Afghanistan + 5 more

ACLED Regional Overview - South Asia and Afghanistan (7 - 13 May 2022)

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Last week in South Asia and Afghanistan, the Taliban targeted the National Resistance Front (NRF) in northern Afghanistan, causing civilian fatalities and displacement. The Islamic State (IS) and anti-Taliban groups also clashed with the Taliban, while Taliban authorities introduced further restrictions on women, triggering protests. In Pakistan, Baloch separatists continued to target state forces and civilians in Balochistan province, while the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) targeted coast guard personnel in Sindh. In Sri Lanka, anti-government demonstrations turned violent across several provinces in the country amid escalating unrest over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. In India, militant groups clashed with security forces and targeted civilians in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). In Nepal, election-related violence continued across all provinces in the lead up to and during local elections. In Bangladesh, incidents of political killings were reported in Chittagong and Khulna divisions.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban intensified operations against the NRF in the northern Panjshir and Baghlan provinces last week. These clashes led civilians to flee their homes, while reportedly also being targeted and tortured by the Taliban (CBS News, 16 May 2022; RFE/RL, 13 May 2022). Further clashes between the NRF and Taliban forces were reported in Parwan, Kapisa province and Warsaj district, Takhar province, after the NRF claimed to have seized key points in Warsaj from the Taliban the week prior. At least 12 civilians were killed by Taliban forces in Warsaj district, as some civilians, including the former governor of Warsaj, were tortured for information on the NRF (Subhe Kabul, 11 May 2022). Taliban forces also carried out airstrikes in Warsaj, prompting civilians to flee. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in both Panjshir and Takhar in the past month.

Meanwhile, IS and anti-Taliban groups targeted Taliban forces across the country. IS killed at least three Taliban members and injured others in attacks in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. In Ghazni province, the anti-Taliban Afghanistan Liberation Movement conducted a rocket attack in Waghaz district, claiming to have caused Taliban casualties. Also in Ghazni, the Watandost Front, or Patriotic Front, claimed to have seized control of a village in Ab Band district during an attack on a Taliban base – reportedly the group’s first armed interaction with the Taliban (Subhe Kabul, 20 May 2022).

In a separate development, Taliban authorities issued a decree ordering women to cover their faces in public, with male relatives held responsible for ensuring their compliance (The Guardian, 7 May 2022). The announcement triggered protests, mostly led by women, in Kabul city and Mazar-e-Sharif city, Balkh province. In Kabul, a number of women protesters were reportedly arrested by Taliban police forces (Twitter @aziztassal, 10 May 2022). Since the Taliban takeover, many demonstrations in support of women’s rights, and against the Taliban government, have been held, with many women activists targeted specifically for their participation in these demonstrations (*for more, see *this recent ACLED joint report).

In Pakistan, Baloch separatists continued attacks against security forces and civilian targets in Balochistan province last week. Multiple fatalities were reported across separate attacks involving Baloch separatist groups, including the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), in a number of districts. Meanwhile, Baloch Republican Guard (BRG) militants destroyed a transmission tower in Nasirabad district. Violence in Balochistan is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.

Elsewhere, in Sindh province, SRA militants conducted an IED explosion targeting coast guard personnel in Karachi district last week. One civilian was killed and 13 others were injured in the explosion. This violence contributes to the 100% increase in violence in Sindh over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.

In Sri Lanka, anti-government demonstrations over the country’s economic crisis turned violent in several provinces last week, with demonstrators setting fire to hotels, buses, and residences of government-affiliated politicians. The destruction erupted following attacks against anti-government protesters by government supporters in Colombo on 9 May (Al Jazeera, 9 May 2022). At least eight people, including a member of parliament of the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPP), were killed with multiple injuries also reported in subsequent clashes between anti-government demonstrators and government supporters. As the rioting spread, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) ordered security forces to open fire on those causing damage to public or private property (Virakesari, 10 May 2022). The clashes contributed to the 2000% increase in violence in Sri Lanka over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map. Sri Lanka has been facing one of its worst economic crises in recent decades. A deteriorating currency and acute shortages in fuel, pharmaceuticals, cooking gas, and hours of power cuts have culminated in protests across the country (Newsfirst, 14 March 2022).

In India, militant groups clashed with security forces and targeted civilians in J&K last week. Multiple militant fatalities were reported in separate clashes between security forces and militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in a number of districts. Meanwhile, militants also attacked civilians, killing a member of the Kashmiri Pandit community and two off-duty police personnel. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in India in the past month.

In Nepal, election-related clashes continued across the country last week before and during local elections on 13 May. Multiple injuries were reported across separate incidents of mob violence involving Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), Democratic Socialist Party (LSP), People’s Socialist Party Nepal (JSPN), and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist) supporters. The clashes contributed to the 670% increase in violence in Nepal last week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month. Rivalries within and between political party factions vying for influence can often lead to violence in Nepal (*for more, see this recent *ACLED report). Election-related violence has driven the significant increase in violence in all seven provinces in the country over the past week relative to the past month; ACLED’s Subnational Threat & Surge Trackers first warned of increased violence to come in all these provinces in the past month.

In Bangladesh, incidents of political killings were reported in Chittagong and Khulna divisions last week. In Chittagong, a former member of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) was shot and killed by unknown assailants in Rangamati district, while unidentified assailants killed a leader of Jatiya Jubo Jote (JJJ) in Kushtia district in Khulna. Violence in Chittagong is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Predictability Index; ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Khulna in the past month.