 33 security forces in Malkangiri district in the eastern state of Orissa.
- On July 7, Indian interests were attacked in Afghanistan when terrorists drove a vehicle-borne IED into the outer perimeter of the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7. Two Indian diplomats died, and a number of Afghan citizens were wounded.
- On July 25, serial bombs were set off in Bangalore in both business and industrial areas. At least one individual died, while eight were injured.
- On July 26, in Gujarat’s capital, Ahmedabad, 21 devices exploded killing 54 and injuring at least 156. These explosions took place in market areas, on buses and other vehicles, and at the hospital to which the wounded from the first serial bomb blast were being treated.
- On September 13, terrorists detonated serial bombs in New Delhi in a variety of market places and other crowded public areas. These attacks killed at least 20 individuals and wounded more than 80.
- On October 30, insurgents detonated a series of nine bomb blasts throughout the northeastern state of Assam killing approximately 110 people.
None of the perpetrators of these attacks has yet been prosecuted. The Indian government assessed that South Asian Islamic extremist groups including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Harakat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami (Bangladesh) as well as indigenous groups were behind these events. The Government of India believed these attacks were aimed at creating a break-down in India-Pakistan relations, fostering Hindu-Muslim violence within India, and harming India's commercial centers to impede India's economic resurgence.
Eastern India has a long history of Maoist (left-wing extremism), and insurgent terrorist activity that has challenged state writ and control, governance structures, and the ruling political class. In 2008, there were 50 terrorist attacks in Eastern India that killed approximately 500 individuals. No American citizens were targeted or victims of terrorism in any of these incidents.
Insurgent groups, often fighting for recognition, political, and economic rights, or independence, were also active in the Northeast. Failure to properly accommodate the competing interests of diverse ethnic groups, low levels of development, and the success of previous insurgent movements in creating new Indian states were cited as explanatory factors for the appeal of insurgent movements. In 1990, the Government of India banned one of the most active insurgent groups, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). ULFA is alleged to have been involved in several terrorist attacks this year, including the bicycle bomb blast on September 18 in Chirang district, resulting in 20 injured Indian citizens, and the October 30 serial blasts mentioned above.
The Communist Party of India (Maoists), commonly referred to as Maoist/Naxalites, were active in the states of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, the so-called "Red Corridor." Companies, Indian and foreign, operating in Maoist strongholds were sometimes targets for extortion.
State governments have expressed interest in augmenting their security forces by either creating or buttressing state-level assets, or hosting central level units to address the increased terrorist threat. Chattisgarh's government has invested in counterinsurgency training for police and paramilitary forces at its Jungle Warfare Training Center. Nevertheless, there is no clear unified command structure between state and federal forces in counterinsurgency efforts, which hampers their effectiveness.
Specifically in response to the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government has proposed a new agency, the National Investigative Agency, to create national-level capability to investigate and potentially prosecute such acts. Also in response to the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government amended some existing laws to strengthen the hands of security and law enforcement agencies in fighting terrorism. Two themes have framed the public debate on the new legislation: states' rights vs. federal power, and civil liberties vs. stronger law enforcement powers.
Illicit funding sources that may have been exploited to finance terrorist operations were being closely investigated. Indian authorities believe that the Mumbai terrorists used various funding sources including credit cards, hawala, charities, and wealthy donors. In addition to the Mumbai attacks, the rise in terrorist attacks and their coordinated nature throughout India suggested the terrorists were well-funded and financially organized.
Indian officials, particularly in West Bengal and Assam, were concerned about the porous India-Bangladesh border, of which only 2500 of the 3000 km land border has been fenced (total land and water border is 4100 km). India's inability to protect its porous maritime border has been under media scrutiny since it came to light that the perpetrators of the November 26 Mumbai attacks arrived by sea. In Tamil Nadu, coast guard and police officials, as well as security analysts, all acknowledged that the government was unable to monitor sufficiently the thousands of small commercial fishing vessels that ply the waters between India and Sri Lanka.
The Indian government has implemented an advance passenger information system to receive inbound passenger information from air carriers operating in India. The system, however, is not compatible with or able to share data with the U.S. and EU equivalent systems. In addition, the Government of India and air carriers have shown an increased interest in receiving fraudulent document training from the United States and other countries.
Kazakhstan detained and prosecuted suspected terrorists and took tangible steps to cooperate and share information with the United States and international organizations. With the addition of one international terrorist organization, the Islamic Party of Turkistan, to the list of already-banned terrorist organizations, the Government of Kazakhstan now designates 16 groups as banned terrorist and extremist organizations.
In April, the Kazakhstani Committee for National Security (KNB) announced plans to submit a strict new law, On Counteracting Terrorism, to Parliament that would replace the current law, adopted in 1999. At the time, the KNB stated the bill was included in the government’s legislative plan and would be submitted to Parliament. At year’s end, however, Parliament had not yet approved the new law. Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister instructed the Minister of Finance to speed up drafting a bill on combating financing of terrorism in June, but the draft law on terrorist financing remained stalled in Parliament.
Kazakhstan strengthened its engagement in international counterterrorism activities:
- In March, the Government of Kazakhstan approved a treaty with the Government of the Slovak Republic on cooperation in fighting terrorism.
- In April, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed two draft laws on counterterrorism activities within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
- In June, Kazakhstan hosted the first Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism field exercise, entitled “Anti-Atom Terror,” which was attended by more than 15 partner nations. Additionally, more than 900 military, intelligence, law enforcement, and security personnel from Kazakhstan took part in organizing and conducting the exercise.
- In August, the Government of Kazakhstan approved the signing of a treaty with the Government of the United Arab Emirates on cooperation in fighting terrorism.
- In September, Kazakhstan hosted a “Design-Basis Threat” exercise attended by seven partners from the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
- In October, Kazakhstan hosted the Common World Forum to promote intercultural and inter-religious dialogues.
Law enforcement actions against terrorists included:
- In February, a court in Stepnorgorsk sentenced two members of an extremist group to 12 years of imprisonment and six others to nine years of imprisonment for planning to commit terrorist attacks in the fall of 2006.
- In March, a court in Shymkent sentenced 15 members of a terrorist group, detained in April 2007, on charges of organizing terrorist acts against the local office of the Kazakhstani Committee for National Security (KNB), to prison terms ranging from 11 to 19 years. House searches of the convicts revealed hidden explosives, guns, ammunition, and extremist literature, along with a detailed plan of the local KNB building and a list with KNB officers' and their family members' home phone numbers and addresses.
- In November, police in the southern Zhambyl District of Almaty detained an Uzbek citizen, allegedly wanted for membership in religious extremist, separatist, and fundamentalist organizations. According to the Almaty Region’s prosecutor, police placed the detainee under arrest, pending a decision on his extradition to Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan promoted intercultural and religious dialogues designed to prevent radicalization and supported other domestic counterterrorism initiatives. In August, the Ministry of Interior and the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan signed a memorandum on cooperation in strengthening interethnic and interfaith relations within Kazakhstani society. In December, the Ministry of Justice opened an International Center of Culture and Religions to study the positive experience of interfaith and interethnic cooperation in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan also enacted five interagency regulatory legal acts regulating the counterterrorism activities of public bodies and conducted 149 interagency counterterrorism exercises and training programs.
In 2008, the Kyrgyz Republic took political, legislative, and law enforcement steps to disrupt and deter terrorism. Since 2001, Kyrgyzstan has hosted the Operation Enduring Freedom Coalition airbase at Manas International Airport near Bishkek. In November 2006, President Bakiyev signed a comprehensive law on "Counteracting Terrorist Financing and Legalization (Money Laundering) of Proceeds from Crime." The law obligates financial institutions to report any suspicious activity and bank transactions that exceed the threshold of $25,000. The law also established a Financial Intelligence Service, an administrative body charged with collecting and analyzing information related to financial transactions, developing systems to prevent and detect suspicious transactions, and submitting cases to the prosecutor's office for further action.
The Government of Kyrgyzstan, with financial support from the U.S. and other international organizations, continued efforts to improve border security throughout the country, particularly in the southern Batken region. These efforts included the construction of more modern border point facilities at several locations throughout the country, a program to create central communications between the dispersed border points and several government agencies, the installation of radiation detection equipment at select crossings, and the establishment of a tracking system to monitor the transit of certain dual-use equipment throughout the country.
Kyrgyzstan's military and internal forces worked to improve their counterterrorism capabilities and to expand cooperation with regional partners. With U.S. assistance, the Kyrgyz armed forces continued to build capacity in terms of their facilities and tactical capabilities. U.S. financial support has resulted in the training of dozens of Kyrgyz armed forces personnel, and the establishment of more modern defense facilities. Further, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Defense is in the process of reorganizing their forces to respond more efficiently to perceived threats in the southern region of Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan's under-regulated borders, particularly in the Batken region, have allowed for people and illicit goods to move into and out of the country with a large degree of freedom. Kyrgyz law enforcement still lacked the equipment, manpower, and funding to effectively detect and deter terrorists or terrorist operations in the southern regions of Kyrgyzstan.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), banned as an extremist group in Kyrgyzstan since 2003, is believed by local specialists to have approximately 15,000 members in Kyrgyzstan. These HT members are located primarily among Kyrgyzstan's ethnic Uzbek population in the south, but are reportedly achieving an increased following in the north as well. Kyrgyz officials reported growing support for and bolder public outreach by HT. Supporters of terrorist groups the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were also believed to maintain a presence in Kyrgyzstan, and Kyrgyz authorities alleged that both groups received material support from HT.
While Nepal experienced no significant acts of international terrorism, several incidents of politically-motivated violence occurred across the country. Nepalese voters elected the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), a designated organization on the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL), to lead the government. In response to continued violence by Maoist-affiliated youth, other political parties condoned the use of violence for their youth wings. Unrest in the southern Terai plains increased with the proliferation of numerous armed groups. Nevertheless, the Nepalese government made some headway in counterterrorism efforts, specifically with the passage of anti-money laundering legislation and the arrest of individuals suspected of terrorist ties. U.S. antiterrorism assistance was constrained by the presence of the Maoists within the government.
In April, the Communist Party of Nepal won a plurality of votes in the Constituent Assembly election and went on to create a new coalition government in August. Although the Maoist party ended a ten-year insurgency in 2006 and entered into the interim government in April 2007, factions of the Maoists continued to engage in violence, extortion, and abductions. The Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League, which included former members of the People’s Liberation Army and grew increasingly prominent during 2007, carried on the Maoist militia's tactics of abuse, abduction, murder, intimidation, and extortion in cities and villages.
There were no indications that Nepal was a safe haven for other international terrorists; however, authorities arrested several individuals with suspected ties to Pakistani terrorist organizations using Nepal to transit between Pakistan and India. The interim Parliament passed anti-money laundering legislation in January, which led to the creation of a Financial Information Unit (FIU). Although faced with resource and staffing constraints, the FIU responded favorably to U.S. requests to freeze the assets of individuals and entities involved in the terrorist financing when or if such assets were discovered.
The United States sponsored the attendance of Nepalese security force officers at various international counterterrorism events, and hosted a regional counterterrorism seminar in Kathmandu with participants from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.
International terrorist organizations, including al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its supporters, continued to operate and carry out attacks in Pakistan. Violence stemming from Sunni-Shia sectarian strife, ethnic tensions, and militant sub-nationalists claimed civilian lives. Attacks occurred with greatest frequency in the regions bordering Afghanistan: Balochistan, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but militant attacks continued to grow and target urban centers including Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi.
The coordination, sophistication, and frequency of suicide bombings that increased sharply in 2007, continued to grow in Pakistan in 2008. By November 30, there were already 57 recorded suicide attacks in Pakistan, in comparison to 45 reported attacks in 2007. These suicide attacks often resulted in large numbers of casualties, and several occurred in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Lahore. The attacks targeted high profile government, military, and western-related sites, such as hotels. The most prominent among the attacks this year was the September 20 suicide bombing against the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad where at least 60 people were killed and over 200 injured. Two Americans died in this sophisticated attack aimed at foreigners and Pakistan’s international reputation. Other instances in which Americans were targeted included attacks on an American diplomat and the killing of a USAID contractor, both in Peshawar.
Other high profile bombings in Islamabad have targeted foreigners, including the June 2 bombing of the Danish Embassy and the March 15 bombing of an Italian restaurant where several Americans were injured. In response to these incidents, diplomatic security and police checkpoints surrounding Islamabad have increased significantly.
The majority of suicide attacks across Pakistan have targeted well-protected military and government installations. These attacks included very high profile targets and caused high casualty rates, such as the August 21 bombing of an ammunitions factory at Wah Cantonment killing over 70 people and the March 11 suicide bombings in Lahore targeting the Federal Investigation Agency. In January, the first ever female suicide bomber in Pakistan targeted a police checkpoint in NWFP. Also the newly elected civilian government has been the target of several attacks, specifically the coalition-partner Awami National Party (ANP) in the NWFP. Militants have tried unsuccessfully to kill ANP leaders across NWFP, including ANP Chairman Asfandyar Wali Khan in Charsadda and senior minister Bashir Bilour at the Inter-provincial Games in Peshawar. It is also believed that militants were responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 1007.
Extremists led by Baitullah Mehsud and other AQ-related extremists spread north throughout the FATA with an increased presence in Bajaur and Khyber. In most of the FATA, the militants continued to openly challenge the writ of the state with high levels of violence. In the bordering districts of NWFP, the militants tried to extend their influence by targeting CD shops, barber shops, police stations, and girls’ schools. As the militancy seeped into the settled areas of NWFP this year, small towns such as Nowshera and Kohat saw an increase in suicide attacks.
There was a growing trend of militants garnering support by promising to fill a vacuum left by “ineffective” government structures. Baitullah Mehsud formed the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) in Pakistan in December 2007 as a loose alliance of militants. In 2008, the TTP became the most public signal of broad local militant coordination aimed at attacking Pakistani security forces. TTP was active all over the FATA and NWFP, but specifically in Kurram, Swat, Bajaur, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan. In February, Mehsud called a unilateral ceasefire and the lull in attacks lasted until after the parliamentary elections in, but resumed shortly thereafter. In August, the Government of Pakistan officially banned the TTP and froze its bank accounts. The ban allowed Pakistani security forces to arrest anyone associated with the group. In addition, media outlets were not allowed to broadcast interviews or other interaction with the TTP. The Pakistani government also turned down the TTP’s offer of a ceasefire and peace talks. Militants and related criminal elements increased their direct targeting of individual foreigners, including aid workers, journalists, diplomats, and politicians in the NWFP. Most of the victims were kidnapped for ransom whereas some of the targets were assassinated, such as American citizen and USAID worker Stefan Vance who was killed in Peshawar in November. Other significant attacks included the attempted kidnapping of the Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, the kidnapping of the Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, and the kidnappings of Chinese engineers and Iranian and Afghan diplomats.
Pakistani security services cooperated with the United States and other nations to fight terrorism within Pakistan and abroad. Hundreds of suspected AQ operatives have been killed or captured by Pakistani authorities since September 2001. Pakistan continued to pursue AQ and its allies through nationwide police action and military operations in the FATA and elsewhere. Despite having approximately 80,000 to 100,000 troops in the FATA, including Army and Frontier Corps (FC) units, the Government of Pakistan’s authority in the area continued to be challenged. Pakistani security forces pursued major military operations in South Waziristan, Darra Adam Khel, Bajaur, Khyber, and Swat. The rise of local “lashkars” or tribal militias to combat militants has added some support to Pakistan Army operations.
Despite an increased number of infiltrations across the Line of Control, Pakistan-India relations were improving, with trade opened for the first time in over 60 years, until they were significantly set back by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India in November. These attacks were attributed to the (Pakistan-based) Kashmir terrorist group Laskhar-e-Tayyiba (LT), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and to its fundraising subsidiary, the Jamaat ud-Dawa (JUD), which the Government of Pakistan banned after the UN Security Council listed the group and certain named individuals in the 1267 Sanctions Committee. In response to allegations of involvement by the LT and JUD in the Mumbai attacks, Pakistani officials cracked down on a LT camp in Muzzafarabad and arrested or detained more than 50 LT or JUD leaders in Punjab and elsewhere in Pakistan. Pakistani officials pledged to prosecute all individuals in Pakistan found to be involved in the Mumbai attacks and offered to share intelligence regarding the attacks with the Government of India. President Zardari said non-state actors (terrorists) were operating on Pakistani soil and noted his own wife (Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto assassinated on December 27, 2007) had been a victim of terrorism. The composite dialogue between Pakistan and India was frozen by the Indian government in December, however, contributing to heightened tension between the two governments.
In terrorist financing, Pakistan worked with the UNSCR 1267 Committee to freeze assets of individuals and groups identified as terrorist entities linked to LT/JUD. AQ and the Taliban, however, continued to operate in Pakistan. Despite government efforts to curb illicit financial transactions, unlicensed informal hawalas (money changers) still operated illegally in parts of the country. The informal and secretive nature of the unlicensed hawalas made it difficult for regulators to effectively combat their operations. Most illicit funds were transacted through these unlicensed operators.
The United States and Pakistan engaged in a broad range of cooperative counterterrorism efforts including border security and criminal investigations, as well as several long-term projects. Pakistan is a major recipient of U.S. military and economic assistance. [See Chapter 5, Terrorist Safe Havens (7120 Report) for further information on U.S. Assistance for Pakistan.]
The Sri Lankan government’s offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), killed more than 7,000 people and displaced many thousands more. Effective January 16, the government formally abrogated the 2002 Cease‑Fire Accord (CFA) with the LTTE, and the conflict intensified during the year. The government maintained control of the Eastern Province, and captured the strategic town of Pooneryn in November, placing the entire northwestern coast under government control. The LTTE controlled a significant, although rapidly shrinking section of the north and carried out attacks throughout the country. The Sri Lankan Army remained deployed across the country in all areas it controlled to fight the insurgency. The Special Task Force (STF) police were deployed in the east, north, and in strategic locations in the west.
In 2008, there were at least 70 attacks attributed to the LTTE, including:
- The October assassination by suicide bombing of the leader of the opposition in the North Central Provincial Council retired Major General Janaka Perera, UNP organizer Dr. Raja Johnpulle, and 26 others in Anuradhapura.
- In April, a suicide bomber killed 14 people in Gampaha district including the Minister of Highways Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.
- Other major LTTE attacks included the August air strikes on the naval base in Trincomalee, a combined air-ground assault on a military base in Vavuniya in September, and the October bombings of the Thallady Army camp in Mannar and the Kelanitissa power plant in Colombo.
- The LTTE also targeted public transportation systems. In April, a parcel bomb killed 26 civilians at a bus stand in Colombo.
The government used paramilitary groups to assist its military forces in fighting the LTTE. The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), led by breakaway‑LTTE eastern commanders Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan aka "Karuna" and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthen aka "Pillaiyan," operated mostly in the east. Karuna was appointed a Member of Parliament on October 7; Pillaiyan was elected as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council. The Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, operated in Jaffna.
In 2008, there were numerous killings of civilians by unknown actors suspected of association with the TMVP or the EPDP. The government captured the key town of Pooneryn in November. At the end of the year, government forces and the LTTE were poised to take LTTE’s administrative headquarters at Kilinochchi. The LTTE maintained control of a shrinking section of the north and retained the capacity to mount attacks throughout the country.
The LTTE financed itself with contributions from the Tamil Diaspora in North America, Europe, and Australia, by imposing local "taxes" on businesses operating in the areas of Sri Lanka under its control, and reportedly by extortion in government-controlled areas. The LTTE also used Tamil charitable organizations as fronts for its fundraising. To date, the Sri Lankan Navy has sunk 10 LTTE supply ships; the most recent sinking occurred in June.
The United States has provided training for relevant Sri Lankan government agencies and the banking sector. The Government of Sri Lanka cooperated with the United States to implement both the Container Security Initiative and the Megaports program at the port of Colombo.
As the poorest of the former Soviet countries, the Tajik government’s main impediment to countering terrorism remained its lack of resources. The government, particularly the Border Guards, which are under the State Committee for National Security, lacked appropriate technical equipment, personnel, and training to effectively interdict illegal border crossings and to detect and analyze hazardous substances. Individual border guards and other law enforcement personnel were not motivated to interdict smugglers or traffickers due to systematic corruption, low income, conscripted service, and lack of support from senior Tajik government officials.
As a result, extremists and terrorists may exploit Tajikistan’s border to travel to and from Afghanistan. To address the problem of transshipment of illicit goods across Tajikistan’s borders, the United States and other donors assisted the Government of Tajikistan’s efforts to secure its 1,400 kilometer porous border with Afghanistan. Assistance included a USD five million U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) radio program to improve Border Guard communications capability. DOD held four Counter Narcoterrorism Training (formerly Joint Combined Exchange Training) events with Tajik security forces to improve their capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations.
The Defense Institute for Legal Studies conducted a Response to Terrorism course in Dushanbe that representatives from several ministries attended. Tajikistan also participated in exercise Regional Cooperation 08, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and hosted by Kyrgyzstan. This exercise focused on dealing with terrorism, and strengthened cooperation between the Central Asian countries. The Tajik government also participated in regional security alliances, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Tajikistan prohibited extremist-oriented activities and closely monitored groups it listed as terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Hizbut-Tahrir (HT). The Government of Tajikistan believed that HT, in particular, was active in the northern part of the country. The USG believed that supporters of terrorist groups such as al-Qa’ida (AQ), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), and the IMU were active in the region.
The September 2008 violence in the Khitrovka region of Ashgabat forced the Government of Turkmenistan to reevaluate its counterterrorism program, training partners, and readiness. The Government of Turkmenistan cooperated with a variety of international organizations and partner countries in conducting counterterrorism training events for government personnel, including, for example, canine bomb detection and professional seminars on terrorism and security studies. While the government strictly controlled access into and passage through Turkmenistan at official border crossings and along main roads, clandestine passage was still possible due to long and porous borders that stretch across mountain and desert terrain, as well as the small size and uneven quality of Turkmenistan's border guard and customs services. Turkmenistan's law enforcement and security agencies exert stringent security control over all aspects of society, making it unlikely that Turkmenistan could easily be used as a terrorist safe haven. The government maintained a military-style counterterrorism unit said to have hostage rescue and explosives threat management capability, as well as a Department for the Prevention of Terrorism and Organized Crime in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The government entered the names of individuals and organizations on terrorist financing lists into its banking system.
The Government of Uzbekistan worked aggressively to combat terrorists and terrorist groups. Nevertheless, widespread poverty and the government's repressive security policies created conditions that religious extremists could exploit. The government worked with international organizations and other countries to strengthen border controls in order to combat the transit of goods and people of concern across Uzbekistan's borders. The Government of Uzbekistan also said that it had conducted counterterrorism operations and government-sponsored forums, and state-controlled media warned of the dangers of terrorism and extremism.
The Government of Uzbekistan pursued modest steps in resuming counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. Uzbekistan also agreed to extend overflight rights for commercial aircraft carrying non-lethal supplies contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense, and permitted such overflights of aircraft during 2008.
In April, Uzbekistan joined the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The government also participated in counterterrorism-themed UN Office of Drugs and Crime activities. Uzbekistan hosts the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's Regional Antiterrorist Structure.