Friday, November 02, 2018

Mizzima: Pakistan, ISIS allegedly behind Rakhine imbroglio

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Pakistan, ISIS allegedly behind Rakhine imbroglio

Indian and Bangladesh intelligence officials say that they have intercepted three long duration calls between Hafiz Tohar, military wing chief of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 23rd and 24th August that hold the key to why the militant group unleashed the pre-dawn offensive against Myanmar security forces.
Hafiz Tohar set up the Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM) and was trained in Pakistan by the dreaded Lashkar e Tayyaba (LET) after he was recruited by Abdul Qadoos Burmi, the chief of Harkat ul Jihad al Islami -Arakan (HUJI-A) from Kyauk Pyin Siek village of Maungdaw in 2014.
He merged his group into the ARSA after it was formed in the summer of 2016 and is widely believed to be behind the deadly attacks on Myanmar security forces from October 9-10 last year and on Aug 25 this year.
Following the training of a few initial recruits of the AMM in Pakistan, new cadres were recruited from among Rohingya youth in Rakhine State and refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar.
They were then trained in camps set up on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, specially one at Naikhongcherri in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
One "Major Salamat" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, deputed for under cover operations with the LET,was responsible for these training during April-May 2016.
63 JMB activists from Bangladesh responsible for the suicide bombings in that country and 88  ARSA activists were trained in the Naikhongcherri base in April-May 2016, according to information revealed by two top JMB activists when interrogated by Bangladesh intelligence.
This base was recently raided by the Bangladesh army, and six JMB rebels were captured. During interrogation, they confirmed information about this base and the joint JMB-ARSA training stint conducted by ISI that Bangladesh intelligence had garnered from top JMB leader Abul Kashem.
Kashem's information led to the raid on this hideout three months ago.
They found contact numbers of one "Brigadier Ashfaq' and of 'Major Salamat' of ISI and one ISIS recruiter in Iraq.
Bangladesh intelligence put these numbers on surveillance and also passed their numbers to Indian R&AW external intelligence agency which has superb Signals Intelligence capabilities with a regional reach.
Ashfaq is said to be the office in charge of ISI's eastern operations, and he had recently met BNP leader and former PM Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique in London.
Bangladesh media, quoting their intelligence sources, had reported that the ISI officer and Begum Zia discussed ways to bring down the Hasina government in Dhaka and boost the Rohingya insurgency in Rakhine, for which support of the BNP-Jamaat e Islami was needed because ruling Awami League is not sympathetic to Rohingyas.
On 23 August at 11.32am Bangladesh time, there was a call from Ashfaq's number to a Bangladesh Grameenphone mobile used by Hafiz Tohar. The call lasted 37 minutes, and Ashfaq told hafiz that ARSA has to hit multiple targets within the next 48 hours.  Tohar said though his squads were in a position to strike, suggesting long planning and mobilisation, it would not be possible to strike the multiple targets before midnight of 24th August.
Indian intelligence also intercepted this call and could fully break the coded language that Bangladesh intelligence had not been able to decipher fully.
These three calls simultaneously intercepted by Bangladesh and Indian intelligence makes it clear ARSA and their backers (ISIS and ISI) were determined to cause problems for the Aung San Suu Kyi government which had committed to set up an inter-ministerial committee to implement the recommendations made by Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Commission.
It is nor clear whether Bangladesh or India raised a red flag with Myanmar to warn them of an impending attack.
Perhaps the absence of an intelligence sharing mechanism did not enable the transfer.
" After ISIS's huge failures in the Middle East in the face of Russian and US-led Western military action, there is a clear attempt to create a new theatre of jihad where the narrative of torture and human rights violations reinforced by heavy handed Burmese action can unsettle the Sheikh Hasina regime and destabilise India's east," said a top Indian intelligence official in Yangon before PM Modi's visit to review security arrangements.
"That will divert Indian military attention from Kashmir and Bangladesh from its battle against JMB and other jihadis. This is a clear Pakistani ploy."
That would explain why India and Bangladesh, mindful of their own security threats, have not bought into the narrative of 'genocide' as some in the West and many in the Islamic World have.
"The ARSA is determined to thwart Daw Suu Kyi's good intentions to implement the Kofi Annan report. They want to brutalise the discourse in Rakhine and help re-militarise the area so that the narrative of torture and extra-judicial killings help them boost the level of jihad and find recruits," said a top Bangladesh intelligence official.
But both he and the Indian intelligence official wished to remain anonymous.


Mizzima, derived from the Pali for middle or moderate and chosen for its inference of an unbiased and independent media, was established in 1998 in New Delhi, India, by veterans of Myanmar’s 1988 pro-democracy uprising. Founder Soe Myint and co-founder Thin Thin Aung participated in the movement for democracy and they were in exile in India as refugees. Since its founding the aim of Mizzima has been to provide high quality news relating to Myanmar while contributing toward freedom of expression and the realization of an inclusive and democratic Myanmar for all the country’s peoples.
Mizzima operated for nearly 15 years as an exile-based media organization, with a liaison office in Chiang Mai, Thailand, complimenting the organization’s headquarters in India. However, in the wake of domestic reforms in Myanmar implemented following the onset of parliamentary governance in 2011, Mizzima, in 2012, became the first formerly exile-based media organization to gain incorporation as a local media entity, registering in Myanmar as Mizzima Media Co. Ltd.
Today, Mizzima produces an array of multi-media products and can claim to be one of the top five private media houses in Myanmar. Our current production lines include our long-standing Burmese and English language websites ( and along with a digital daily newspaper in Burmese and weekly English language magazine. Moreover, in 2017 Mizzima was awarded one of five licenses to operate an independent Free-to-Air digital TV channel ( This crowning achievement is further recognition of Mizzima as a major media power in Myanmar, buttressing our national outreach and influence.
As Myanmar continues to evolve following decades of authoritarian rule, Mizzima further prides itself on our active cooperation with other national and international stakeholders in the media reform process in Myanmar, including extensive working relationships with ethnic and regional media houses throughout the country. It is not an exaggeration to say that every day and week thousands – including a diverse international audience in addition to Myanmar’s domestic consumer base – turn to Mizzima for the latest information and analysis of events impacting Myanmar’s continued development.
Following the entrenchment of Mizzima as a for-profit domestic media house with our Yangon headquarters, Mizzima Foundation was established as a non-profit entity to further serve the people of Myanmar in keeping with the original mission of Mizzima. It was established in 2015 as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of Mizzima Media with the aim of supporting knowledge-based social interventions that foster the unity and integrity of Myanmar while contributing to the peace, security and development of the country.
As a CSR wing of Mizzima Media, the Foundation is set up for the purpose of serving Myanmar society by contributing to social change and economic development in ways that are consistent with and complimentary to our core media business while simultaneously nurturing a broadly inclusive and prosperous Myanmar.
Mizzima believes that only with the security of a free and vibrant media in Myanmar, can the country’s full potential be realized. As such, Mizzima is proud of our legacy as a founding member of independent media in Myanmar and looks forward to growing and prospering in tandem with the country over the years and decades to come.