Maoist ‘art’ that downed chopper
Nagpur, Jan. 21: The Maoists’ success in riddling an air force chopper in Chhattisgarh on Friday may owe to a manual they prepared almost a decade ago to train cadres on how to down helicopters using even ordinary weapons like .303 rifles. “A helicopter is made mainly for transport and not for assault, so it can be damaged by firing from the field,” says the booklet, Jung ke Hunar (The Art of War), a copy of which the security forces found last year in Chhattisgarh’s Abujh Maadh forests.
“The petrol tank is located centrally below the body…. The body of a chopper is made of thin metal layers to keep the structure lightweight. A normal bullet can pierce its body.” The manual shows its date of publication as 2003, which means the rebels had long ago anticipated coming up against air power some day and also the probable rules of engagement. Military choppers, being used against the rebels for the past couple of years, are allowed to fire only if fired upon. Friday’s incident was the first time the Maoists brought a chopper down. The booklet, which has an entire chapter on “how to repulse an air assault”, explains ways of doing this, using pictures and citing experiences from global conflict zones such as the Falklands and Afghanistan.
“Any helicopter can be damaged or brought down if fired at from G3, AK47, SLR, LMG, or .303 or .315 rifles. Tracer bullets may be more effective than regular bullets,” says the booklet’s Hindi version, a copy of which The Telegraph has accessed. “It is virtually impossible to stop a helicopter from coming down if a tracer bullet hits its petrol tank. An army helicopter, though, has bullet-proof covers underneath.
To bring it down, we’ll need a sophisticated weapon with over 50mm calibre,” adds the manual, which, police say, has versions in English, Telugu and tribal languages such as Goendi too. The thrust is on the effective use of small weapons. The manual says the guerrillas should form “a wall of bullets” by incessantly firing at an “enemy” helicopter. If the chopper is flying low and fast, they should use an automatic or semi-automatic rifle from at least 200 metres (about twice the length of a football ground). If a chopper is flying low and slow, they should target it from 50 metres with “burst fire” (everybody firing at once). Chhattisgarh police say that since writing the manual, the Maoists have developed a hand-held rocket launcher and grenade propeller that can be effective against choppers.
Line of fire
If the chopper is coming straight at the cadres, they should use “point firing”: the entire platoon should select a point on the nose of the aircraft and fire at it. If the aircraft is not heading in the guerrillas’ direction, they should resort to “reference point firing”: raining bullets at a single, pre-decided point on the chopper’s line of flight. Firing from different sides will help.
The manual says small weapons can be used effectively to: Bring down the chopper or “dent it to such an extent that repairs would keep it out of operation for days”. The chopper hit on Friday took 16 bullets and was extensively damaged. Force the pilot to fly away from the area for safety. Force the helicopter to fly high instead of low, reducing its capability to fire at the guerrillas on the ground. Force the chopper to fly at speed, hobbling its ability to hit guerrillas on the ground.
The area where the chopper was hit on Friday is hilly and forested, a landscape that makes flying and landing difficult. The Maoists may have been hiding on a hillock overseeing the landing site. The manual has a segment on how the guerrillas should use the terrain to their advantage by concealing themselves during an attack.
The manual also deals with the defensive tactics to be adopted if the “enemy” uses choppers to launch aerial attacks. It advises cadres on how to hide themselves, sound an alert, and move in divergent directions with at least 25 metres separating any two guerrillas to minimise casualties. At least one automatic or semi-automatic rifle is needed to counter an aerial raid, the manual says, and such operations should be led by a rebel of at least section commander rank.
The manual uses pictures and diagrams. The section dealing with firing from a kneeling position has a small picture of a soldier in that position. The paragraph on “point firing” and “reference point firing” is accompanied with diagrams.
The Maoists have studied the use of small weapons against aircraft in various global conflicts. The manual says: US and British special forces have downed enemy fighter jets and helicopters using LSW (Light Sports Weapon) and GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun). Firing from a GPMG fitted to an anti-aircraft mount is more effective than firing from a kneeling position. In the 1982 Falklands war, UK forces shot down Argentine jets with small weapons. Afghan guerrillas used 12.7mm machineguns, positioned on mountain peaks, to bring down Soviet Mi-24 gunships in the Panjsher valley.
Three Naxals held in Andhra Pradesh
Hyderabad: Three Maoist cadres, including two women militia members and a dalam leader, were arrested from a forest area in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh bordering Chattisgarh, police said Tuesday. The accused, M Masa, is member of Venkatapuram Area Committee of Maoists, and is carrying a reward of Rs 20,000 on his head.
The two women militia members are M Parvathi and M Soni, they said. They were apprehended yesterday by a special police team from Dummagudem and Korkatpadu forest area of Khammam district, police said. Among other offences, Masa is accused of killing a villager in Kornapally in 2009 besides indulging in a bank dacoity in Khammam district, a senior police officer said over phone from Bhadrachalam, adding that police were verifying Masa’s involvement in other cases.
Tribal women missing after ‘raid’
Two tribals, a pregnant woman and a minor girl, have gone missing from Nimmalagudem village in Sukma, Chhattisgarh, after a team of Khammam police and Greyhound commandos of Andhra Pradesh “raided” the village in search of Maoist informers. The village is three km from Andhra border. The “raid” took place on January 12. According to a fact-finding team of Andhra Pradesh Human Rights Forum, the police whisked away six persons including the two missing women Madhvi Parvathi and Kovasi Somadhi.
The “raid” was apparently carried out after Maoists shot and injured two Greyhound men the previous night in Korepalli in Khammam and escaped to Chhattisgarh. V S Krishna, president of HRF, said the police released four persons. “But the women are missing. Madhvi is 21 and pregnant and Kovasi,15, is a minor. It is nearly 10 days since they went missing. Khammam police say they did not even conduct the raid,” he said. On January 18, Madhvi’s mother, Punam Jogamma, and mother of Somidhi, Kovasi Aite, faxed a letter to the Chief Justice of the AP High Court. Following this, Krishna filed a Habeas Corpus in the high court seeking directions to Khammam police to produce the two missing.
In their fax message, the two mothers have stated that their daughters are tribal civilians and were forcibly taken away by the police. “Their whereabouts are not known to us till date. We informed Bhadrachalam Sub Collector on January 16 at Cherla in Khammam but to no avail. We believe they are now in the custody of the police. We apprehend danger to their lives. We have nowhere else to go. Only your lordship can ensure their safety,’’ they said. Khammam SP A V Ranganath said “no cross-border operation” took place on January 12. “Maoists fired and injured our commandos inside AP border. We have nothing to do with the raid in Nimmalagudem as it falls in Chhattisgarh. It must have been Chhattisgarh police,’’ he said.
The village has about 30 tribal households and comes under the Konta block of Sukma district. According to report of the fact-finding team of HRF, residents, all farmers, said a police team of over 100 personnel, including Greyhounds, came to the village at daybreak on January 12. “On seeing them most men fled into the forest. The police began abusing and beating the residents that included women and children. Among those beaten up were a 10-year-old girl Sodi Devi and a 12-year-old boy Madvi Venkatesh. The boy lost three teeth,” the report stated.
The police then picked up five persons: Podium Chukkaiah, a farmer, and his son P Bhimaiah,11, Madhvi, Somidhi and Madkam Saramma. “Their hands were tied and they were taken to a place near a hillock where there were signs of a camp set up by the Maoists,” the report said. The police then accused the entire village of helping Maoists and beat the four with their hands and sticks. Several women including mothers of Madhvi and Somidhi pleaded to the police not to harm their daughters, the report said. The police beat and even kicked them. Soon after they almost disrobed the two women and forcibly took them way before letting go the other three.
Raids launched to nab Reds in Jhumra
BOKARO: Security forces launched an operation to nab Maoists in the Jhumra area of Gomia block on Monday, a day after rebels triggered a landmine blast in which 11 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were injured. “Security has been beefed up in the area while search for the Maoists has been launched in Jhumra Hills,” said Bokaro SP Kuldeep Dwivedi. Eleven CRPF men, including a sub-inspector, were injured when Maoists planted more than half a dozen landmines between Jamnijara and Rehawan of Jhumra Hill in Gomia block.
The landmines exploded together while CRPF personnel of the 26 Battalion were returning to their camp at Rehawan in the evening after conducting a search operation. The security forces did not launch the raid immediately as darkness had enveloped the area and the priority was to take injured personnel to the hospital. All the injured CRPF men are said to be out of danger. The police have found out that a group under Ajay Mahto, a dreaded Maoist commander, was involved in the incident. Security has been intensified on the roads in Jhumra to avoid other such incidents.
Rebels own belly bomb
Latehar (Jharkhand), Jan. 21: The Maoists today admitted they had booby-trapped a slain CRPF jawan’s body with a belly bomb after an encounter here this month and that the idea was “to inflict more damage” on the security forces. They threatened to repeat the ploy, believed to be a first in India, if the forces did not stop “atrocities on poor people and those resisting them”. The admission came following widespread criticism of the ploy by the government as well as civil society and rights groups, who saw it as a violation of international war norms.
“We have no problem admitting that our PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) had planted a time bomb in the abdomen of the dead government force member,” CPI (Maoist) military spokesperson Toofan said in a Hindi statement. “We will not miss any opportunity to target them again and will use every way to harm them further.’’ In an earlier audio message to the media after the January 7-9 encounters, Toofan had accused the forces of laying booby traps around the villages but been silent about the belly bomb.
Nine CRPF troopers and a Jharkhand Jaguar jawan were killed in the three-day battle. Apparently, the rebels also placed an injured jawan on a mine and four villagers died in a blast while removing him on the security forces’ orders. Security experts had defused the belly bomb at a Ranchi hospital after doctors conducting the post-mortem became suspicious on examining the stitch the Maoists had put on the corpse’s abdomen after stuffing it with explosives. Officers have said the belly bomb could have killed the doctors and other innocents, a fear the rights bodies too had echoed. Today’s statement by Toofan denied that the bomb was meant to kill the doctors and accused the government of trying to turn doctors against the Maoists.
He said the bomb had been timed to explode at the spot itself or while the body was being retrieved, but the timer did not work because water had seeped into the body. The statement said: “Those accusing us of dishonouring the dead must answer what the government forces do with the dead Maoists in their custody. They do not have any regard even for innocent civilians.” It claimed the rebels had never ill-treated any security force personnel they had “captured alive”.
Violent Surge In Manipur – Analysis
On December 28, 2012, United National Liberation Front (UNLF) militants killed two Tangkhul tribal hunters at Kongkan village under the Chassad Police Station of Ukhrul District. A day later, owning responsibility for the killing, the UNLF sought forgiveness from the tribe, claiming that it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’, as its armed cadres mistook the hunters for Assam Rifles (AR) troopers. Further, on November 23, 2012, on the eve of its 38th foundation day, UNLF militants had simultaneously triggered two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), planted at a distance of about 20 feet by the roadside, injuring two Army personnel and a sniffer dog at Konthoujam along the Imphal-Jiribam highway in Imphal West District.
UNLF again claimed responsibility for the ambush and reiterated its demand of holding a ‘plebiscite’ to resolve the armed conflict in Manipur. Refusing to hold talks with the Government, it declared that the conflict could only be resolved with restoration of Manipur’s ‘sovereignty’. Earlier, on September 28, 2012, at least two AR personnel and a civilian were killed, while another five AR personnel and two civilians sustained injuries, in serial bomb blasts triggered by UNLF cadres at Kwatha village in Chandel District near the Indo-Myanmar border. While claiming responsibility for the ambush, the UNLF disclosed that the operation was carried out by its ‘mobile unit’ operating in Chandel District.
After a dramatic decline in insurgent violence over the preceding two years, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, total fatalities, at 110 in 2012, increased by 69.23 per cent over the 65 recorded in 2011. While civilian fatalities remained at the same number, fatalities among the Security Forces (SFs) increased by two, from 10 in 2011 to 12 in 2012. There was a two-and-a-half fold increase in militant fatalities, from 30 in 2011 to 73 in 2012. 63 incidents of killing were recorded in 2012, as compared to 33 in 2011. The number of major incidents (each involving three or more killings) in 2012 stood at eight, as against three in 2011.
Similarly, 107 incidents of explosion were recorded in 2012, resulting in nine killed and 90 injured, as compared to just 39 bomb blasts in 2011, with eight fatalities and 52 injured. 46 abductions were recorded in 30 registered incidents, as compared to 32 abductions in 14 reported incidents in 2011 [a large proportion of abductions go unreported]. In one such incident, suspected Kuki National Army (KNA) militants abducted four employees of the State Electricity Department, from Tengnoupal in Chandel District, on December 18, 2012.
The militants allegedly made a demand of INR 500,000, though no further reports are available in the open source. Extortion continues to remain a major concern in the State, with SATP recording at least 35 incidents in 2012. 40 incidents of extortion were recorded during the preceding year. According to a January 18, 2012, report, a probe carried out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) discovered that the UNLF alone earned around INR 1.5 billion between 2007 and 2010 through extortion. Incidents of violence were reported from all the nine Districts of Manipur, both in 2011 and 2012.
Meanwhile, the CorCom, which comprises of seven Valley-based militant groups, including the UNLF, remained the most violent formation in the State. Of 12 SFs fatalities in 2012, nine were attributed to CorCom. Further, of 107 blasts in 2012, the formation was responsible for 33. It had escalated violence particularly during the Assembly Elections of January 2012. In once such incident, on January 26, 2012, two days before elections and on the occasion of India’s Republic Day, at least four SF personnel and three militants were killed in two separate clashes in Manipur, at Aishi village in Ukhrul District and at Taretlok, bordering Thoubal and Ukhrul District. Manipur also saw an escalation of violence by Naga groupings engaged in factional clashes in the Tamenglong District.
The year recorded at least 10 clashes between the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) – at times a combined force of ZUF and Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland–Khaplang (NSCN-K)] – and the NSCN-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), which resulted in 25 fatalities, as compared to seven fatalities in four such reported incidents in 2011. The worst fratricidal clash between ZUF and NSCN-IM cadres erupted in the evening of September 25, 2012, and continued late into the night of September 26, leaving six persons dead.
The incident occurred inside a forest near Wairangba village in the interior Tamenglong District. The PLA’s close links with the Communist Party of India–Maoist (CPI-Maoist) further accentuated apprehensions. According to a December 18, 2012, report, a supplementary charge sheet filed by the NIA in the CPI-Maoist-PLA nexus case revealed that the CPI-Maoist had been procuring Chinese arms and communication equipment from PLA via Myanmar, and routing it to Kolkata (West Bengal) through Guwahati (Assam) between 2006 and 2011.
The charge-sheet has been filed against Maoist leaders, Pallab Borborah alias Profull (‘chief coordinator’ for ‘expanding’ Maoist activities and ‘forging ties’ with the Northeastern insurgent group); Indranil Chanda alias Raj (described by NIA as the Maoists’ chief in Assam); and PLA’s ‘external affairs chief’ Asem Ibotombi Singh alias Angou, who were arrested in 2012 from Assam, Kolkata and Odisha, respectively. The accused are alleged to have played a significant role in the training of Maoists by PLA in Jharkhand’s Saranda Forest, apart from facilitating procurement of arms and communication equipment. Security agencies believe that the CPI-Maoist is making rapid inroads into the North-East, immediately to gain access to the arms market in the neighbouring Yunan Province of China, as well as in Myanmar and the Southeast Asian countries.
Amidst rising fratricidal violence, the SFs also intensified their operations. The year registered a total of 33 encounters between SFs and militants, in which 48 militants were killed (the remaining 25 militant fatalities were the result of factional clashes) as compared to just 10 encounters in 2011, in which 23 militants were eliminated (another seven were killed in factional clashes). In a major encounter, on June 30, 2012, at least four cadres belonging to the Lungam group of KNA, including its ‘commander-in-chief’ Lunkhongam, were killed at Phaikok village, located close to Myanmar border, in Ukhrul District. The State recorded 609 arrests of insurgent cadres in 2012, as compared to 546 in 2011.
The arrested militants in 2012 prominently belonged to different factions of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP, 117), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK, 87), People’s Liberation Army (PLA 62), UNLF (43), the Progressive faction of PREPAK (PREPAK-Pro, 35), NSCN-IM (28), United Peoples’ Party of Kangleipak (UPPK, 19), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL, 11) and NSCN-K (4). In one significant arrest outside the State, on November 1, 2012, Ningthoujam Romen Singh alias Rocky (27), the ‘Commander-in-Chief’, who is also the ‘Finance Secretary’, of the Military Council faction of KCP (KCP-MC) was arrested from Sarai Kale Khan in New Delhi, for his alleged involvement in unlawful activities and several cases of murder, abduction and extortion. The intensified pressure of SFs resulted in the surrender of at least 303 militants in 2012, as against 271 in 2011.
In the most significant surrender of the year, 114 militants belonging to different outfits surrendered, along with arms, before Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, at Mantripukhri in Imphal East District, on September 26, 2012. The 114 cadres who lay down their arms in the ceremony included 16 from the Kazi Umar faction of the People’s United Liberation Front (PULF); 18 from UNLF; 17 each from KYKL and PREPAK; 12 from the Kuki National Liberation Front (KNLF); nine from various factions of KCP; 13 from PLA; six from UPPK; and three from the United Naga People’s Council (UNPC). Among those who surrendered, five were women. On the political front, the State remained a major player in negotiations for a ‘solution’ to the ‘Naga issue’.
On October 10, 2012, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, hinting that a ‘solution’ to the ‘Naga issue’ was likely before March 2013, when Assembly polls in Nagaland are due to be held, disclosed, “I have been talking to the Chief Ministers of both Arunachal and Manipur, and we are trying to reach a consensus on this.” The Kukis in Manipur opposed the talks, threatening to renew their demand for statehood, even as the Meiteis vehemently rejected the talks, claiming that settlement proposals would disturb the ‘unity of Manipur or its territorial integrity’.
On October 19, 2012, Thangkhosei Haokip, the newly re-elected President of Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), the apex traditional institution of the Kukis in the State, asserted, “Justice has to be delivered to the Kukis before any settlement is arrived at between the NSCN-IM and the GoI (Government of India)”. He then asserted that any further denial of justice to the Kukis was bound to compel the apex Kuki body to review its fundamental principles of non-communal, peaceful co-existence and justice for all. Further, on November 2, 2012, the Kuki National Organization (KNO), an umbrella organization of 16 Kuki militant groups, threatened to resume armed struggle and to ‘secede from Manipur’ if the Centre did not begin talks with them. Meanwhile, the Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact signed between the two umbrella bodies of KNO and UPF, the Central Government and the State Government, in August 2005, which was extended by three months on August 31, 2012, expired on November 22, 2012.
According to a January 2, 2013, report, Joint Secretary (North-East) Shambhu Singh was to finalize the modalities with the two Kuki militant formations to initiate formal peace talks at the earliest. On the other hand, the United Committee Manipur (UCM), the apex body of the Meiteis, on October 18, 2012, categorically stated that it would demand ‘pre-merger status’ of Manipur if the ongoing political dialogue between NSCN-IM and GoI disturbed the unity or territorial integrity of Manipur in any way. UCM argues that Manipur was ‘forcibly merged’ with India on 15 October, 1949. On October 26, 2012, the United Naga Council (UNC), the main apex body of the Nagas, asserted that a peaceful parting of the Nagas in Manipur and the Meiteis, as good neighbours, was the only way to avert a catastrophic situation that would arise out of the prolonged ‘forced union of the two’.
Conspicuously, the growing ‘unity’ of valley based militant groupings, turf war-related rivalries among Naga militant groupings, and ethnic tensions between the three principle ethnic groups – Kuki, Naga and Meitei – continued to undermine peace efforts in the State, notwithstanding the earlier tainted recovery. Unsurprisingly, on December 3, 2012, the State Government extended the Disturbed Areas Act in Manipur for another year, till November 30, 2013. It remains to be seen whether New Delhi and the State Government are able to counter the insurgents effectively, and extract the State from the endless violence that has now continuously plagued it for 48 years.
Ulfa hardliners call for Republic Day boycott
GUWAHATI: The Paresh Baruah-led Ulfa hardliners’ faction, along with 10 other militant groups from the northeast, has called for a mass boycott of Republic Day in the entire region. Two banned outfits of the poll-bound state of Tripura – the National Liberation Front of Twipra (NLFT) and the Tripura People’s Democratic Front (TPDF) – have also joined hands with the Ulfa hardliners in the boycott along with the anti-talks NDFB faction and Corcom, the Coordination Committee of seven Manipuri militant outfits. Citing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act prevailing in the region, Ulfa hardliners’ assistant publicity secretary Arunodoy ‘Asom’ in an e-mail statement released on Monday said,
“Extra judicial killings, fake encounters and sexual harassment in the name of insurgency are being carried out in the region to suppress the struggle of the indigenous people.” The hardliner faction also denied that Lalit Moran, who was killed by security forces on Sunday in Tinsukia district, was a member of the outfit. While the faction termed it as a fake encounter, security sources said that the deceased was a suspected Ulfa militant. The e-mail statement also slammed the government for encouraging influx in the region for political benefits.
“Silent and systematic population invasion has been done through promotion of influx from outside the region to dilute and hamper the social fabric of the region. Therefore, we ask all the people to completely boycott the Republic Day celebration to mark resistance against Indian occupation of the region,” said the statement. The insurgent group has asked people to abstain from trade and travel on January 26 till dusk.