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ACLED Regional Overview - South Asia and Afghanistan (11 - 17 June 2022)

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Last week in South Asia and Afghanistan, the Taliban clashed with the Islamic State (IS) and anti-Taliban groups across Afghanistan, while the Taliban, IS, and unknown perpetrators continued to target civilians. In Pakistan, Baloch separatists targeted state forces and civilians in Balochistan province, while unknown groups conducted remote explosions and clashed with security forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Elsewhere in Pakistan, poll-related violence broke out in Sindh over local elections held on 16 June. In India, army aspirants held demonstrations across several states and union territories against an army recruitment scheme offering limited-term employment. Meanwhile, demonstrations against derogatory remarks regarding the Prophet Muhammad made by two members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In Sri Lanka, demonstrations over fuel shortages intensified amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

In Afghanistan, clashes between the Taliban and various armed groups, including IS and anti-Taliban groups, continued last week. IS targeted the Taliban in Kabul city and Kunar and Laghman provinces. The Taliban killed seven IS militants and a commander during anti-IS operations in Taloqan district of Takhar province. Two civilians were also killed and at least two injured during the clashes in Kunar and Takhar.

Meanwhile, the National Resistance Front (NRF) continued its attacks on the Taliban in Parwan, Takhar, Kapisa, Baghlan, and Badakhshan provinces last week. Further clashes took place in Panjshir province, where the Taliban deployed new troops (Hasht-e Subh, 17 June 2022), with the Taliban attacking the NRF in Shutul, Rukha, and Unaba districts.

Several other anti-Taliban groups also targeted the Taliban last week. In Mohammad Agha district of Logar province, the Watandost Front claimed to have killed five Taliban members. This is the second recorded attack by the Watandost Front, which claims to have seized a village from the Taliban in Ghazni province in May. Additionally, the National Liberation Front of Afghanistan claims to have killed Taliban commanders in Helmand province and the intelligence director of the military university in Kabul (Facebook @aazadagan, 15 June 2022). The Afghanistan Liberation Movement also claims the killings of over a dozen Taliban members in Wardak and Urozgan provinces, including the deputy governor of Chak-e-Wardak district of Wardak.

Violence targeting civilians also persisted last week, with attacks carried out by both the Taliban and IS. In Mazar-e-Sharif city of Balkh province, IS attacked a vehicle carrying airport staff, killing at least two people. In Kabul city, an IS-planted explosive killed at least four workers of Pul-e-Charki prison. Meanwhile, an unidentified group detonated a bomb inside a mosque during Friday prayers in Hazrati Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province, killing at least one civilian and wounding dozens. This was the second mosque bombing in Hazrati Imam Sahib district this year, following an attack in April that killed dozens. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Kunduz in the past month. Taliban forces also targeted civilians across the country, including beating, detaining, or killing civilians for shaving off beards or playing music during weddings. In Takhar province, Taliban forces arrested 30 women students for leaving their dormitories without the Taliban’s permission. While 10 students were later released, the whereabouts of the rest remain unknown (Afghan Women News, 20 June 2022).

In Pakistan, Baloch separatists and unknown armed groups clashed with state forces and carried out explosive attacks in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces last week. These trends contributed to the 32% increase in violence in Pakistan in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.

In Balochistan, Baloch separatists engaged in armed clashes with security forces and targeted civilians last week. Multiple fatalities were reported across separate attacks involving Baloch separatist groups, including the Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), in a number of districts.

Elsewhere, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, unknown groups targeted security forces using remote explosives and direct attacks last week, resulting in two security force fatalities. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in both Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past month.

Meanwhile, poll-related violence broke out in Sindh province last week over local elections held on 16 June. At least one person was killed and more than 10 people were injured across multiple incidents involving Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) members in Karachi City. Electoral violence contributed to the 147% increase in violence in Sindh in the past month relative to the past year, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in Sindh in the past month.

In India, army aspirants held demonstrations across several states and union territories last week against the recently introduced army recruitment scheme ‘Agnipath.’ ‘Agnipath’ is a recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the armed forces on short, four-year contracts to lower the average age of personnel (Reuters, 20 June 2022). However, many potential recruits object to the scheme, saying they should be allowed to serve longer than four years (Al Jazeera, 17 June 2022). Demonstrations were largely violent in Bihar, Telangana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana, with demonstrators pelting stones and burning tires, buses, and police vehicles. Two people were killed during the demonstrations. The outbreak of violent demonstrations has driven the significant increases in violence in Bihar, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh last week relative to the past month. ACLED’s Subnational Threat and Surge Trackers first warned of increased violence to come in Bihar and Rajasthan in the past month.

Meanwhile, Muslim groups continued demonstrations across several places in India last week over derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad by two BJP members. In West Bengal, demonstrators clashed with police and vandalized trains, shops, and vehicles, contributing to the 211% increase in violence in West Bengal last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in West Bengal in the past month.

Demonstrations over the remarks about the Prophet Muhammad also continued in Pakistan and Bangladesh last week. In Bangladesh, amid the demonstrations, rioters attacked and set fire to a house belonging to a Hindu community member in Bagerhat district in Khulna division, following an altercation over the anti-Islamic remarks. This violence contributes to the 100% increase in violence in Khulna over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.

In Sri Lanka, demonstrations over fuel shortages intensified across several provinces last week. Violence broke out in Colombo and Nuwara Eliya districts as demonstrators clashed with police and gas station attendants over fuel shortages. The clashes contributed to the 700% increase in violence in Sri Lanka last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month. Sri Lanka has been facing one of its worst economic crises in recent decades, with a deteriorating currency, regular power cuts, and acute shortages in fuel, pharmaceuticals, and cooking gas (Newsfirst, 14 March 2022).