Upsurge witnessed in terrorism-related incidents in FATA

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ISLAMABAD: The terror-stricken Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) witnessed an upsurge in incidents of violence during 2017, after a total of 324 violent incidents – including 153 incidents of terrorism and 171 counter-terrorism actions, have been reported in the tribal areas, thus marking a 16 per cent increase in terrorism incidents as compared to the preceding year. The new wave of terrorism has resulted in 1,207 casualties across FATA.

The situation is becoming worrisome for the local population because the areas have been experiencing a relative calm since the launch of the military operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas in June 2014.

The revelations were made in the FATA Annual Security Report issued by the FATA Research Centre (FRC), a non-partisan, non-political and non-governmental research organisation based in Islamabad.

According to the report, out of the total 153 terrorist incidents in 2017, around 73 terrorist attacks (48 per cent) targeted the security forces while 71 attacks (46 per cent) were directed at civilians. Seven terrorist attacks (five per cent) targeted members of the civil militia or Amn Lashkar. Two incidents of infighting between terrorist groups were also reported during the same year.

The violent incidents arising from both terrorist and counter-terrorist actions have resulted in a total of 1,207 casualties – including 539 killed and 668 injured – across FATA, thus marking an increase of 37 per cent in the overall casualties. Of the total casualties, 760 (138 killed and 437 injured) were suffered by civilians, accounting for 63 per cent of the overall casualties. Further, around 128 casualties (63 killed and 65 injured) were inflicted upon the security forces which makes 11 per cent of the overall casualties. Similarly, 29 casualties (11 killed and 18 injured) were suffered by the civil militia during 2017.

Civilian casualties were particularly high in Kurram Agency, which borders Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan on its west, as a total of 575 civilian casualties – 138 deaths and 437 injuries – were recorded in the area, thus accounting for three-quarters of the overall civilian casualties. Bajaur Agency remained second in terms of civilian casualties by suffering 18 terrorist attacks which resulted in 68 civilian casualties (16 killings and 52 injuries), making up nine per cent of all civilian casualties.

Similarly, 39 casualties (seven killings and 32 injuries) were reported from Mohmand Agency, while South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Khyber Agencies shared three per cent casualties each. Orakzai Agency remained the most peaceful agency with the least number of civilian casualties as only 18 civilian casualties (five killings and 13 injuries) were reported from Orakzai, thus accounting for two per cent of the overall civilian casualties.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), Khan Said and Hakeemullah group of Mehsud Taliban, Wazir Taliban, Haqqani network, Lask-e-Jhangvi Almi and TTP-Jamat-ul-Ahrar (TTP-JuA) remained the major actors in the theatre of terrorism created in the tribal areas of Pakistan. These terrorist groups, which are currently based in Afghanistan by forming new alliances and re-invigorating the old ones, managed to carry out terrorist attacks against security forces, civilians and members of the Amn Lashkar from January to December 2017.

FATA Research Centre Islamabad Senior Security Analyst Irfan Din said that the recent surge in terrorist attacks in FATA illustrates the growing threat of terrorists after militant outfits re-established their networks inside Afghanistan.

“IS-K has already established new bases in Jawzjan, Faryab, Balkh, Kunduz, Takar, Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Khosht and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan. To further entrench its network, IS-K is offering 1,000 US dollars for fresh recruits and disgruntled Taliban fighters, particularly in areas close to North Waziristan, Kurram and Khyber Agencies of FATA, which has created new threats for the FATA region,” he maintained.

“The new alliance of IS-K with TTP, Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), and Jamat-ul-Ahrar (TTP-JuA), currently stationed inside Afghanistan, has further compounded these threats and may trigger a massive wave of violence not only in FATA but also in other parts of Pakistan,” Irfan added.