Afghanistan/Taliban/Spring Offensive – The Afghan Taliban will target foreign forces in the country, the group said on the 28 Apr 17 as they announced the 28 Apr 17 the start of their spring offensive. “The key objective... will be the foreign forces, their military infrastructure and intelligence, and the elimination of their local mercenaries,” the extremist group said in a statement. “The enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed or captured until they abandon their last posts.” Operation Mansouri - named after the group’s former leader who was killed in a US drone strike in May 16 - will use strategies from “conventional attack to guerrilla operations”, the statement said. Followers were told they can be “suicide attacks, complex attacks and inside attacks” by soldiers or police turning against their peers. The announcement came after the Taliban killed scores of people in a raid on an army base in northern Afghanistan, one of its deadliest assaults on a military installation since the 2001 US-led invasion. Authorities have arrested 35 soldiers who served on the sprawling base, home to the 209th Army Corps, outside the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The defence ministry says 135 recruits were killed and 64 wounded in the raid. Unofficial sources say the toll was higher.
India/Maoists – Suspected Maoist rebels have killed at least 24 paramilitary soldiers on the 24 Apr 17 in a remote part of central India, a police official said the latest attack in a simmering internal conflict. The soldiers were guarding road workers in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh state when they came under fire. The rebels fired from hilltops at the group of soldiers, police officer Jitendra Shukla said. Local media reported that at least six commandos had been critically injured and were being airlifted to safety. The attack is the latest in a long-running conflict between insurgents and Indian authorities in the forests and rural areas of mainly central and eastern India. "We have recovered 23 bodies from the spot and one jawan (soldier) died in Raipur during treatment," Anand Chhabra, a senior police officer in restive Chhattisgarh said referring to the state capital. Last month Maoist rebels killed 11 paramilitary policemen in the same state after ambushing their convoy. The rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and landless farmers, often collect funds through extortion. They say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and have been fighting for more than three decades in central and eastern India, staging hit-and-run attacks to press their demand for a greater share of wealth and more jobs for the poor. The Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 states but are most active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
India/Kashmir – At least three Indian soldiers and two suspected rebels were killed in Indian-administered Kashmir after fighters stormed a military camp close to the heavily militarised Line of Control dividing the disputed region, Indian officials said on the 27 Apr 17. The fighters used guns and grenades to target soldiers in Panzgam, northwest of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, said army spokesman Rajesh Kalia. A group of at least three fighters hurled grenades and fired automatic weapons at the sentry of the highly guarded army camp, a police officer said. Two fighters were killed in an ensuing gunfight while another was believed to have escaped, the officer said. He confirmed that three soldiers, including an army officer, were killed and said that five soldiers were wounded in the attack and had been airlifted to the Indian army's main base in Srinagar for specialised treatment. There was no independent confirmation of the incident and no rebel group fighting against Indian rule has immediately issued any statement. Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and is now principally expressed through street protests marked by youths hurling stones at government forces. Street protests flared in recent weeks as thousands of Kashmiris vented anger against alleged abuses by Indian forces after a video emerged of a local man tied to the front of an army jeep and used as a human shield. In an attempt to contain the protests and limit the circulation of videos, India on the 26 Apr 17 said it would block 22 social media websites in Kashmir for a month.
North Korea/United States – North Korea said on the 23 Apr 17 it was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a US carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific. US President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean Peninsula in response to rising tension over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies. The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. US Vice President Mike Pence said on the 22 Apr 17 it would arrive "within days" but gave no other details. North Korea remained defiant. "Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary. The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a "gross animal" and said a strike on it would be "an actual example to show our military's force". The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a pig farm. Speaking during a visit to Greece, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there were already enough shows of force and confrontation at present and appealed for calm. "We need to issue peaceful and rational sounds," Wang said, according to a statement issued by China's foreign ministry. Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a Korean-American man in his fifties on Friday, bringing the total number of US citizens held by Pyongyang to three. The man, Tony Kim, had been in North Korea for a month teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the institution's chancellor Chan Mo-park told Reuters. He was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport on his way out of the country. North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on the 25 Apr 17. It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States. It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions. North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump. He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike. North Korea says its nuclear programme is for self-defence and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on the 21 Apr 17 North Korea's recent statements were provocative, but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted. "We've all come to hear their words repeatedly; their word has not proven honest," Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier. Japan's show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads. Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack. Japan's navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China's. The two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on the 21 Apr 17 to join the Carl Vinson and will "practice a variety of tactics" with the US strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement. The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place, but by the 23 Apr 17 the destroyers could have reached an area 2,500km south of Japan, which would be east of the Philippines. From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean Peninsula. Japan's ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said. US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against. South Korea has put its forces on heightened alert. China, North Korea's sole major ally, opposes Pyongyang's weapons programmes and has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension. Last Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea", after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty pre-emptive strike".
Pakistan/Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – Former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman and senior leader of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Ehsanullah Ehsan has turned himself in to Pakistan’s security forces, according to Pakistani daily Dawn on the 17 Apr 17. “The people, the state and the institutions of Pakistan have made considerable progress in the betterment of the country’s security situation. We have progressed to the point that the people who’ve been planning attacks on Pakistan’s soil from across the border have started to see the error of their ways,” Director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor announced on the 17 Apr 17. “There can be no bigger achievement for Pakistan than the fact that our biggest enemies are now turning themselves in,” he added. Ehsanullah Ehsan was a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban until 2013. Ehsan and other former commanders of Pakistan’s Taliban – such as Omar Khorasani – branched off and formed an offshoot in Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which claimed several deadly attacks across the country.
Pakistan – A roadside bomb targeting a bus has killed at least 10 people in the north-western Pakistani district of Kurram, local officials say. The explosion occurred in central Kurram as the vehicle travelled to the town of Sadda, about 250km west of the capital Islamabad, early on the 25 Apr 17, Majidullah, a local administration official, said. "There were about 23 passengers in the van, and there was a bomb placed on the roadside near the village of Godar, he said, adding that at least 13 people were also wounded. Kurram is located along Pakistan's north-western border with Afghanistan, and has seen a series of attacks in recent days, often targeting the district's sizeable Shia Muslim minority. The Pakistani Taliban's Jamaat ur Ahrar faction has claimed responsibility for the attack. In response to the latest spate of attacks, Kurram's residents have formed tribal militias to work with Pakistan's security forces to secure the area. They have dug trenches around Parachinar, as well as establishing bunkers at strategic locations. This area, however, had no increased security, according to local official Majidullah. "This area is in central Kurram - there is no increased security there," he said.
Philippines/Abu Sayyaf – A Filipino soldier kidnapped last week in the southern Philippines by Abu Sayyaf fighters was found beheaded hours after government troops killed three more members of the ISIL-linked group in a clash elsewhere. The head of Sergeant Anni Siraji of the Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion was found 50 metres away from his body in Patikul town in Sulu, Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said. Sobejana said Siraji was probably abducted and executed because of his involvement in peace initiatives in Sulu. "He is involved in peace efforts. He is not actually a combatant. We are using him to engage stakeholders because he is a Tausug [like most Abu Sayyaf]," he said. Earlier on the 23 Apr 17 the military said troops had killed three more Abu Sayyaf fighters on the resort island of Bohol where they were hiding after a failed attempt to kidnap tourists. The military was pursuing two or three more insurgents still at large in Bohol, a long way to the north of their strongholds in the far south of the predominately Christian country. "We have reports indicating that they were also wounded and running out of supplies," said Colonel Edgard Arevalo, chief of the military's public affairs office. A group of about 10 fighters infiltrated Bohol this month. Western countries have issued travel warnings about visiting the island. Six were killed in a clash on the 11 Apr 17 and one last week. Among those killed was their leader, who had been involved in the kidnap and execution of Canadian and German nationals in recent months, the Philippine military has said.
Philippines/Abu Sayyaf – Philippine government troops have killed a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group instrumental in a spree of bombings and kidnappings in the country's south, the military said on the 29 Apr 17. Alhabsy Misaya was killed in a shootout with marines on the 28 Apr 17 in the province of Sulu, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to Islamic State and known for its kidnappings and beheading captives when ransom demands are not met. The military said Misaya had been involved in violent activities for more than 15 years and was "considered to be one of the most notorious kidnappers in the southern Philippines". The government says it is making inroads in crushing the rebels in a bid to arrest the piracy and prevent Islamic State from taking root in the restive region close to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Russia/Da’esh – The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the 21 Apr 17 on an office of Russia's main domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, in the country's Far East, a US-based monitoring group said. Amaq News Agency, an IS propaganda arm, made the claim in a brief report in Arabic distributed on the social media application Telegram that cited a "security source." According to the text translated into English by the SITE monitoring group, the source said an IS "fighter" attacked an FSB office in Khabarovsk, killing three people and wounding others. Russian officials say two people were killed in the incident -- an FSB employee and a civilian. One other person was reported wounded. The assailant was shot dead, the FSB said, adding: "There is information about his belonging to a neo-Nazi group." The Amaq report came one day after the Islamic State group claimed an attack in Paris that left a policeman dead and two other officers wounded. Deadly attacks on Russian law enforcement officials are rare outside the country's volatile North Caucasus region. The country has seen significant support for far-right groups that have sparked brutal confrontations with immigrants from the former Soviet region. Russia has been on heightened alert since an alleged suicide bomb attack on the metro in the second city of Saint Petersburg on April 3 left 15 people dead.
Russia – Russia became the world’s third largest military spender in 2016 despite low oil prices and economic sanctions, as the global expenditure rose for a second consecutive year, a study said on the 24 Apr 17. Russia’s military spending was $69.2 billion (around 64 billion euros) in 2016, a 5.9 percent rise over 2015, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report, adding this was the highest proportion of its GDP since it became an independent state. “This increased spending and heavy burden on the economy comes at a time when the Russian economy is in serious trouble due to low oil and gas prices and the economic sanctions imposed since 2014,” (by the West over the Ukraine conflict), SIPRI said. Saudi Arabia was the third largest spender in 2015 but dropped to fourth place in 2016 as its expenditure fell by 30 percent to $63.7 billion, “despite its continued involvement in regional wars”, it added. “Falling oil revenue and associated economic problems attached to the oil-price shock has forced many oil-exporting countries to reduce military spending,” SIPRI researcher Nan Tian said, adding Saudi Arabia had the largest drop in spending between 2015 and 2016. The US remained the top spender as its expenditure grew by 1.7 percent between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion while China boosted its expenditure by 5.4 percent to $215 billion, a lower rate than in previous years. SIPRI said the rise in US military spending in 2016 “may signal the end of a trend of decreases in spending” caused by the 2008 economic crisis and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. “Future spending patterns remain uncertain due to the changing political situation in the USA,” Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) program, said in a statement. Hit by a series of terror attacks since 2015, Western Europe raised its military expenditure for the second consecutive year, up by 2.6 percent in 2016. Overall military spending in Central Europe jumped by 2.4 percent in 2016. “The growth in spending by many countries in Central Europe can be partly attributed to the perception of Russia posing a greater threat,” said senior SIPRI researcher Siemon Wezeman in the statement. “This is despite the fact that Russia’s spending in 2016 was only 27 per cent of the combined total of European NATO members,” he added.
Russia/United States/Taliban – The United States must confront Russia for providing weapons to the Taliban for use against US-backed forces in Afghanistan, top US military officials say. According to the Associated Press news agency, a senior US military official said in Kabul on the 24 Apr 17 that Russia was giving machine guns and other medium-weight weapons to the group. The Taliban are using those weapons in Afghanistan's southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, the official said. General John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, would not provide specifics about Russia's role in Afghanistan at a news conference in Kabul alongside Jim Mattis, the US defence secretary. But Nicolson would "not refute" that Moscow's involvement includes giving weapons to the Taliban. Asked about Russia's activity in Afghanistan, where it fought a bloody war in the 1980s and withdrew in defeat, Mattis alluded to the US' increasing concerns. "We'll engage with Russia diplomatically," Mattis said. "But we're going to have to confront Russia where what they're doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries." "For example," Mattis said in the Afghan capital, "any weapons being funnelled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law." Russia denies that it provides any such support to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until the US-led invasion in 2001. Moscow says contact is limited to safeguarding security and getting the group to reconcile with the government - which Washington has failed for years to advance. Russia has also promoted easing global sanctions on Taliban leaders who prove cooperative. The Afghanistan war began in October 2001. The US has about 9,800 troops in the country. They ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014, but are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.
Russia/Da’esh – Russia's FSB security service said on the 26 Apr 17 it had foiled an attack by supporters of the Islamic State group on the far eastern island of Sakhalin, an oil and gas hub. The FSB said in a statement it had detained two alleged IS supporters on Sakhalin who were planning "to commit a high-profile terrorist attack in a crowded place," RIA Novosti news agency reported. Sakhalin island is located in the Pacific Ocean north of Japan and its rich oil and gas fields have drawn billions of dollars of investment from Russian gas giant Gazprom, Shell and others. The security service said house searches of those detained on Sakhalin had found a homemade explosive device and cell phones with instructions on how to make bombs on them. The FSB said one of the men detained was a "citizen of one of the Central Asian republics", meaning the five ex-Soviet majority-Muslim "stans" Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, while the other is a Russian citizen. The detentions come as Russia has focused on the threat from jihadists originating from ex-Soviet Central Asia following this month's attack on Saint Petersburg metro that killed 15 and has been blamed on a suicide bomber born in Kyrgyzstan. They also come after IS claimed responsibility for an attack on the FSB office in the Russian far eastern city of Khabarovsk last week that killed two. However, authorities denied any link to the jihadists and said the assailant, a 17-year-old ethnic Russian who was shot dead, had ties to neo-Nazis.