Afghanistan – On April 22, a group of up to nine civilian foreign nationals were travelling by helicopter when it was forced to land in the Azra district of the north-eastern Logar Province. Poor weather appears to have made the helicopter land in what is known as Taliban country. Shortly after the helicopter landed, it was surrounded by Taliban militants who took the occupants of the helicopter hostage. It is reported that up to seven of those on board were of Turkish origin (construction workers), two Russians (pilots), and one an Afghan. The United Nations stated that the helicopter did not belong to it. The Taliban claims that it is not holding the occupants of the helicopter.
This is an unfortunate abduction, as it is due to poor weather conditions and it remains to be seen if the Taliban will fulfil the safe return of the occupants of the helicopter. A lot will depend on which organization the captives belong to, and what aid they have been giving to the people of Afghanistan, if the captives worked for a non-governmental organization.
On April 28, the Afghanistan Taliban announced that it would start its spring offensive, which comes as the weather begins to get warmer. There were also reports that more suicide attacks would be carried out. The leaders of the group have stated that, "…every possible tactic will be utilized in order to detain or inflict heavy casualties on the foreign transgressors…" This is presumed to include suicide attacks on military bases and diplomatic areas.
Although 2012 was a very busy period for Taliban attacks, 2013 promises to be even busier as the group prepares to harass the NATO withdrawal. There is no doubt that the Taliban will carry out more attacks, especially against NATO and Afghan security posts and personnel. The Taliban will also waste no time in carrying out the attacks, as it has had a chance to recruit and train over the winter and would have restocked on weapons, ammunition and explosives. Taliban propaganda will be ready to publicize each and every attack in order to show how they not only drove the Russians out of Afghanistan, but also the Americans. “Insider” attacks, along with military bases being attacked, will become more prominent in the coming months. The Afghanistan government is going to have great difficulty as it takes over NATO posts, and attempts to keep the same level of security as NATO maintained. NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will not be easy in the coming months.
China – The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) has been active in the far western Xinjiang area of China, and the Chinese government has also been active against the militant group whose goal is to establish an Islamic state in Xinjiang province. There are still unsubstantiated claims that the group has ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Although very little information about the ETIM and its activity is known, due to media restrictions in the area imposed by the Chinese government, it is clear that the group continues to attempt to set up its Islamic State. The Chinese government claims that ETIM maintains links to al-Qaeda in order to justify its war in Xinjiang.
Pakistan – In the run up to May 11 Parliamentary elections, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan along with its associate militant groups, Harkat-ul Jihad Islami and the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, are attempting to destabilize the elections by making the country unsafe for the people to vote. Numerous attacks have occurred throughout the country during the reporting period, mainly in the Peshawar region, with many deaths as a result of the attacks. Political gatherings and rallies will be priority targets of focus for the militants. The Pakistan government needs to bring security to the country so that it can allow a free election to occur unhindered from terrorism, otherwise the elections will seem meaningless and Pakistan held in ransom by terrorism.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst at 361 Security