Piracy and the importance of the Strait
According to the report from the ICC and IMB, pirates in Southeast Asia hijack a small coastal tanker every two weeks, on average. Recent data shows that from January until June this year, 56 cases of piracy had taken place in the Malacca Strait. Of this number, 21 were cases of suspected piracy, 22 were attempted piracies, and 13 were confirmed piracies.
The ICC and IMB report confirms that Indonesia is the country with the highest number of attacks, accounting for almost 40 per cent in 2015. Vietnam has also seen an increase in armed robbery incidents, with thieves breaking into ships at anchor. Most acts of piracy are carried out by armed gangs, which target small coastal tankers to steal their fuel. The increased frequency of piracy attacks in Southeast Asia can be compared with incidents in Somalia. According to the IMB report, there were zero incidents of piracy for Somalia in the first quarter of 2015. If these figures are accurate, Southeast Asia has now regained the reputation as the worst region in the world for piracy. This will be cause for concern for those who rely on the waters for trade and shipping. Almost a third of global crude oil passes through the South China Sea each year, and over half of global liquefied natural gas (LNG). This is three times more than the oil and gas cargo passing through the Suez Canal. According to a study compiled by the Nippon Maritime Centre, 217 vessels per day transited the Malacca Strait in 2014. This was up from 201 in 2011. Container ships account for 33 per cent of traffic. However, increased demand for oil means that most growth is occurring in very large crude carriers and LNG traffic. There has also been an increase in bulk carrier transits, driven by China’s demand for raw materials and commodities.
The costs of piracy
Calculating the cost of maritime piracy can be difficult. Cost is usually calculated with regards to ransoms paid, increased insurance premiums for shipping, costs of having to re-route vessels, costs associated with obtaining deterrent security equipment or personnel and the cost of naval forces for piracy deterrence. Secondary costs relate to the effects on foreign investment in the affected region or on commodity prices. According to a 2014 maritime piracy report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), piracy costs range from US$1 – 16 billion a year. In 2012, US$31.75 million was paid in ransoms to pirates. Piracy has also affected insurance premiums and coverage. In the past few years, additional premiums paid on cargo transiting piracy regions increased by US$25 to $100 per container. Hull insurance was estimated to have doubled in 2010. The shipping industry pays an estimated US$2.3 to $3 billion per year to re-route ships to avoid piracy prone areas. The cost of deterrence equipment was estimated to range between US$1.65 and $2.06 billion in 2012. Considering these extensive costs, the region cannot afford to allow maritime piracy to go unchecked. The Indonesian Navy’s Western Fleet commander recently stated that the navies of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries are to join forces and hold a joint operation to combat piracy in the region. Without sustained regional cooperation, the economic consequences of piracy are likely to continue to increase.
Afghanistan – A wave of attacks on Afghan army and police bases and an American Special Forces base in Kabul has killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, during the deadliest day in Kabul for years it was reported on the 8 Aug 15. The coordinated attacks took place across the capital on the 7 Aug 15, dimming hopes that the Taliban might be weakened by a leadership struggle after their longtime leader’s death. Buildings close to Camp Integrity – the US Special Forces base, close to Kabul’s airport – were flattened by the huge explosion and damaged during a gunfight lasting several hours. Helicopters buzzed overhead all night, evacuating the injured – which included three Americans. A US Army spokesman would confirm only that two insurgents were killed. The attacks began on Friday shortly after midnight, with a truck bomb that exploded in a heavily populated district of the capital, killing at least 15 and injuring 250. Then a suicide bomber dressed in police uniform attacked a police academy, killing 40 students who had returned from a break in classes. Foreign troops were also deployed in a gun battle near the Counternarcotics Ministry, with foreign troops reportedly sealing off the ministry and taking over from their Afghan colleagues there because foreign advisers were thought to be inside the ministry building. It ended with the battle at Camp Integrity, which saw one NATO soldier and eight civilian contractors killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both the police academy attack and the battle at the US Special Forces base, though not for the truck bomb. And analysts said the series of attacks conveyed a no-compromise message from the Taliban, after last week’s revelation of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death and an ongoing dispute over leadership of the radical Islamist insurgency.
A suicide bomber in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province has killed 29 people, mainly members of illegal armed groups that have clashed with security forces and the insurgents in the past, an Afghan official said on the 9 Aug 15. Heyatullah Amiri, district administrative chief of Khan Abad district, said a suicide bomber on foot targeted a meeting of criminal groups late on the 8 Aug 15. Twenty-five of those killed were members of the armed groups, including four leaders, while the remaining four were civilians, he said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email sent to media. In a separate incident, Taliban insurgents beheaded two local policemen and a civilian in Badakhshan on the 8 Aug. The insurgents accused the three of spying.
A car bomb exploded near the entrance to Kabul airport on the 10 Aug 15, killing at least five people days after a series of suicide attacks in the Afghan capital killed dozens of civilians and wounded hundreds more. The attacks, which follow a change of leadership in the Taliban, have dashed any hopes of an immediate resumption of peace talks with the government and suggest new leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour intends to send a message that there will be no letup in the insurgency. They have also stoked tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, the base of many leaders of the hard-line Islamist Taliban movement, according to many in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani, who has made improving relations with Pakistan a priority on the grounds it may push the Taliban into peace talks, said that Islamabad had to act to cut off the bomb making factories and suicide training camps being run from its side of the border. “We hoped for peace, but war is declared against us from Pakistani territory; this in fact puts into a display a clear hostility against a neighbouring country,” he said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday’s suicide attack in a crowded area outside an airport checkpoint, saying it was targeting “foreign forces”. A security official at the scene said the attack appeared to have been aimed at two armoured cars, although it was not clear who was in the vehicles. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the occupants of the two targeted vehicles were foreigners and had all been killed. He denied that any Afghan civilians died in the attack. The heavily fortified Afghan capital was already on high alert following last week’s attacks. Pakistan denies sponsoring the Taliban, but Ghani’s calls reflect the growing pressure he faces at home to stem an insurgency. “Our relation with Pakistan is based on our national interests, on top of which comes security and safety of our people,” he said. “If our people continue to be killed, relations lose meaning and I hope it will not happen.” But Ghani did not entirely shut the door on resuming dialogue with the Taliban if it stopped the violence. “We will make peace only with those who believe in the meaning of being a human, Muslim and Afghan and who do not destroy their own country on order from foreign masters,” he said.
Australia – Islamic State has hacked the personal information of Australian Defence Force employees and their relatives, a Victorian MP, and several public servants, and urged home-grown terrorists to attack them in an online breach it was reported on the 12 Aug 15. Many of the Australians whose mobile phone numbers, email addresses, online passwords, and home suburbs were published had no idea their safety had been compromised until contacted by Fairfax Media on the 12 Aug 15. Islamic State bragged for hours on social media about the dump of information relating to more than 1400 people, most of them supposedly US military personnel, and accompanied it with a terrifying call-to-arms. But Australian authorities were caught on their heels, with Defence personnel and the Victorian MP among those who were unaware of the hack. This is despite Australia's most senior Islamic State militant, former Melbourne man and terror recruiter Neil Prakash, posting links to the information on social media about 4.30am on the 12 Aug. A message from the Islamic State Hacking Division, which accompanied the spreadsheet of personal details, warned: "know that we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move. We have your names and addresses, we are in your social media accounts. "We are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the khilafah [caliphate], who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!" Fairfax Media found the details of at least eight Australians in the list, including a mother who is employed by the ADF, a Victorian MP, employees or former employees of NSW Health, and an Australian National Audit Office employee. The brother of a Defence force employee and a former Army reservist were also compromised. Fairfax Media will not publish the names of those on the list. Half of those whose information had been leaked – including the MP, a Defence employee, the former reservist, and the relative of a Defence employee – confirmed they had first learnt about the breach when contacted by Fairfax Media. The numbers published on the spreadsheet were used to contact them. The Victorian MP said he had contacted the security detail tasked with protecting parliamentarians and was concerned about his family's welfare. Prakash, a former attendee of the Al-Furqan Islamic Centre in Springvale South, urged his Twitter followers to share the hacked information, also tweeting "cyber war got em shook!".
India – On the 3 Aug 15 The British daily newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that India has signed a peace agreement with a leading tribal separatist group in country's remote northeast that had waged guerrilla war for six decades against central rule from New Delhi. Officials from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government signed the accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) on the 3 Aug concluding peace talks that began in 1997. "We are making a new beginning today ... 60 years is a long time of fighting, the wounds are deep," Mr Modi said at a televised news conference alongside the NSCN-IM secretary-general Thuingaleng Muivah, a co-founder of the rebel group. NSCN-IM is one of several separatist groups active in the remote and underdeveloped northeastern region bordering on China, Burma, Bangladesh and Bhutan. It has been fighting for an independent ethnic Naga homeland uniting parts of the mountainous northeast with areas of neighbouring Burma, where it runs a government-in-exile. At least one other Naga faction remains at war with New Delhi. The terms of the agreement were not immediately known. Mr Modi's government has said it wants to develop the region, which has long felt neglected by the rest of the country, by pumping in development funds and building better infrastructure. "Since becoming prime minister, peace, security and economic transformation of the northeast have been among my highest priorities. It is also at the heart of my foreign policy, especially Act East," Mr Modi said, referring to efforts to forge closer ties with Southeast Asia. Militants in the northeast have stepped up attacks against India's armed forces this year. Guerrillas killed 20 soldiers in Manipur state, which borders Nagaland, in Jun 15 in the deadliest attack on security forces in the area in two decades. The unrest has killed more than 170 people, most of them militants, in the northeast this year, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Last year, 465 people were killed. Militant violence is declining across India, but the country is still fighting separatists in disputed Kashmir state in the northeast, as well as Maoist-inspired groups operating across a swathe of the east. "Our oldest, insurgency is getting resolved, it is a signal to other smaller groups to give up weapons," Mr Modi at the signing ceremony in his official residence.
National Socialist Council of Nagaland
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K) was formed on the 30th April 1988, after an assassination attempt on the General Secretary of what emerged as the rival group – NSCN (IM) – Thuingaleng Muivah. Clannish divisions among the Nagas (Konyaks and Tangkhuls) were the primary reason behind the split of the NSCN in 1988. The Konyaks formed the NSCN-K (Khaplang) under the leadership of Khole Konyak and S S Khaplang. The Tangkhul faction, the NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah), was led by Isak Chisi Swu and T. Muivah. The primary objective of the NSCN-K was the establishment of a ‘greater Nagaland’ comprising of the Naga dominated areas of the neighbouring States within India, and contiguous areas in Myanmar. For generation of finance, the group reportedly indulged in kidnapping, extortion and other terrorist activities. The NSCN-K accounted for 62 civilian and 26 security forces’ fatalities during the period 1992 to 2000, and lost 245 of its men over this period. The group was reported to have training camps and its headquarters in Myanmar.
Pakistan/Islamic State – A social media account linked to the Islamic State recently tweeted out two photos purporting to show a training camp in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas it was reported in the LWJ on the 3 Aug 15. The images cannot be independently confirmed by The Long War Journal, however, the Islamic State’s Wilayat Khorasan [Khorasan Province], which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is known to operate training camps right across the border in Afghanistan. In one tweet, the Islamic State supporter said that a “Caravan of Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan pledged allegiance to the Islamic State Wilayat Khorasan.” It is not clear if the camp is located in North or South Waziristan, but the photos show the fighters in a heavily mountainous area, within a compound on the mountainside. The banner shown in the photos reads “Shahid Hakeemullah Mehsud camp, Islamic State.” The references to Baitullah Mehsud, the founder of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Hakeemullah Mehsud, the group’s previous emir, indicates that the Islamic State fighters in Waziristan likely defected from the Mehsud branch of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Both Baitullah and Hakeemullah were killed in US drone strikes. While the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province has absorbed disaffected members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, it has yet to establish a permanent presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. If the images released by the Islamic State supporter are legitimate, then the Khorasan province now has a foothold in Waziristan, the epicenter of al Qaeda’s base of support in Pakistan. The Islamic State has been in competition with al Qaeda for the mantle of leadership in the global jihad, and the establishment of the Khorasan Province is a direct threat to both al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Russia/Caucasus – The Islamic Caucasus Emirate (ICE) has lost its third emir in just over a year and half. Magomed Suleimanov, also known as Abu Usman Gimrinsky, was publicly announced as the group's leader on the 1 Jul 15. Just over a month later, Russian counterterrorism forces killed him it was reported on the 11 Aug 15.
Turkey – Two soldiers were killed and two others wounded on the 4 Aug 15 in southeast Turkey when a mine exploded in an attack blamed on militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), security sources said. Kurdish militants detonated a remote-control mine when a military convoy passed in the Arakoy region of Sirnak province bordering Iraq and Syria, the sources said. The explosion triggered clashes between Turkish soldiers and PKK rebels, they said, confirming a report by the official Anatolia news agency. The attack was blamed on the PKK, which has stepped up attacks against the security forces in the last two weeks as Turkish warplanes bomb its positions in northern Iraq. The spiral of violence sparked by the killing of 32 pro-Kurdish activists last month in a town on the Syrian border by suspected Islamic State militants has left a 2013 ceasefire between Ankara and the PKK in tatters. According to an AFP toll, 19 members of the Turkish security forces have been killed in attacks blamed on the PKK since the current crisis began.
Following recent developments concerning Turkey's role in the war against ISIS, the country has become an object for threats and propaganda assaults by ISIS operatives and online supporters, who now openly call for attacks on Turkey and for the establishment of an ISIS presence there. They are also speaking of Turkey as a future target for ISIS's expansion. This trend marks a stark change in the rhetoric from the pro-ISIS camp, which has generally ignored Turkey. There are several reasons for this change: First, Turkey has escalated its involvement in the conflict against ISIS. On the 23 Jul 15, it was announced that Turkey had allowed the U.S. to launch airstrikes from Turkish soil, and on the 24 Jul 15, Turkish warplanes bombed ISIS positions in Syria for the first time. Turkey has also announced its intention to form a "safe zone" on its border with Syria.
Two attackers opened fire on the U.S. consulate building in Istanbul on Monday while 10 people were injured in a car bombing at a police station overnight; weeks after Turkey launched what it described as a "synchronized war on terror". Police armed with automatic rifles cordoned off streets around the U.S. consulate in the Sariyer district on the European side of the city, following the gun attack there. Local media reports said two attackers, one man and one woman, fled after police fired back. There were no immediate reports of civilian injuries. Broadcaster NTV said police later detained the female suspect, who was wounded in the gunfire. Overnight, a vehicle laden with explosives was used in the attack on the police station in the Istanbul district of Sultanbeyli at around 0100 hrs on the 10 Aug 15 injuring three police officers and seven civilians, police said. Broadcaster CNN Turk said two gunmen and a senior officer from the police bomb squad, who rushed to the scene, were killed in a firefight that continued into Monday morning in the district on the Asian side of the Bosphorus waterway dividing Istanbul. U.S. diplomatic missions have been targeted in Turkey in the past. The far-leftist Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C), whose members are among those detained in recent weeks, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the U.S. embassy in Ankara in 2013 which killed a Turkish security guard. The Istanbul Governor’s Office said one of the assailants, who attacked the well-guarded US Consulate in Istanbul’s Sariyer district on the 10 Aug 15 went by the name Hatice Asik, and was a member of the far-leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C). She was later detained after being injurted in a clash with police near the consulate building. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital, where she received treatment amid tight security measures. Asik had spent three years in jail for DHKP-C membership, and had been released from prison on the 8 Jul 15. Police sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the middle-aged woman was known by the alias Hulya, and had been designated as a potential bomber by the far-left group. The second female assailant managed to escape after the consulate attack. Yuksek said police demanded that the women, who were carrying bags, surrender, but one of them replied, “I will never surrender to you. We’ve come here to take revenge for Suruc.” On the 20 Jul 15 a deadly bomb attack attributed to Takfiri Daesh (ISIL) militants left 32 people dead in the south-eastern Turkish town of Suruc, across the border from the northern Syrian town of Kobani. On the 31 Mar 15 DHKP-C gunmen raided the sixth floor of the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul and took prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage. Kiraz was investigating the killing of Berkin Elvan, who died on the 11 Mar 14 after spending 269 days in a coma due to injuries inflicted by police in early summer 2013. The prosecutor succumbed to the injuries sustained during a six-hour hostage drama in which security forces killed the man’s two captors.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the 12 Aug 15 vowed to fight on against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, in the face of mounting attacks on security forces blamed on the Kurdish rebels. "Let me put it clearly, the operations will continue," he said in a televised speech in Ankara, as Turkey presses on with air strikes on PKK targets in the country's southeast and in northern Iraq. "We will never stop in the face of all these attacks. We will continue to fight with determination," he added. Erdogan vowed "no concessions" in the fight against "terror", saying: "A state subjected to an armed attack has the right to defend yourselves with arms." Turkey is currently pressing a two-pronged "anti-terror" offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Syria and PKK militants following a wave of attacks.
But, so far, the air strikes have overwhelmingly concentrated on the separatist Kurdish rebels, to the frustration of Western commentators who want to see Turkey ramp up its involvement in the fight against ISIS. The state-run Anatolia news agency reported over the weekend that so far 390 "terrorists" had been killed in the campaign against the PKK. But the Kurdish rebels have hit back, leaving a 2013 truce declared by the PKK in tatters. According to a toll, 29 members of the security forces have been killed in violence linked to the PKK since the current crisis began. Erdogan called on the PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international community, to law down arms and bury them "under concrete". Until it did so, the Turkish state would continue its offensive, he said.
Officials and reports say police in Turkey have detained a would-be Kurdish rebel suicide bomber and rounded up 12 suspected Islamic State militants as it presses ahead with a crackdown on terror groups. The regional governor's office said police on the 12 Aug 15 detained a militant of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who it claimed planned an attack in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. The state-run Anadolu Agency reported, meanwhile, that police conducted raids in Ankara and three other cities, detaining at least 13 people suspected of links to Islamic State extremists.
Ukraine – The security services of Ukraine say they have seized a small quantity of ore-grade uranium from a criminal gang in the western part of the country, Homeland Security reported on the 6 Aug 15. The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said the group had been trying to sell the uranium-238 isotope to an unknown client when they were arrested. The police arrested the suspects on the 5 Aug 15, and the arrest was immediately reported to the president, Petro Poroshenko. “Four members of a criminal group that was trying to sell the nuclear material were detained with the evidence in hand,” Interfax quoted an SBU statement as saying. “According to preliminary information, the nuclear matter was uranium-238.” The U-238 isotope is the most commonly occurring in nature and it is radioactive, but it is not fissile so it cannot be used directly to create a nuclear chain reaction or explosion. The Guardian reports that Ukrainian media has recently reported of speculations about pro-Russian rebels’ ability to develop a “dirty” bomb which would use conventional explosives to scatter lethal radioactive fallout. When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991 and the Red Army hastily, and in a disorganized fashion, withdrew from Ukraine , Ukraine found itself in possession of a small nuclear arsenal which was left behind. After lengthy negotiations, Ukraine agreed to return the nuclear warheads to Russia in exchange for a generous economic aid package from the United States. Ukraine, however, still has nuclear materials storage facilities and disposal sites for nuclear waste from nuclear power reactors. The Ukrainian authorities that the uranium was seized in a region in the heart of Ukraine’s nationalistic west, which has been untouched by the 16-month separatist war to the east.
Uzbekistan – Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) on Friday announced its decision to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) terror group a report claimed on the 7 Aug 15. In a video statement the IMU’s leader Usmon Ghazi took an oath of allegiance to IS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The IMU leader was seen in the video claiming that they were not just an organisation or a group, but a state. Although the video showed scenes from Afghanistan, the precise location of where the video was shot could not be ascertained. Ghazi had also issued a statement last year in which he declared his support to IS, however, he had not pledged his allegiance to the terror group then. The statement comes in the wake of news about the death of Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Omar. Another militant leader, Sadullah Urgenji had issued a video statement in Mar 15 pledging his allegiance to the IS. A number of militant groups in Afghanistan have flocked to pledge their allegiance to IS, posing a challenge to the Afghan Taliban.