The Memo: 1 Apr—7 Apr 2024

The Memo's latest issue summarises significant security news from Apr 1—7, 2024: BIFF attacked MILF stronghold, India admits cross-border ops, Jaish al-Adl strikes IRGC, Iranian police arrest ISIS, Russia engages Taliban, Malaysia police made multiple arrests linked to Israeli with firearms.

The Memo: 1 Apr—7 Apr 2024

In brief:

  • BIFF attacked MILF stronghold, injuring two in Maguindanao.
  • India admits to cross-border operations, escalating tensions with Pakistan.
  • Jaish al-Adl attacked an IRGC headquarters, killing security forces.
  • Iranian police arrest Islamic State operatives planning attacks.
  • Russia actively engages Taliban, aiming to remove terrorist designation.
  • Malaysia police arrest individuals linked to Israeli national with firearms.

1. Geopolitical security updates and incidents

i. Southeast Asiad

The Philippines

On Apr 3, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a pro-Islamic State (IS) Filipino terror group, attacked the stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF), a former rebel group, in the village of Pimbalkan, Maguindanao del Sur, injuring two individuals. Led by Commander Zainodin Kiaro, the BIFF's attack ignited a violent confrontation, causing civilians to flee the area to escape the conflict. The specific faction of the BIFF responsible for the attack was not identified.

Why does it matter: This latest violence highlights the persistent threat posed by pro-IS groups in the Philippines, particularly in the volatile region of Maguindanao del Sur. The attack underscores the ongoing security challenges faced by the government and the potential for violence to disrupt stability in the area. The targeting of the MILF stronghold by BIFF signals internal conflicts within the Bangsamoro government and raises concerns about the effectiveness of peace agreements in the region.

ii. South Asia


India's defence minister seemingly confirmed The Guardian's recent report of government involvement in extrajudicial killings in Pakistan following allegations of assassinations by India's foreign intelligence agency, RAW, targeting terrorists on foreign soil, with most targets being convicted terrorists associated with Islamist militant groups linked to attacks in India. The report suggested that India's intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was behind up to 20 killings in Pakistan since 2020 as part of a strategy to target terrorists abroad. Most of the targets were convicted terrorists associated with Islamist militant groups responsible for attacks in India.

Why does it matter: This acknowledgment signifies India's operations in Pakistani territory, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh affirming India's capability and Prime Minister Narendra Modi endorsing the policy, reflecting a shift from past denials. Previously, India acknowledged "unauthorised" involvement in extrajudicial killings of suspected Khalistani separatists in Canada, known as the Pannun Affair.* The admission of these operations in Pakistan may exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed neighbours with a lengthy history of conflict.

iii. Middle East


On Apr 4, the Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl launched an attack on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) headquarters in Sistan-Baluchestan, resulting in the deaths of 11 security force members. Overnight clashes led to the death of 16 Jaish al-Adl members. The attack occurred in Chabahar and Rask, towns bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi stated that the terrorists failed to seize the Guards' headquarters. Among the fatalities were Brigadier-General Mohammad Reza Zahedi and General Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi of the IRGC's Quds Force.

Why does it matter: Jaish al-Adl, designated as a terrorist group by Iran, has previously claimed attacks in the region. The attack resulted in significant casualties among both security forces and militants, highlighting the volatile nature of the situation. The involvement of high-ranking IRGC officials further emphasizes the seriousness of the attack and its implications for Iranian security. The area, plagued by unrest, frequently witnesses clashes between security forces and Sunni militants, as well as drug trafficking.

On Apr 6, Iranian police arrested three IS operatives, including a senior member, Mohammad Zaker (aka "Ramesh"), accused of planning a suicide attack during Ramadan celebrations in Karaj, west of Tehran in Iran. Eight other individuals were also arrested. The group is linked to Jan 4 twin explosion attacks in Kerman by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), with U.S. intelligence suggesting involvement in attacks in Russia. Iran had tipped off Russia about potential attacks.

Why does it matter: IS's activities in Iran not only affect internal security but also have broader regional implications, especially considering its past attacks in neighbouring countries like Russia. The 2022 stabbing attack at Imam Reza shrine and the 2017 Tehran attacks targeting Iran's parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum, underscores the persistent threat posed by the group in the region, particularly against Shia Muslims. The March 22 attack in Moscow, claimed by ISKP, demonstrates the group's capacity for violence beyond its traditional strongholds.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia


On Apr 2, Russia has announced its active engagement in dialogue with Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, with the aim of removing them from Moscow's list of terrorist organisations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed continuous communication with the Taliban, emphasising their significant influence in Afghanistan. This move comes after Russia experienced its deadliest terrorist attack in two decades, attributed to Islamic State militants. Despite U.S. intelligence attributing the attack to IS-Khorasan, Peskov prioritised dialogue with the Taliban, disregarding immediate measures regarding their terrorist classification. Meanwhile, the Taliban condemned the Moscow attack and reiterated calls for regional collaboration against terrorism.

Why does it matter: Russia's diplomatic outreach to the Taliban, exemplified by extending an invitation to an international economic forum, demonstrates its sustained efforts to engage with Afghanistan's leadership. These efforts have the potential to influence regional dynamics, potentially complicating ongoing US efforts in public diplomacy concerning political inclusivity, dire conditions, and women's rights, which constitute the primary reasons for the US's refusal to recognise the Taliban government.

2. Organised crime watch

i. Southeast Asia


On April 4 and 5, police arrested eight individuals, including three foreigners, in Kuala Lumpur and Johor to assist in the investigation involving Shalom Avitan, an Israeli national found in possession of illegal firearms, including a Glock 19 Marine and 200 rounds of ammunition. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Razarudin Husain disclosed that the detainees, aged between 29 and 60, including two Turkish nationals and one Georgian man, have been remanded for one week. Two individuals apprehended in Johor are suspected of facilitating the procurement of firearms. These arrests, conducted as part of the Commercial Crime Investigation Department's (CCID) probe into cryptocurrency payments for weapons, bring the total number of apprehended individuals to 16. Avitan was arrested on Mar 27 with firearms, while four others, including a married couple, were detained at various locations. Israeli media outlets have linked Avitan to the Musli Brothers crime family.

Why does it matter: These developments underscore the seriousness of the situation, indicating potential involvement in arms trafficking and organised crime networks. The inclusion of foreign nationals and the utilisation of cryptocurrency in weapon transactions highlight the complexity and international scope of the investigation. Additionally, the link between Avitan and the Musli Brothers crime family raises further questions about the extent of organised crime networks involved. These arrests highlight emerging challenges in law enforcement, particularly in monitoring digital financial transactions and preventing the illicit trade of weapons in the country.

*A correction has been made to refer to the Pannun Affair.

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