VIF News Digest: National Security - Defence Studies & Terrorism, 01-15 July 2021
Anurag Sharma, Research Associate, VIF

DEFENCE

  • RakshaMantri holds virtual interaction with his Vietnamese counterpart.
  • Exchange of list of prisoners between India and Pakistan.
  • 7th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) held.
  • Participation in NCC Republic Day Camp for youth from friendly countries.
  • Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on a visit to the United Kingdom and Italy.
  • RakshaMantrihas a telephonic conversation with Deputy Prime Minister &Defence Minister of Israel.
  • External Affairs Minister's meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, H.E. Mr. Wang Yi on the sidelines of SCO Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Africa
Somalia
  • Army killed 15 al-Shabaab terrorists in Galmudug.
Russia
  • FSB averted series of IS-inspired terrorists plots in Russia.
Afghanistan
  • Taliban claimed to control 85 per cent of Afghanistan.
Pakistan
  • CTD arrested two JeM and IS terrorists from Punjab province.
  • At least 13 people, including nine Chinese, killed in an explosion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Jammu and Kashmir
  • NIA arrested three Islamic State cadres from Anantnag.
  • J&K administration dismissed 11 employees from services over alleged terror links.
  • Security forces eliminated three LeT terrorists in Pulwama.
Left-Wing Extremism
  • Maoist involved in major attacks surrendered in Telangana.
  • Security forces averted major attack and seized 40 kg IED from Jharkhand.
Islamic Extremism
  • NIA arrested a narcotics trafficker in HM Narco-Terror case, from Punjab.
  • UP ATS arrested two al-Qa’ida-affiliated AGuH terrorists from Uttar Pradesh.
  • Police arrested three JMB terrorists from West Bengal.
  • Police arrested an Islamic extremist for disseminating propaganda on social media.
Khalistan-inspired Extremism
  • NIA launched investigation against SFJ chief—Pannun.

CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

  • Chinese crackers attacked Nepal Telecom and stole CDR data.
  • Pakistan-based cyber attackers targeted power sector and govt. organisations in India in 2021.
  • “Government of India will release new Cyber Security Strategy in 2021,” said India’s NCSC.
Defence
RakshaMantri holds virtual interaction with his Vietnamese counterpart.

RakshaMantri held an online interaction with Minister of National Defence of Vietnam Sr Lt Gen Phan Van Giang on July 01, 2021. During the interaction, both Ministers reviewed the progress on the current initiatives and expressed commitment to further enhance engagements between the Defence Forces of the two countries under the framework of India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (2016) and under the guidance of the Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People signed during the Virtual Summit between the Prime Ministers of the two countries in December 2020.Both Ministers acknowledged the significance of the Joint Vision Statement of 2015-20 in strengthening defence cooperation engagements between both the countries thus far and looked forward to concluding the Joint Vision Statement of 2021-25 at the earliest opportunity. The Ministers agreed to initiate measures to enhance cooperation in Defence Industry and Technology domain.

Exchange of list of prisoners between India and Pakistan.

India and Pakistan on 01 July exchanged, the lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen in their custody. This is in keeping with the provisions of the 2008 Agreement under which such lists are exchanged every year on 1st January and 1st July.India handed over lists of 271 Pakistani civilian prisoners and 74 fishermen in India's custody to Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has shared lists of 51 civilian prisoners and 558 fishermen in its custody, who are Indians or are believed-to-be Indians.
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7th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) held.

The 7th edition of IONS, a biennial event, was hosted by the French Navy at La Réunion from 28 June to 01 July 2021. Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy, participated virtually in the inaugural session of the event and provided his congratulatory remarks to the Outgoing and Incoming Chairmen.IONS, conceived by the Indian Navy in 2008, seeks to enhance maritime cooperation among Navies of the littoral states of the IOR by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues that would lead to common understanding on the way ahead. France has assumed the Chairmanship on 29 Jun 21 for a two-year tenure from Iran.

Participation in NCC Republic Day Camp for youth from friendly countries.

The National Cadets Corps (NCC) will be inviting youth delegations of 25 countries from across all six inhabited continents to participate in the Republic Day 2022 celebrations. Out of these, youth delegations would be invited for the first time from 15 countries - USA, Canada, UK, France, Japan, Oman, UAE, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria and Seychelles. They will be in India from January 15-29, 2022, as part of ‘AzadikaAmritMahotsav’, commemorating 75 years of India’s Independence.

These 15 countries will be in addition to the existing 10 foreign countries - Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Kyrgyz Republic, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Vietnam - with whom NCC already has an ongoing Youth Exchange Program. All together, approximately 300 cadets of National Cadet Corps/equivalent/youth organisations from these 25 countries would be invited to participate in the celebrations. As part of the visit, ten cadets/youth, along with their supervisors, of each of the 25 countries, will attend important events of Republic Day celebrations.
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Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on a visit to the United Kingdom and Italy.

General MM Naravane, had a visit to the United Kingdom and Italy from 05 to 08 July 2021. During the four day visit, he met his counterparts and senior military leaders of these countries with an aim of enhancing India’s defence cooperation.

In his visit to United Kingdom h the COAS interacted with the Secretary of State for Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of General Staff and other dignitaries. During the second leg of his tour (07 and 08 July 2021), the Army Chief held important discussions with the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Staff of the Italian Army. Additionally, the COAS also inaugurated the Indian Army Memorial in the famous town of Cassino.

RakshaMantri has a telephonic conversation with Deputy Prime Minister &Defence Minister of Israel.

RakshaMantri(RM) a telephonic conversation with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Israel Lt Gen (Res) Benjamin Gantz on July 09, 2021. He congratulated Lt Gen (Res) Benjamin Gantz on assuming the charge of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Israel. The RM looked forward to working closely with Israel to deepen defence cooperation and advance the strategic partnership.

External Affairs Minister's meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China on the sidelines of SCO Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

They met on 14th July 2021 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the sidelines of the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting. The two Ministers had a detailed exchange of views on the current situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and also on other issues related to the overall India-China relations. The External Affairs Minister(EAM) emphasized the need to follow through on the agreement reached then and complete the disengagement, resolving the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh at the earliest. EAM pointed out to State Councilor that the successful disengagement in the Pangong Lake Area earlier this year had created conditions for resolving the remaining issues. It was expected that the Chinese side would work with us towards this objective. EAM noted however that the situation in remaining areas is still unresolved.

Assessing the overall relationship, EAM emphasized that maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas has been the foundation for the development of ties since 1988. The attempts to change status quo last year that also disregarded commitments under the 1993 and 1996 agreements have inevitably affected ties. He emphasized that it was, therefore, in mutual interest that the two sides work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh, while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols.

The two Ministers noted the agreement between both sides in the last meeting of the WMCC on 25 June 2021 to hold another round of the Meeting of Senior Military Commanders. They agreed that this should be convened at the earliest.
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INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Africa
Somalia
Army killed 15 al-Shabaab terrorists in Galmudug.

On 04 July 2021, the Somali National Army (SNA) eliminated at least 15 al-Shabaab terrorists in a gun-battle between Guriel and Dhusamareb town in Galmudug State. The counter-terrorism (CT) operation was launched after the SNA received credible intelligence report that al-Shabaab terrorists were planting landmines along the main road.
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Russia
FSB averted series of IS-inspired terrorists plots in Russia.

In a series of counter-terrorism (CT) operations carried out during 29 June-03 July 2021, Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB) foiled a series of Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists plots to be carried out in Russia this summer. On 29 June, a Russian citizen was arrested for conspiring attacks on citizens using firearms and cold weapons on the busy streets of Moscow, while his accomplice was eliminated in Astrakhan region. On 01 July, a Russian citizen was arrested while preparing explosives to be detonated at places of mass gatherings in Moscow city.
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Afghanistan
Taliban claimed to control 85 per cent of Afghanistan.

On 09 July 2021, Taliban claimed to be in control of 85 per cent of Afghanistan after capturing key border crossings with Iran and Turkmenistan. In Moscow, a visiting delegation of Taliban representatives informed that they have controlled about 250 of 398 districts of Afghanistan.
“Taliban fighters had captured the border town of Islam Qala on the Iranian frontier and the Torghundi crossing with Turkmenistan,” said Taliban spokesman ZabihullahMujahid during an interview with the AFP.
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Pakistan
CTD arrested two JeM and IS terrorists from Punjab province.

In two separate counter-terrorism (CT) operations on 10 July 2021, Punjab Police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) arrested two terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Islamic State (IS), from Sri Nankana Sahib district and Sialkot district, respectively.
In first incident, CTD officials arrested IkramUllah Khan—a JeM terrorist from Sri Nankana Sahib district. “Some 25 stickers of JeM, eight monthly booklets on ‘Muslim Children and Al-Merabtoon’ and PKR 76,100 were recovered from his possession,” read the statement released by CTD. In second incident, CTD officials arrested Abdul Samad—an IS terrorist, from Sialkot district. Few IS stickers, 980 gm of explosive material, safety fuse, a non-electric detonator, and some cash was recovered from his possession.
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At least 13 people, including nine Chinese, killed in an explosion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

On 14 July 2021, at least 13 people, including nine Chinese workers were killed in an explosion on a bus in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The bus was carrying Chinese engineers, surveyors and mechanical staff to the Dasu Dam construction site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The blast caused fire in the engine plunging the bus into a ravine, said a Pakistan government official on the basis of anonymity. Further, 28 Chinese nationals were injured in the blast.
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DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Jammu and Kashmir
NIA arrested three Islamic State cadres from Anantnag.

On 11 July 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials arrested three Islamic State (IS) operatives—Umar Nisar, Tanveer Ahmad Bhat, and Rameez Ahmad Lone, from Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Islamic State terrorists in India, by assuming pseudo-online identities, have created a network to disseminate IS propaganda for radicalising and recruiting youth for the proscribed group. In connection to the motive, “Voice of Hind”—an India-centric online propaganda magazine of the Islamic State is published on monthly basis. The NIA raided the houses of arrested IS operatives and seized large number of incriminating materials, several digital devices, and T-shirts with IS logo.
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J&K administration dismissed 11 employees from services over alleged terror links.

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration sacked 11 of its employees, including sons of Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM) chief Syed Salahuddin—Syed Ahmed Shakeel and ShahidYousuf, for allegedly working as Over-Ground Workers (OGWs) for terrorists, said an official on the basis of anonymity on 10 July 2021.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) tracked terror funding trails of the duo—Shakeel and Yousuf, and discovered them raising, recovering, and transferring funds through non-banking transactions, including Hawala, for terrorist activities of HM.
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Security forces eliminated three LeT terrorists in Pulwama.

On 14 July 2021, security forces killed three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, including a commander from Pakistan, in a gun-battle in New Colony Hospital Road area of Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The slain terrorists were identified as Javeed Ahmad Rather and ShahnawazNazirGanie from Awantipora.
Security forces gave terrorists an opportunity to surrender; however, they opened fire which led to the exchange of fire between security forces and terrorists.
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Left-Wing Extremism
Maoist involved in major attacks surrendered in Telangana.

On 14 July 2021, RavulaRanjithaka Srikanth (23 years-old)—a Platoon Party Committee (PPC) member in the CPI (Maoist), had surrendered before Telangana Police. Ranjith was involved in four major attacks on security forces during 2018 and 2021. Ranjith decided to quit the group after realising there was no acceptance for the armed violence in the present-day context, said Telangana Director-General of Police (DGP)—M Mahendra Reddy.
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Security forces averted major attack and seized 40 kg IED from Jharkhand.

On 09 July, the joint team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Jharkhand police, foiled a major Maoist attack and recovered 40 kg Improvised Explosive Device (IED) from Giridih district in Jharkhand. The inputs suggested that the Maoists have planted an IED in the forest area of village Tengrakhurd under Nimiyaghat police station to target the security forces, an operation was immediately launched by the troops of Quick Action Team (QAT) 154 CRPF and State police to detect and defuse the IED and avert any losses, said the spokesperson of the CRPF.
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Islamic Extremism
NIA arrested a narcotics trafficker in HM Narco-Terror case, from Punjab.

On 05 July 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials arrested a narcotics trafficker—Gurjant Singh aka Ashish Gattu, from Amritsar city in Punjab. The arrest was made in connection to the case registered on the arrest of Hilal Ahmad Shergojri, anHizbul-Mujahideen (HM) Over-Ground Worker (OGW) and a close associate of Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo. Shergojri had come to Amritsar to collect funds and proceeds of narcotics sale, for furthering terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Gurjant used to purchase illegally smuggled heroin from other accused persons Bikramjit Singh aka Vicky and Sarwan Singh and further sell it locally. The proceeds collected from the sale of such heroin were sent to Kashmir & Pakistan through hawala.
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UP ATS arrested two al-Qa’ida-affiliated AGuH terrorists from Uttar Pradesh.

On 11 July 2021, the Uttar Pradesh (UP)’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) officials raided the houses in Dubagga and Mandiyaon areas and arrested two al-Qa’ida-affiliated AnsarGhazwatul-Hind (AGuH)’s terrorists—Minhaz Ahmad (30 years-old) and Masiruddinaka Mushir (50 years-old), for alleged conspiracy to carry out serial blasts and lone-wolf suicide attacks in various parts of the State.

“The two men arrested from separate police station areas on Lucknow’s outskirts were among the three key members (another terrorist—Shakil) of the global terror outfit’s UP module, which has members in other parts of UP also. The arrested duo and their aides were being handled by their Al-Qa’ida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) handler identified as Umar Al-Mandi, who has been handling them from Quetta and Peshawar cities of Pakistan close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” said the UP Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) (Law & Order).
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Police arrested three JMB terrorists from West Bengal.

On 11 July 2021, Kolkata Police’s Special Task Force (STF) arrested three Jamaatul-Mujahideen-Bangladesh (JMB) terrorists—Naziur Rahman Pavel (30 years-old), Mekail Khan (30 years-old), and Rabiul Islam (22 years-old), from Haridevpur in the outskirts of Kolkata. The trio posed as traders and used to sell fruits and mosquito nets. “Literature and documents seized from the [terrorists] prove their links with JMB. Fake identity cards were also seized. There is a diary that contains the names of Islamic State (IS) leaders,” informed Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP) of STF—V Solomon Nesakumar.
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Police arrested an Islamic extremist for disseminating propaganda on social media.

On 07 July 2021, Rajasthan police arrested Asruddin (30 years-old) alleged Islamic extremist for disseminating propaganda of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM) on his Telegram groups that included members from Pakistan, Myanmar and Iran. Asruddin was arrested from Tijara area of Alwar district in Rajasthan. Asruddin was under police surveillance which revealed that he was spreading provocative speeches and messages on social media groups. In a raid on Asruddin’s house, police recovered four cellular SIM cards, two bank passbooks, and a suspected financial transaction of ₹ 90,000.
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Khalistan-inspired Extremism
NIA launched investigation against SFJ chief.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) launched a probe against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun—Head of Sikh For Justice (SFJ)—a Khalistan-sympathiser group based in the United States (US). Pannun is accused of releasing a video on social media in June 2021, calling the ‘Balkanisation of India’ through its military. “In the latest video, Pannun is propagating the idea of Balkanisation (division of a country into several small political units) of India, openly spreading disaffection in the country, and making imputations prejudicial to national integration,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.
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CYBER, INFORMATION WARFARE & AI (SECURITY PERSPECTIVE)

Chinese crackers attacked Nepal Telecom and stole CDR data.

China-based crackers attacked the Nepal Telecom and stole the Call Detail Record (CDR) data of all Nepalese subscribers. According to technical experts, the crackers used 41 and 71 Tactics of the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), along with backdoor techniques to crack the Oracle Glass Fish Server used by the Nepal Telecom. The stolen data has been kept on Dark Web for sale on 29 June 2021.

“Hackers might have breached into a dated server of CDMA. The company's team of expert technicians are looking into the matter to trace the culprits. Our main server is protected by a highly secure firewall and remains safe,” said Nepal Telecom Managing Director Dilli Ram Adhikari. “We have not deciphered the identity of the hackers. We switched off the server to save our data after we received information of a possible interference into our server,” said Nepal Telecom spokesman—Rajesh Joshi.
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Pakistan-based cyber attackers targeted power sector and govt. organisation in India in 2021.

According to a report released by Black Lotus Labs—a threat intelligence arm of US-based Lumen Technologies, Pakistan-based cyber attackers targeted Critical Infrastructure of the power sector and a government organisation in earlier 2021.
Speaking exclusively to India TV, Michael Benjamin (Vice President of Product Security at Lumen Technologies-Black Lotus Labs) said that “there were a number of indicators suggesting how the campaign was carried out that led us to believe that the individuals were located in Pakistan. And from the network telemetry and network visibility that we have, we were able to ascertain that the targeting was very Indian specific, focused on power companies as well as a single government entity.”
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“Government of India will release new Cyber Security Strategy in 2021,” said India’s NCSC.

At the event organised by Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), on 02 July 2021, India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC)—Lt Gen Rajesh Pant (Retd) said that the government will release a new Cyber Security Strategy in 2021. The strategy would holistically cover the entire cyberspace ecosystem of India.
The new strategy would serve as a guideline to tackle various aspects, be it data as a national resource, building indigenous capabilities or cyber audit.
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