Last week in South Asia and Afghanistan, Taliban forces continued to clash with unidentified armed groups and the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan, while unknown perpetrators launched targeted attacks on civilians, especially former security members. In Pakistan, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants attacked security forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as Pakistani security forces and Baloch separatist groups engaged in deadly clashes in Balochistan province. Meanwhile, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan (TLP) renewed demonstrations and clashed with police after the Pakistani government refused to shut down the French Embassy over French caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Lastly, in India, police forces exchanged fire with Maoist rebels in Telangana and Bihar states.
In Afghanistan, IS and Taliban forces continued to clash in Nangarhar and Herat provinces last week. Meanwhile, unidentified armed groups attacked the Taliban in Faryab, Kunar, Jowzjan, and Nangarhar. In Nangarhar province, an armed group targeted the Taliban with a roadside bomb, amid several clashes between armed groups and the Taliban in Jalalabad city. The affiliation of the attackers remains unknown. Five civilians were killed in these clashes and the explosion.
Separately, unidentified perpetrators killed at least three civilians and injured several more in targeted attacks in the country last week. Victims include jounalists, a former Afghan security member, and a Muslim scholar. Heightened levels of unclaimed attacks targeting civilians were apparent throughout October 2021. In particular, anonymous or unidentified perpetrators increasingly targeted former Afghan government officials and security force members last month, with some sources blaming the Taliban for a number of these killings (Twitter @Natsecjeff, 7 October 2021; Twitter @Sarfaraz1201, 24 October 2021).
In Pakistan, the TTP stepped up attacks against security forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province last week — resulting in a 200% increase in political violence in the province last week relative to the past month (see ACLED’s Early Warning Research Hub for more). Suspected TTP militants killed four police officers in a targeted shooting in Lakki Marwat city and two soldiers across separate attacks at military checkposts in the Degan and Ghariom areas. After the Taliban takeover of Kabul on 15 August, the TTP renewed their allegiance with the Afghan Taliban and vowed to take over Pakistan’s tribal border region with Afghanistan (Reuters, 5 September 2021). Meanwhile, the TTP also took responsibility for killing a police officer guarding a polio vaccination team in Dera Ismail Khan city. The attack took place on World Polio Day on 24 October, which highlights efforts to eradicate the virus and honors polio workers (Gandhara, 24 October 2021). The TTP has previously targeted polio teams and police guards, claiming that the vaccination campaigns are a plot to sterilize children (Gandhara, 24 October 2021).
Elsewhere in Pakistan, security forces conducted operations against Baloch separatists in Balochistan last week. Frontier Corps paramilitary troops exchanged fire with Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) militants at a hideout in Harnai district, killing six militants, including a commander. A Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) team also killed nine militants from various armed separatist groups in the Mastung area. Meanwhile, several members of the BLA, United Baloch Army (UBA), and the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) surrendered before authorities in Kohlu district (Dawn, 30 October 2021). Since 2017, over one thousand Baloch separatists have surrendered (Dawn, 30 October 2021).
Meanwhile, violent clashes resumed between the TLP and Pakistani security forces, as the banned Islamist party continued its march to Islamabad last week, demanding the release of its imprisoned chief, Saad Rizvi. The march had been suspended the week prior after the government agreed to withdraw pending charges against Rizvi (Deutsche Welle, 24 October 2021). Violent demonstrations picked up last week in response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that he would not close the French Embassy. The TLP has been demanding the closure of the embassy since October 2020 when French President Macron defended the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo (The Washington Post, 30 October 2021). The banned Islamist party also demands the release of its chief, who was arrested last year during anti-French demonstrations (Gandhara, 22 October 2021). At least four police officers died and over 30 were injured, as thousands of TLP supporters clashed and exchanged fire with security forces in Gujranwala district. Following the clashes, Pakistani authorities deployed paramilitary units and blocked off roads to Islamabad to deter demonstrators from reaching the capital (Reuters, 29 October 2021).
In India, Maoist rebels and security forces exchanged fire along the Telangana-Chhattisgarh state border last week, leading to the death of three rebels. In the week prior, police had intensified combing operations in the area based on intelligence suggesting that Maoist leaders had entered Telangana from their stronghold state, Chhattisgarh (New Indian Express, 25 October 2021). Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) alleged that the encounter was faked and called for a statewide shutdown in Telangana state on 27 October (India Today, 25 October 2021). Another CPI-Maoist operative was also killed during an encounter in Bihar state. Maoist violence has declined thus far in 2021 and has been concentrated in a few districts.
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