India warns of growing Maoist control

Gerdy Rees
15 September 2009

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned that India had failed to successfully suppress a forty-year-old Maoist insurgency, and that violence was increasing in many states. 

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Speaking to police chiefs at a conference on Tuesday, Singh labelled ‘left-wing extremism' as possibly the ‘gravest internal threat' faced by India and insisted that it could not be treated as simply a law and order problem. Police chiefs were instead advised to increase their understanding of the factors that fuel local youth to take part in violent activities and how they were being recruited, trained and indoctrinated by Maoist insurgents.

The toD verdict:  India's Maoist insurgency has been active since 1967, where it began as a communist peasant uprising in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The influence of the movement eventually spread throughout India under a loose coalition of Marxist groups, collectively known as Naxalites, which established influence in areas of weak central-state control. Groups wage a campaign of violence and kidnapping against Indian security personnel, and maintain authority in rural areas by setting up parallel administrations, administering summary justice and extorting money and resources from local businesses.

Although New Delhi has long been aware of the Naxhalites presence in many of India's rural villages, cities and bigger towns have remained mostly free from violence and a cease-fire agreement in 2003 saw a significant reduction in aggression throughout the country. However, Singh has reason to be concerned about India's internal threat again. Indian officials state that Naxilite groups are now present in 20 of India's 29 states and have since 2006 been targeting police and government property on an increasing scale. Fighting between Naxhalite groups and government forces has claimed 580 lives so far this year.

Naxhalite influence is also increasing on India's economy, as a sizeable mineral-rich area of the east of the country is wrenched from government control. Extortion and intimidation by Naxhilite groups in ‘the Red Corridor', which stretches from the Nepalese border down to southern Andhra Pradesh, is blocking economic development by dissuading companies from investing in the unstable area and affecting existing businesses.

Singh also highlighted increasing border infiltration by militant Maoist groups from Nepal and Bangladesh as a growing concern. Maoist rebels in Nepal and left-wing extremist groups in India are believed to offer each other ideological and, possibly, military support.

Leading al-Qaeda militant killed in Somalia
A suspected leading al-Qaeda figure has been killed in southern Somalia, along with four members of the rebel al-Shabaab group, in a likely US led attack on Monday.

Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was travelling in the Baraawe District, south of the capital Mogadishu, when his car was fired upon by a helicopter assumed to be operated by US Special Forces.  The US has declined to comment on its involvement in the operation. Nabhan has been on the US terror list since 2002, suspected of links to a hotel bombing and an attempted attack on an Israeli airliner in Kenya. Nabhan fled to Somalia after the attacks and US security forces believe he has been working closely with al-Shabaab, which the US believes to be closely associated with al-Qaeda.

A spokesman for al-Shabaab warned of retaliations for the attacks, raising concern among Somalis who believe US involvement will only serve to fuel extremism in the country. However, a spokesman for the forces of Ahlu Sunna Waljama who continue to fight ‘foreign al Shabaab fighters', praised the operation.

US- Israeli settlement talks stall

U.S. envoy George Mitchell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday to discuss a construction freeze of Israeli settlements. However, the two hours of talks ended without any move toward an agreement crucial to restarting Middle East peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated that a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel is conditional on a construction freeze in settlements.

Meanwhile, the Geneva Initiative, a group composed of Israeli and Palestinian experts, ex-government officials and former negotiators, launched a detailed proposal for a final peace solution. The 400-page document, which the group have worked towards for the past 24 months, advises concessions by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but claims the proposals still offer practical solutions to many obstacles to the peace process.

Caucasus suffers weekend of attacks
The Russian Caucasus suffered a series of violent incidents over the weekend, including two suicide bombings. At least 11 people were killed in the attacks, which took place in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, and mostly targeted police forces. The weekend's violence adds to an increasing number of attacks since Russia announced its 10-year ‘anti-terrorist' operation in Chechnya was over.

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