CONTINUING COVERAGE - The Siege of Imphal Passes Its 100th Day
The economic blockade of Imphal, capital of Manipur, passes the one hundred day mark on February 8th, as the second round of talks to resolve the crisis broke down in the Indian capital of New Delhi, as the Indian Air Force vowed to continue flying in fuel supplies. Part of the issue in the failure of the second round apparently stems from misunderstandings about the status of the two leaders of the United Naga Council (UNC), Gaidon Kamei and Stephen Shankril, who are currently in custody. The Central Government in New Delhi had apparently indicated that it was willing to agree to release the two leaders without condition, but then granted a remand request of the Manipur state government. This comes amid calls from Manipur to declare the main local Naga tribal party, the UNC, an outlawed organization, after it became apparent that the UNC was functioning as an extension of the already-outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), an insurgent group that formed in 1980 from several other groups.
This tough talk from the government is dangerous, as the Assam Rifles - the regional paramilitary police - have already committed over seventeen thousand of its sixty-thousand-plus man force to the Manipur region. The central government has indicated that it may deploy as many as twenty thousand additional gendarmes to maintain order during the elections at the heart of the dispute, due for March 4 - 8. The Naga issue is that a recent redistricting program amounts to a gerrymandering scheme, designed specifically to neutralize Naga numbers in traditional tribal areas.
After last week's protests in Kohima, capital of Nagaland State to the north, the governmental approach in dealing with the Naga people appears rather ham-handed. As well, there appears to be little worry about the NSCN and ULFA deadline of March 31 for all Hindi and Bengali speakers to vacate parts of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal by that date, or "face the consequences". With continuing violence in the Red Corridor, and Jammu & Kashmir, as well as ISIL propaganda beginning to turn up in Gujarat, the Central Government is stretching its forces perilously thin.
...Elsewhere in India
The rest of the country remained largely quiet, aside from a spate of skirmishes between security forces and Naxalite guerrillas in Chhattisgarh state, that left a handful of rebels dead, and several injuries among police. The Maoist rebels reportedly looted a road construction camp, burning two construction vehicles and making off with construction explosives and detonators belonging to the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). The Naxals have been relying heavily on construction explosives in the creation of IEDs.
Seesaw fighting continued to rage across the country, this week, as Afghan security forces reportedly killed up to two dozen Taliban insurgents, and wounded dozens more, reportedly including several leaders. This, in trade for the assassination of a district governor in Farah province, and up to a dozen civilians dead in a suicide bombing in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.
In an unusual story, Iranian authorities announced on the 10th that they had arrested an unreported number of ISIL terrorists attempting to infiltrate the country to stage attacks on celebrations commemorating the thirty-eighth anniversary of the overthrow of the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In a sudden uptick in a long-simmering conflict, Azerbaijani forces fired small arms and light mortars into Karabakh positions along the Line of Contact. Karabakh authorities reported one of their soldiers was killed in the exchange.
The desultory war has continued on and off since 1994.
As ISIL lived down to its reputation, by burning to death as many as fifteen women and children attempting to flee the fighting around Kirkuk, while transferring some of its surviving Yazidi sex slaves from the Mosul region closer to its "capital" in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Meanwhile, Iraqi government and tribal forces killed around one hundred of the group's terrorists in heavy fighting around the central part of the country, while losing two Iraqi Army EOD specialists, who were killed while attempting to defuse a bomb in the city of Ramadi.
Concurrently, in Syria, Russian engineers reported that ISIL forces continue to disrupt water supplies to the recently-liberated northern Syrian city of Aleppo, as mopping-up operations continue. This comes as ISIL-aligned forces attempted a badly thought-out raid against the Syrian port city of Latakia, base of Russian intervention forces. The attackers were repulsed with heavy losses.
In Egypt's ongoing war against ISIL-aligned forces in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt reportedly killed fourteen terrorists in a raid on the 6th, as ISIL executed five random civilians, accusing them of "supporting the Egyptian Army".
The most concerning report from Africa, this week, comes from Angola, where the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) has announced its refusal to participate in Angolan elections, set to legitimize the succession of defense minister João Lourenço to the post of President, as long-time dictator Jose Eduardo dos Santos announced his intention to step down after thirty-eighth years in power.
The FLEC has fought an on-again-off-again insurgency for four decades, trying to separate their exclave province from Angola. Their attacks have been largely ineffective, however, because Cabinda's oil production infrastructure is completely offshore. With razor-thin assets, the group has been unable to effect any disruption to Angola's oil traffic, to date.
The Nigerian Navy rescued some 21 crew when they retook the LPG (propane) tanker MT 'Gaz Providence' from pirates off Bonny Island on the 8th, and drove other pirates away from the MT 'Rio Spirit', a crude oil tanker, after it had loaded cargo at the Qua Iboe Terminal, run by Exxon Mobil.
However, another group of pirates kidnapped seven Russian and one Ukrainian from the general cargo freighter 'BBC Caribbean', also on the 8th. The crew are believed to be held somewhere in Nigeria. The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have called for action to be taken to recover the kidnapped sailors.
The Philippines suffered a sudden upswing in violence this week, with skirmishes and fighting throughout the island nation between Philippine Government forces and the Communist "New People's Army". This comes amid the ongoing, highly violent anti-drug campaign of recently-elected President Rodrigo Duterte.
This uptick in rebel violence is not unexpected, as it has been building slowly, feeding on simmering dissatisfaction with Duterte's administration.
The robo-bomb call wave continued apace throughout the United States, this week, with dozens of automated calls and emails warning of bombs, supposedly placed in schools, courthouses and shopping centers, all of which turned out to be false. As always, this causes automatic responses from local, state and sometimes Federal authorities, which stresses and wears down psyches, as well as demonstrating security response times.
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