the year 2006, four countries in the South Asian region witnessed more suicide
attacks than anywhere in the world, next to Iraq. Compared to the previous year,
the rate of suicide attacks significantly increased particularly in Afghanistan
and Pakistan. While incidents in India were relatively few, suicide bombings
have once again increased in Sri Lanka. The emerging trend threatens the
security situation of this volatile region.
current resurgence of violence, and the increasing number of suicide attacks in
Afghanistan indicate that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are staging a comeback with
the grand design of destabilizing the country. They believe that suicide attacks
would thwart the attempts of the international mission in Afghanistan, and
increase the level of insecurity among the Afghan population. According to NATO
sources, over 90 suicide attacks have been reported in the country, mainly
targeting international coalition forces and diplomats. The total number of such
attacks and casualties has quadrupled since 2001, while only one incident each
was reported in 2001 and 2002, two attacks in 2003, six in 2004, and 21 in 2005.
It appears that the Taliban forces have been importing the modus operandi of
international Al Qaeda jihadis from Iraq, providing immense visibility for each
attack in the national and international media.
ongoing trend clearly represents a major shift in tactics by the Taliban, from
fighting in the rugged hinterland to extending the violence to the urban areas,
especially in the capital Kabul and the southern Afghan cities such as Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand, Khost, Paktia and Paktika. Unlike Iraqi terrorists,
the Taliban have largely relied on the human-borne improvised explosive devices
(IEDs) rather than vehicle-borne suicide IEDs, because of the greater probability
of inflicting casualties with minimal resources, and of escape from strenuous
security checks. Most of these suicide bombers have been reportedly increasingly
recruited from madrassas inside Pakistan. Although the Pakistan government
categorically refuted this contention, the empirical records of arrests of
Pakistani nationals, and the coalition forces' intelligence sources, establish
their involvement in suicide bombing incidents. The Taliban, who have vowed to
overthrow the incumbent Karzai government and drive out the foreign troops that
support it, have enormous sympathy among their Pashtun ethnic kinsfolk who
straddle border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Taliban is reportedly gearing up for a massive summer offensive, with more than
2,000 suicide bomber ready for action. The situation would thus be more
challenging in 2007. Importantly, the Afghan government must enhance the
capacity of its intelligence services to disrupt the suicide attack support
network and here Pakistan's assistance is urgently required. This can be
achieved only if both countries keep their self-interest and political
differences separate from their strategic security affairs. Further, the Afghan
national security guards should be provided specific training on threat
assessment for suicide attacks in order to be able to handle the threat
efficiently. Most importantly, the Afghan Ulema, or council of religious leaders, needs to continue playing a major
role in countering the extremist ideology of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Considering
the difficulties of and time required for implementing these measures, Afghanistan
will certainly not be free from violence for several years more.
Pakistan, there were two suicide bombing incidents in sectarian clashes between
the Shias and Sunnis on 9 February in Hangu town of NWFP, and on 11
April in Karachi. These resulted in the death of over a hundred people, leaving
numerous others injured. Further, nine more attacks were carried out against
the Pakistani and international security forces, and diplomats predominantly
in North Waziristan and Karachi. Suicide car bombs were used in many of these
attacks, especially against moving security forces convoys.
2006, India, however had suffered only four suicide attacks compared to ten in
2005. Importantly, Kashmir alone has suffered in these attacks, though the
terrorists did not use car bombs in any of the incidents. The suicide bombers
targeted security forces in three incidents, while the remaining target was a
Congress party rally which killed seven and injured over 30 civilians on 21 May.
The Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Mansoorian claimed joint responsibility for
the rally bombing. In addition, Al Mansoorian's was found to be involved in at
least five suicide bombing incidents in 2005.
deteriorating political situation in Sri Lanka, and the collapse of peace talks
have once again unleashed suicide attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE). The LTTE's Sea Tigers suicide squad carried out at least
seven attacks out of its 11 suicide attacks in 2006. Four attacks between September
and November caused severe damages in terms of casualties and materials on both
sides. In four separate attacks, suicide bombers killed the Deputy Chief of
the Army Staff, Major General Parami Kulathunge and injured the Army Commander
Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the Pakistan High Commissioner Bashir Wali Mohammad,
and the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in the capital Colombo. Ever
since they signed the ceasefire agreement with the Sri Lankan Government in
2001, the LTTE had used suicide terror only once on 7 July 2004 Renewed suicide
attack tactics in the country undoubtedly threaten positive means to end the
three decade-old bloody ethnic conflict but, a continuous engagement with the
LTTE in the peace talks could deter them using these dangerous methods.