Last week, organized violence in Asia remained static while the number of demonstration events decreased slightly. In South Asia, Indian security forces remained on high alert in Jammu & Kashmir while stepping up anti-Naxal operations elsewhere in the country in view of the upcoming general elections. In Southeast Asia, fighting between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army resulted in at least five reported civilian deaths while clashes between the police and Mujahidin Indonesia Timur in Indonesia led to three reported fatalities.
In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued between multiple armed groups and Afghan/NATO forces throughout the country. The heaviest concentration of clashes occurred in the provinces of Helmand, Nangarhar, and Kunduz. In the latter, fighting was mostly centered in areas surrounding Kunduz city, such as Gortapa, Talowkah, and Dawod, where joint Afghan-US troops have been attempting to deal with Taliban fighters seemingly massing around the city. Between 19-23 March, large-scale joint operations by Afghan/US forces in the area reportedly led to at least 90 fatalities (across all sides), a number of whom were civilians. On 23 March, at least 13 civilians were reportedly killed during a US airstrike on the outskirts of Kunduz city; the strike was part of a battle which erupted between American and Afghan forces following gunfire from a Taliban infiltrator within the Afghan army ranks. Another incident of ‘friendly fire’ had occurred just ten days earlier in Urozgan province (New York Times, 23 March 2019). Elsewhere in Kunduz, fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan forces also occurred in the Chardara and Ali Abad districts. The entirety of Kunduz province is heavily contested, with the capital having been briefly captured by the Taliban in 2015 and then assaulted again in 2016 (Long War Journal, March 2019).
Meanwhile, in Sangin district of Helmand province, a Taliban assault on Afghan forces Friday reportedly killed at least 40 soldiers and militia fighters – although the numbers may be much higher. Earlier in the week, Afghan warplanes targeted a Taliban-run prison in the same district, reportedly killing and injuring 70 people – including security personnel and criminals being held prisoner.
In Pakistan, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants attacked a security check post in Balochistan province, reportedly killing six Balochistan Levies personnel. In another incident, Pakistani security forces rescued four Iranian Border Guards abducted by suspected militants during an intelligence-based operation in Chagai district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, security forces reportedly shot dead a suspected member of a TTP splinter group.
Several incidents of targeted explosions were recorded last week in Pakistan. In Balochistan, four passengers were killed and at least six others were injured when an IED explosion targeted a railway track. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two police personnel and one bystander were injured while a security vehicle was partially damaged in two other bombings.
In other developments, a student fatally stabbed a professor in Bahawalpur city of Punjab province accusing the professor of blasphemy for arranging a college event where both male and female students would have the opportunity to mingle. The Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association (PPLA) staged a province-wide protest to pressure the provincial government to provide better incentives, pay protection, and to improve teachers’ promotion structure. In Karachi, a renowned religious scholar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, survived a targeted attack by unidentified men, while his two guards — a police personnel and a private security guard — were reportedly killed in the incident.
In the contested Kashmir region, two Indian soldiers and at least 12 Pakistan soldiers were reportedly killed in cross-border violence along the Line of Control (LoC) last week.
In India, security forces in Jammu & Kashmir continued to be on high alert in the aftermath of the deadly Pulwama attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants on 14 February (for more on this, see this ACLED piece). Last week, eight militants were reportedly killed during a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in Baramulla, Bandipora, and Shopian districts. A civilian juvenile was also reported to have been killed in a CASO after being taken hostage by militants. In addition, the reported death of a school principal and affiliate of the recently outlawed socio-political and religious organisation Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir (JIJK) whilst in the custody of the police’s Special Operation Group sparked numerous demonstrations in Srinagar city and Pulwama district.
With the general elections being scheduled to start in a few weeks, security forces have also intensified anti-Naxal operations leading to several gun battles, arrests and seizures of weapons caches last week. Clashes between Maoists and security forces were reported from Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Maharashtra, reportedly leaving two rebels and one state trooper dead. Meanwhile, at least nine civilians were injured in an IED blast triggered by Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district and two civilians were reportedly killed in a rebel attack in Jharkhand’s Gumla district.
Meanwhile, the announcement of candidate lists for the upcoming general elections led to demonstrations in several states. Supporters of candidates who did not receive a party ticket often violently expressed their resentment over their party’s candidate lists. Attacks on party offices and rival party workers, as well as clashes between supporters of rival candidates, were reported from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, and West Bengal.
In other developments, various organisations – including lawyers and student groups – continued to protest the Pollachi sexual abuse case of more than 50 women in Tamil Nadu (Hindu, 18 March 2019). In Kerala, supporters of several political parties also took to the streets to protest against another rape case involving a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM).
In Bangladesh, the number of reported attacks on members of the ruling Awami League (AL), as well as factional clashes between AL members, increased significantly last week, reportedly leaving 8 party workers dead. This latest surge in political violence took place in the backdrop of ongoing upazila (sub-district) chairman elections. Also last week, students across the country again took to the streets demanding road safety following the death of a student who was hit by a bus. Widespread student protests over the same issue in summer 2018 led to attacks by the ruling party’s student wing on protesters and journalists covering the agitation.
In Nepal, the police, in coordination with two other national security agencies, formed a special task force to monitor and arrest cadres of Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal (My Republica, 17 March 2019). The government’s decision to crack down on the party came after the outfit took responsibility for the two major bomb blasts in the capital over a period of two months.
In Sri Lanka, demonstrations over the Sri Lankan civil war from 1983 to 2009 continued last week. Jaffna University students held a protest demanding an international investigation into alleged war crimes during the last phase of the war while relatives of missing persons carried out a protest march in Batticaloa, demanding the expedition of the search for missing persons. In addition, a United National Party (UNP) Opposition leader was shot and wounded by unidentified assailants in Beliatta. No group has claimed responsibility and the motive for the attack is still unclear.
With the announcement of the unofficial election results delayed, it remains unclear which party has won the general elections in Thailand. Pheu Thai, a Thaksin Shinawatra-linked party, claims to have won the most seats in the election while the pro-military Palang Pracharat party claims to have won the popular vote (Washington Post, 25 March 2019). In the week prior to the elections, no separatist violence was reported, marking a departure from trends earlier in the month (for more on this, see this ACLED piece). There were no election related protests either. The confusion over the election results may lead to increased tension in the coming weeks; official results will not be ready until May.
Fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military occurred across Rakhine state in Myanmar. In Buthidaung, at least 5 civilians were reportedly killed by gunfire when the soldiers from the Myanmar military fired on the village (The Irrawaddy, 22 March 2019). The ongoing fighting in Rakhine state has displaced many villagers. It has also damaged historical sites in Mrauk-U (The Irrawaddy, 25 March 2019). Meanwhile, in three locations across the country, protests were held calling for amendments to the 2008 military-drafted constitution.
There were nine reported fatalities from police drug raids in the Philippines. In Negros Occidental province, four drug suspects were reportedly killed by the police. There were likewise several clashes between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf (ASG) last week, resulting in four reported fatalities. As well, a former mayor was wounded in a shooting in Lanao del Norte province while an aide to the former mayor of Makati city was shot and killed. The killing in Makati city was believed to be related to the upcoming elections there.
In Indonesia, clashes between a Papuan armed group and the police resulted in one reported fatality in Nduga regency in Papua. In Central Sulawesi, the police and Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) clashed, leading to the reported deaths of three MIT members. In Aceh, the only region in Indonesia under Sharia law, five unmarried couples were publicly flogged by the Wilayatul Hisbah, a religious police force charged with enforcing Sharia law in Aceh.
In both Indonesia and Malaysia, demonstrations were held in solidarity with the victims of the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. As well, university students held a protest against the former Prime Minister who has been charged with corruption. In Johor, a protest was held against the decision by the government to accede to the Rome Statute.
While patrolling the Prey Ang Ten biodiversity corridor in Cambodia, a forest ranger was attacked by men with machetes. The men had been clearing the protected area for farm land. Forest rangers have often faced violence in Cambodia while monitoring protected land (Khmer Times, 21 March 2019).
No political violence or protest events were recorded last week for Vietnam or Laos.
© 2019 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.
26 March 2019