Follow-on Report – The ISIS group on the 8 Mar 17 claimed responsibility for the attack on Afghanistan's largest military hospital in the capital Kabul on the 8 Mar 17. The claim was issued via ISIS’s news outlet Aamaq, which said that “ISIS commandos have attacked the military hospital in Kabul.” Amaq did not provide any other details on the ongoing assault. The group’s so-called Khorasan Province, which covers Afghanistan and Pakistan, has recently stepped up its activity in both countries. Amaq issued its claim through its outlets on the messaging app Telegram.
Afghanistan/Taliban – Eight policemen were killed by their colleagues after they were poisoned in their base in southern Afghanistan in the latest "insider attack". The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, which happened in Nawshar district of southern Zabul province late on the 10 Mar 17 as the group escalates a winter campaign of violence. "The infiltrators first poisoned their colleagues and then shot them dead," provincial spokesman Gul Islam Seyal said on 11 Mar 17, adding the attackers fled the area taking all the weapons and munitions from the base. The governor of Zabul, Bismillah Afghanmal, said they had launched an investigation into the incident. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a message to the media that the group's "infiltrators" carried out the attack. The Reuters news agency, quoting local officials, said the attackers defected to Taliban. So-called insider attacks - when Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on their colleagues or on international troops - have been a major problem during the more than 15-year-long war. Such attacks have sapped morale and caused deep mistrust within security ranks. Separately on Saturday, gunmen attacked a military airbase in the eastern province of Khost. Faizullah Ghairat, security chief of Khost province, said three assailants attacked the base, close to the border with Pakistan. One was killed while two others escaped, he said. The attackers tried to enter the base but were prevented by guards. The incident comes just before the normal start of the spring fighting season, when the warmer weather brings increased operations by both rebel and government forces. Afghan and US officials have warned that Afghanistan will see increased fighting this year as the Taliban steps up a campaign that has cut the area controlled by the government to below 60 percent. Earlier this week, the head of US Central Command, General Joseph Votel, asked for more American troops to join the roughly 8,400 already stationed there. The Afghan interior ministry said over the past 25 hours, security forces had killed 51 fighters in counterterrorism operations across Afghanistan.
Afghanistan – Gunmen attacked a military air base in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, officials said on the 11 mar 17. Khost police spokesman Faizullah Ghairat said that three terrorists had attacked the base, close to the border with Pakistan. One had been killed, while two others were still holding out at the time of the announcement, he said. There was no immediate comment from the headquarters of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul. The incident comes just ahead of the normal start of the spring fighting season, when warmer weather brings increased operations by both insurgents and government forces. Afghan and US officials have warned that Afghanistan will see increased fighting this year as the Taliban steps up an insurgency which has cut the area controlled by the government to below 60 percent. The Afghan interior ministry said that over the past 25 hours, security forces had killed 51 armed terrorists in counter-terrorism operations across Afghanistan. 361 COMMENT: Judging by the recent attacks in Afghanistan the Taliban are not waiting to announce the spring offensive but appear to have started early. This will not bode well for Afghanistan and especially in light of what Afghan and US officials have warned that Afghanistan will see increased fighting this year as the Taliban steps up a campaign that has cut the area controlled by the government to below 60 percent. They will be keen to grow on their gains/territory and be prepared to keep it as Afghan forces fail to keep ground fought for against the Taliban. This will also not do the United States well especially after the Obama government handed back the country. Afghanistan like Iraq was not ready for a transition but required much needed help for some years to come. It remains to be seen what the Taliban have planned for the spring offensive to come, the response by the Afghan President and more importantly how the Americans will respond not more so than the American voting public. COMMERNT ENDS
India/Pakistan/Da’esh – An offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group based near the Afghan-Pakistan border is expanding to new areas, recruiting fighters and widening the reach of attacks in the region, members of the movement and Afghan officials said on the 2 Mar 17. Some members of the so-called "Khorasan Province" of ISIL, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the recent attack on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan that killed 90 people, and ISIL gunmen were blamed for the deaths of six local aid workers in the north of the country, far from their stronghold in eastern Afghanistan. Any expansion would pose a new challenge for US President Donald Trump, as he considers how many American troops to keep in Afghanistan where the main security threat remains the Taliban insurgency. Trump has vowed to "totally destroy" the Middle East-based ISIL, yet has spoken little of Afghanistan, where US forces have been posted for 15 years. Now he has not only the Taliban to consider, but also fighters swearing allegiance to ISIL, although US officials are generally less alarmed about its presence in Afghanistan than local officials. "Da’esh is not only a threat for Afghanistan but for the region and the whole world," said Shah Hussain Mortazawi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani's office. The extent of direct operational links between ISIL in Afghanistan and the Middle East remains unclear, although most fighters in the "Khorasan Province" are Afghans, Pakistanis or Central Asians. ISIL is suspected of carrying out several attacks on minority Shia Muslim targets in Afghanistan, and the February suicide bombing at the Pakistani shrine bore some of the hallmarks of the sectarian group. Known as the worst armed group assault in Pakistan for two years indicated that a group based in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar could strike deep into Pakistan territory. "Islamic State has no proper base in Pakistan, but it has sympathizers and links in Pakistan," one member of the group said based in Afghanistan. "Mostly the attackers and suicide bombers enter from Afghanistan to Pakistan." Western and Afghan security officials believe fighters frequently switch allegiances between armed groups, making it difficult to know who is to blame for violence. "Sometimes the Taliban commanders defect to Da’esh and sometimes the other way around," said Mohammad Zahir Wahdat, governor of the northern Afghan province of Sar-i-Pul, where ISIL and Taliban fighters are believed to be active. "The situation is very unclear." The top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, said US drone strikes and special forces operations had killed about a third of ISIL fighters in Afghanistan and cut their territory by two thirds. US officials say intelligence suggests ISIL is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighbouring Kunar province. They are sceptical about reports of an increased ISIL presence in the northwest, where gunmen may claim a connection to the group to boost their standing. "Certainly if you're a local official who's looking for more resources, by saying that ISIS is in your area, you're going to get more attention," said Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the main US military spokesman in Kabul. Nicholson, who has asked for thousands more troops in Afghanistan, said counter-terrorism forces planned a series of operations in 2017 to defeat ISIL in Afghanistan "and preclude the migration of terrorists from Iraq and Syria into Afghanistan". Estimating numbers is difficult. Cleveland said US officials believe the movement has only 700 fighters, but Afghan officials estimate it has around 1,500, with twice as many auxiliary helpers and up to 8,000 less active supporters. Those officials say fighters from Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan have come to Afghanistan, while fighters forced across the border by Pakistani military operations also gravitated towards ISIL. A US drone strike last year killed former local ISIL leader Hafiz Saeed Khan, once a member of the Pakistani Taliban. Several Afghan security officials believe a former Afghan Taliban commander, Abdul Haseeb Logari, has replaced him. ISIL began to be noticed in the region in early 2015, when loyalists took on the Taliban and al-Qaeda in a bid to become the leading rebel group, using tactics that stood out for their brutality.
India/Maoists – Suspected Maoist rebels have killed 11 paramilitary commandos on the 11 Mar 17 in a remote part of central India after ambushing their convoy, police said, the latest attack in a simmering internal conflict. The troops were on their way to provide protection to workers for a road construction project when the gunmen attacked, a senior police officer of the restive Chhattisgarh state said. The assault is the latest in a deadly conflict that pits the fighters against local and national authorities in the forests and rural areas of mainly central and eastern India. The armed group, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and landless farmers, often collect funds through extortion. "We can confirm that 11 security personnel have lost their lives in the ambush which was carried out by Maoist rebels in Sukma district," police deputy inspector general Sundarraj P said. "Three other CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel are critically injured. We have deployed helicopters to evacuate them." The rebels also snatched weapons and radio sets from the attack site, local media reports said. The Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 states, but are most active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, occupying thousands of square kilometres of land. The decades-long conflict is believed to have cost tens of thousands of lives, with much action focused around the so-called "Red Corridor" stretching through central and eastern India. Critics believe attempts to end the revolt through tough security offensives are doomed to fail, saying the real solution is development of the region.
Kashmir/India – A teenage boy, and two militants were killed in a firefight with government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on the 9 Mar 17 which brought hundreds of local villagers out onto the streets in defiance of police orders. Police said the firefight began after soldiers and police cordoned off a village outside the main city of Srinagar early on the 9 Mar 17 believing that two suspected militants were hiding out there. Both died in the firefight, which also killed a 15-year-old student hit by a stray bullet, and injured a second civilian. “Two terrorists were killed in the encounter. Both were locals and belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba group,” director general of police, S. P. Vaid said. Lashkar-e-Taiba is a pro-Pakistan militant group that has been involved in a number of deadly attacks in India. Vaid said villagers shouting pro-freedom slogans clashed with security forces near the site of the gun battle, defying orders to stay indoors. A second officer said hundreds of villagers marched to the scene, throwing rocks at government forces in a bid to aid the besieged militants. Such scenes are increasingly common in the restive region, where rebel groups have for decades been fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Myanmar/ Harakah al Yaqin (HaY) – The emergence of Harakah al Yaqin, the first Rohingya Muslim insurgent group to organize in Myanmar in decades, signals a dangerous new phase in a crisis that is increasingly attracting the attention of extremists in Pakistan and the Middle East it was reported by Reuters on the 9 Mar 17. Unknown six months ago, the group has ignited a conflict in Rakhine State that has marred Myanmar's transition toward democracy and confronted leader Aung San Suu Kyi with her biggest crisis yet. "Our people have been persecuted for 50 or 60 years, so support for the insurgents is there," said Rahim, a teacher from the village of Dar Gyi Zar, who is among more than 70,000 Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh since the fighting began. Communal tensions have long-festered in north-western Rakhine State, where 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in apartheid-like conditions, often despised by the Buddhist majority. Serious ethnic clashes erupted in 2012, but the recent violence is the first sign of a Rohingya insurgency entrenching itself inside Rakhine since at least the early 1990s. Reuters spoke to around a dozen Rohingya from villages in the conflict zone about the activities of the group in their area, as well as a police officer who led the interrogations of several captured insurgents and a military intelligence officer. Their accounts, which could not be independently verified, shed new light on how the group prepared for its campaign. They describe how a small group of leaders, including one born to Rohingya parents in Pakistan, recruited several hundred young men, training them clandestinely for months in fields and forests. Mohammed Shah, 26, from Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son village, was not approached to join the group, but said he was aware of its activities for about six months before it launched its first attacks in Oct 16. Once he came across 30 people training in a forest clearing near his village with wooden dummy weapons. "I support them," he said. "We have been persecuted for decades and they are working to bring us justice."
On the 9 Oct 16 Harakah al-Yaqin - Arabic for "Faith Movement" - launched three coordinated attacks on separate police border posts, killing nine officers. The group claimed responsibility for the attacks in videos posted online. The security operation launched by the military in response has been beset by allegations of mass killings and gang rapes that the United Nations says may constitute crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The crisis could not come at a worse time for Suu Kyi, who's near year-old government is contending with renewed ethnic insurgencies elsewhere in Myanmar that threaten to undermine the Nobel laureate's signature peace process. Myanmar's government says the allegations of human rights abuses are "serious", but that security forces are dealing with an insurgency that threatens the region's stability and development. Residents of northern Rakhine and security officials told Reuters that HaY had organized its campaign across the border in Bangladesh, and that it involved leaders with links to Pakistan. In the village of U Shey Kya, adult men were approached in early 2016 and asked to join the group, three residents told Reuters. Some agreed and took part in training, they said. "Some villagers were recruited first, then these agents persuaded other people one-by-one," said one man. "They would go to a grocery store or in the tea shop, they would talk to people." A senior member of HaY, Mohammed Noor, was last month sentenced to death for leading one of the three attacks, the first such verdict to be handed down. Police Captain Yan Naing Latt, the lead interrogator of suspects at the jail in state capital Sittwe said the group's goal was to seize control of the northern part of Rakhine to create a "Muslim democratic state for the Rohingya". "There were six cells in total," said Yan Naing Latt, but only three were able to successfully launch attacks. "Leaders like Mohammed Noor were sent with some weapons to each village, recruited and trained locals there." "They trained karate and practiced firing guns," said Yan Naing Latt. Some of the attackers came from refugee camps in Bangladesh and brought with them weapons that had been stolen there, he said. (For a graphic on the rise of Rohingya insurgents.
CALL FOR JIHAD
A report from the International Crisis Group in Dec 16 identified Ata Ullah, a Rohingya believed to have been born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia, as the leader of HaY. He appears in the videos posted online by HaY, citing Koranic verse and calling for a "jihad" in Rakhine. Rohingya villagers who have seen the videos say the same man was one of those who led recruitment and training. "He used to come to the village very often he told the villagers that he will fight for our rights," said a school teacher from the village of Kyar Gaung Taung. Four residents said some of the men providing training did not speak the Rohingya language but conversed in Urdu, the language of Pakistan, or English. Refugees and residents said community support for the group was based on frustration with the Myanmar government - which says the Rohingya are interlopers from Bangladesh - rather than religious ideology. Nonetheless, diplomats and analysts say the involvement of foreign militants has the potential to radicalize and enflame the conflict. Myanmar's government has said it believes Ata Ullah and another HaY member, a Pakistani citizen, attended "terrorist training" with the Taliban in Pakistan. While no firm evidence linking HaY to extremist organizations has emerged, several Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and Islamic State have raised the Rohingya cause in their publicity materials. A senior Myanmar military intelligence officer said HaY has tried to organize resistance since 2013, but was only able to gain a foothold and attract funding in 2015. "They targeted young and educated Muslims and organized several meetings in Bangladesh," said the officer, citing information from informers monitoring the movement of people across the border. The group was still active, the officer said, with the military expecting further attacks. A fresh video surfaced in Feb 17 showing young, masked men wielding swords and sticks, calling themselves Harakah al-Yaqin. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the clip. "They are moving from one place to the next and organizing short five- to 10-days-long training sessions in different villages," said the intelligence officer. While that suggests the group is becoming entrenched, the violence its campaign has unleashed has cost it some support. "We're ready to inform the government if the people involved in the training come back," said the U Shey Kya villager.
North Korea – North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's northwest coast, South Korean and Japanese officials said, days after the reclusive state promised retaliation over US-South Korea military drills it sees as a preparation for war it was reported on the 6 Mar 17. Seoul said four missiles were fired from North Pyongan province into the East Sea on the 6 Mar 17 and that South Korea and the United States were "closely analysing" tracking data for further details. Seoul and Washington began annual joint military exercises last week - something North Korea has long condemned as a deliberate provocation. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said three of the North Korean missiles came down in Tokyo's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) - waters extending 200 nautical miles (370km) from its coast. "This clearly shows North Korea has entered a new stage of threat," Abe said in parliament. "The launches are clearly in violation of [UN] Security Council resolutions. It is an extremely dangerous action." South Korea's military said the missiles were unlikely to have been intercontinental ballistic missiles which could reach the US, but flew on average 1,000km and reached a height of 260km. Some of the missiles landed in waters as close as 300km to Japan's northwest coast, Japan's Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said in Tokyo. South Korea's acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, condemned the launches and said the country would swiftly deploy a US anti-missile defence in the face of angry objections from China. "These missile tests are creeping closer to Japan and we assume North Korea can hit most of South Korea," Robert Kelly, professor of political science and diplomacy at Pusan National University said. "Bombing North Korea can be hugely dangerous because it can easily hit the South Korean capital. Missile shields are probably the best defence for the future." Pyongyang carried out two atomic tests last year and a series of missile launches, but the 6 Mar 17 was only the second time its devices entered Japan's EEZ. Seoul has blamed Pyongyang for the killing of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of the North's leader, by two women using VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur's International Airport last month. North Korea denies that.
Turkey/Kurds/United Nations – The UN on the 10 Mar 17 accused Turkish security forces of serious human rights violations during operations against Kurdish militants in the southeast since July 2015 when a regional ceasefire collapsed. A report from the UN rights office details evidence of "massive destruction, killings and numerous other serious human rights violations committed between July 2015 and December 2016 in southeast Turkey". "Government security operations" have impacted more than 30 towns and displaced between 335,000 to half a million mostly Kurdish people, the report further said. Satellite images of areas affected by the latest unrest "indicate an enormous scale of destruction of the housing stock by heavy weaponry", the report said. In Cizre, a mainly Kurdish town on the Syrian border, residents described the devastation of neighbourhoods as "apocalyptic", the UN said. In early 2016, nearly 200 of the town's residents, among them children, "were trapped for weeks in basements without water, food, medical attention and power before being killed by fire, induced by shelling," it said. The allegations come at a sensitive time for Ankara which is gearing up for a controversial Apr 17 referendum on whether to create an executive presidency that would expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers. UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein criticised Erdogan's government directly, saying he was "particularly concerned by reports that no credible investigation has been conducted into hundreds of alleged unlawful killings." "Not a single suspect was apprehended and not a single individual was prosecuted," Zeid said in a statement. So far, Erdogan's government has not agreed to any requests from the UN rights office to visit the areas affected by the anti-PKK operations. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the military and the PKK, which seeks greater rights and autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority.
Turkey/Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – At least two soldiers have been killed in an explosion on a highway in southeast Turkey, according to security sources. The troops on the 15 Mar 17 were carrying out operations to detect mines in the region when suspected fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) detonated a previously planted mine, Turkey's private Dogan news agency reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which targeted a vehicle loaded with soldiers as it passed by a road linking the cities of Mardin and Diyarbakir.