Worldwide Security Report - Week Five 2017

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Greetings from Bahrain!

Here I am working on the Bahrain Cruise Strategy, focusing on how to empower greater engagement between Cruise visitors and the hospitable culture the people on the island, whereby nearly 60% of the location population is actually from Bahrain! Pearl diving, visits to Arabian Horse ranches and being welcomed into a locals home to learn an authentic cooking style are just some of the new highlights on my agenda. Local hospitality is also reflected in the new brand identity ‘Ours. Yours. Bahrain’ which embraces the country’s biggest asset, its people – their warmth and welcoming attitude!

As you will see below, last week was extremely busy on the security agenda, in part thanks to Mr. Trump!


Here below is one of the most comprehensive updated worldwide reports on Security for all Perpetual Traveller's out there!

Travel Warnings

Brazil
There have been reports of 15 buses being set on fire and shootings at police stations in the city of Nadal, Rio Grande do Norte State; Cruise Lines visiting this city should be vigilant, follow local Port Agency advice and monitor local media.

Egypt
The security situation in Egypt is unpredictable at best. There is an ongoing significant risk of terrorist attacks throughout the country. Attacks can be indiscriminate and occur with no warning, including in Cairo. While attacks in the North Sinai are frequent and mainly target security forces, terrorists have also targeted popular tourist destinations and other places frequented by foreigners throughout the country. There is a significant presence of armed security forces and police in most governorates throughout the country.

Security Related activities over the past week in date order

29 January

China
Travel disruption likely during Lunar New Year holiday. There is a heightened risk of disruption to road, rail and air travel during the Lunar New Year festivities in China that began on 27 January and will last until 2 February. Previous years have seen severe traffic congestion as hundreds of thousands of people travel from major cities. Long delays are possible at major toll booths such as the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Express highway, particularly as several roads in and around Beijing remain partially or fully closed due to high levels of smog. Authorities have reportedly boosted security at train stations and airports in Beijing to reduce unrest. Traffic is particularly bad towards the end of the holiday as residents return to their homes in urban areas. Any inclement weather would further exacerbate the situation. The main impact to Cruise is travel to embarkation point for Chinese Guests and potentially Shore Excursions in Beijing and Hong Kong. Note that we gave plenty of warning for these potential travel disruptions and we trust all due provisions have been made. 

Cote d’Ivoire
Intermittent protests likely in Abidjan, other cities, Protests by students and striking civil servants are expected in Abidjan and other urban centres in Cote d’Ivoire throughout the week. The government has formed a special committee to address the demands of striking public workers, but no final deal has yet been reached. The ongoing strikes have sparked repeated student protests in Abidjan that have the propensity to turn violent.

India
Jats to begin fresh protests in Haryana, Members of the Jat community have threatened to hold more demonstrations across 19 districts in the state of Haryana from 29 January, claiming that Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has not fulfilled promises about providing jobs. Blockades to roads and railway tracks are likely. Demonstrations on the same issue in early 2016 escalated to clashes that left 30 people dead, and protesters engaged in arson and cut off water supplies to the federal capital of New Delhi. To avoid a repeat of the violence, the state government has asked New Delhi to provide additional security assistance. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised British citizens travelling between New Delhi and Chandigarh and Punjab to avoid large gatherings and monitor the security situation. 

Lebanon
Communist Party to protest in Beirut, The leader of the Lebanese Communist Party Hanna Gharib called for a demonstration in Beirut to promote state authority and democratic change in Lebanon. The Communist Party website said that the demonstration would begin from the Mar Michael area and move to the Riyad al-Solh square. There is no indication of the expected turnout and previous communist party demonstrations have attracted hundreds of supporters.

Morocco
Union, teachers to protest in Rabat, The US Embassy warned of two potential protests in the at the Bab el-Had area in Rabat from 1000 hrs local time. The Democratic Labour Federation (CDT) has called for a demonstration against misuse of public funds. Another group has called a protest to dispute the exam results of trainee teachers. Demonstrators intended to gather in the square before heading to parliament. There was no indication of expected turnout but the demonstrations may impact travel in central Rabat, particularly on Avenue Hassan II and Avenue Misr.

Romania
Protesters to rally against government in Bucharest, counter-demonstration likely. Some 10,000 protesters are expected to rally in Bucharest’s University Square against the government’s proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners. On 22 January around 15,000 people gathered in the square to protest the pardon plan. Past demonstrations been peaceful, however an announced counter-demonstration on 29 January increases the risk of clashes between both groups.

Turkey
Protests against constitutional amendments in Istanbul. Multiple rallies against the constitutional amendment referendum in April are expected in various parts of Istanbul, including the Kadikoy district of the city. The current state of emergency law could restrict turnout and permit the police to break up rallies for minor disturbances, heightening the risk of disruption and clashes.

30 January

Colombia
Protest against new police code in Bogota. The social movement Sí a la Dosis Personal, which advocates the legalisation of medical cannabis for personal use, will hold a protest in Bogota. The protest is a reaction to the presence of a new police code involving harsher sentences for cannabis use. The protest will begin at Planetario Distrital before heading to Plaza de Bolivar but disruption is likely to be minimal.

31 January

India

Court to hear Tamil Nadu bull-taming dispute. India’s Supreme Court is set to hear a case on jallikattu-the bull-taming practice common in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. There is a high likelihood of unrest if the Supreme Court reinforces a ban on the practice. A week-long demonstration in Tamil Nadu over the court’s refusal in January of a plea seeking to overturn the 2014 ruling that banned jallikattu saw riots in several places. The unrest prompted the government of Tamil Nadu to pass a bill legalising jallikattu in the state. 

Mauritania
Thousands to protest as court announces verdict in blogger case. Protests are likely to coincide with the likely announcement of the verdict in a Supreme Court case against a Mauritanian blogger accused of blasphemy. Past protests concerning the issue have drawn thousands of people to the streets in Nouakchott, including some hardliners calling for the death penalty. Other protest hotspots include Nouadhibou and smaller towns in Nouakchott province.

Mexico
Nationwide protests against fuel price hike, Numerous social movements will hold ‘mega-demonstrations’ against the fuel price hike introduced by the government on 1 January. The protests will be held nationwide from 1600 hrs local time, and the epicentre of protests will be Mexico City, where organisers estimate a turnout of 500,000 people. The protests are likely to impact travel and logistics after several farmers’ organisations called for participants to prevent trucks belonging to foreign companies from entering Mexico City. The main protest route will begin at Angel de la Independencia before heading to Plaza Zócalo, with protests also planned on Zaragoza, Tlalpan, Constituyentes avenues and the México-Querétaro highway.

1 February

Egypt
Pharmacists threaten strike, The Pharmacists Syndicate threatened a major strike if talks with the government over profit margins failed. The strike was initially set for January, but was delayed to allow for negotiations with the health ministry. It is unclear how long the strike would last, but the strike could restrict access to medical care at public pharmacies. 

France
SNCF to stage nationwide rail strike, French national railway company SNCF announced a nationwide strike over job cuts. The proposed strike will commence at 1900hrs local time on 1 February and end at 0800 hrs local time on 3 February. SNCF provides services to most of France and will cause widespread travel disruption if it goes ahead.

Gabon
EU to vote on emergency resolution on Gabon crisis. The European Parliament is set to vote on an emergency resolution on the political crisis in Gabon over 1-2 February. The resolution would impose sanctions on individuals accused of being responsible for the post-election violence in 2016, including President Ali Bongo. Opposition protests are likely during this period, especially in Libreville. If sanctions are approved, there is a strong possibility of pro-government demonstrations, which could result in some rioting.

2 February

Hungary
Protestors to rally against Putin’s visit near parliament in Budapest, A large crowd is expected to rally near the Hungarian parliament in Budapest against the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the capital. The protest is expected to attract thousands, but crowds are anticipated to remain peaceful.

Spain
Taxi drivers to strike in Barcelona, The main taxi associations of the metropolitan Barcelona will stage a strike between 0600 and 1400 hrs local time to press for further regulations on private taxis. The taxi associations intend to halt traffic in major roads of Barcelona and in Plaça de Sant Jaume , likely causing severe traffic congestion. Barcelona could be in the news a lot this year, as the city is planning a Tourist tax on Cruise passengers.

3 February

Bermuda
Activists to protest airport deal outside parliament,The leader of the People’s Campaign said protests will take place against a controversial airport deal to coincide with a debate in parliament on the project. Clashes between police and protesters are possible following recent disturbances over the airport project. In December 2016, police used pepper spray on protesters who attempted to block MPs from entering parliament.

New Zealand
Lyttelton Port workers set to strike, The Maritime Union of New Zealand plans to stage a strike from 3-5 February amid ongoing negotiations over working terms and conditions. The union staged two other strikes in January. The Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) has said it will legally challenge the validity of the industrial action and that it has put contingency measures in place. LPC has added that reduced services are expected during the strike.

5 February

Mexico
CNC calls for occupation of all Pemex distribution centers. The social organization Congreso Nacional Ciudadano (CNC) has called for the occupation of all 96 distribution centers belonging to state oil company Pemex from 1000 hrs local time. The action is in opposition to a 14-20 percent rise in fuel prices introduced on 1 January. Protests could delay operations at Pemex centres and contribute to fuel shortages, as already witnessed by demonstrations against the fuel price increase in the past month.

Key Incidents 2 Weeks back by country


Egypt
Jan 28 - Soldiers kill six terrorists in Sinai: The Egyptian army said that its forces had killed six terrorists in the central Sinai. One militant was also arrested, and troops destroyed an explosives manufacturing facility as well as several motorbikes. The exact location of the incident was not provided, but the Sinai has experienced high levels of violence over the past three years as part of an ongoing Islamist insurgency.

Jan 25 - Authorities increase security on uprising anniversary: The interior ministry closed the Sadat metro station in Cairo, the stop byTahrir Square, as part of its operation to prevent any unrest on the sixth anniversary of the 25 January revolution that led to the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. Additional security forces have been deployed at sensitive locations and riot police were placed on alert. There was no evidence to indicate serious unrest was likely despite the significance of the date.

Jan 24 - Israel warns of imminent attack in Sinai: The Israeli anti-terrorism directorate issued its most severe threat warning, calling on its citizens to evacuate Egypt’s Sinai peninsula due to “concrete” information about an “imminent attack.” In the alert, the agency warned of possible terrorist attacks against tourist sites in the Sinai, but did not provide further details. Terrorism and uncertainty have caused severe disruption to Egypt’s tourism sector, a key source of income.

Jan 24 - Government extends state of emergency in Sinai: Lawmakers agreed to extend the state of emergency in the North Sinai by three months from 20 January. The state of emergency was first ordered in October 2014 following a major terrorist attack and has been extended repeatedly amid high levels of violence in the region due to an ongoing Islamist insurgency. The order has seen curfews and other restrictions on personal freedoms imposed.

Jan 23 - Militants kill five in central Sinai: According to local media, militants killed five soldiers in an attack on a road near Hasna in the central Sinai as they travelled to begin a period of leave. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though the Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province militant group frequently targets the military in the North Sinai governorate.

North Korea
Jan 28 - US think tank claims Pyongyang has resumed operations at nuclear reactor: The US 38 North Korea think tank has released satellite imagery it believes shows that the country has restarted a plutonium reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear facility. 38 North Korea claims that the imagery shows warm water plumes entering colder water, perhaps coming from the reactor. The report comes after Pyongyang issued a New Year statement in January that it would seek to test an intercontinental ballistic missile later this year.

South Africa
Jan 28 - Weather warnings issued across much of country: The South African Weather Service has warned of heavy rains and localised flooding across much of the country from 28 January. Rains are forecast in northern Gauteng, North West, parts of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The warning follows flooding in parts of Cape Town on 27 January that disrupted transport in several parts of the city. Despite the flood risk, the rains could help boost water levels in some of South Africa’s dams amid a shortage that prompted Cape Town authorities to introduce restrictions on consumption on 24 January.

United States
Jan 27 - Executive order restricting refugees creates travel uncertainty: US President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order banning refugees from seven Muslim countries for an initial period of three months. Under the new legislation, nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya will be banned from entry into the US, barring exceptions such as diplomatic travellers. The measure has been introduced indefinitely for Syrian nationals. The measure has created confusion among businesses and civil society groups representing refugees. It is unclear if the order applies to those holding residential permits or green cards, and US technology company Google has recalled some of its travelling staff, fearing they could be affected by the new rules.

Jan 25 - Authorities charge journalists who covered anti-Trump protests: According to the Guardian, at least six journalists have been arrested and charged with felonies while covering the unrest around President Donald Trump’s inauguration. If convicted, they could receive up to 10 years in prison and a fine of USD 25,000. They were charged with the most serious level of offence under the government’s law against rioting after being caught up in police action against demonstrators. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the charges send a chilling message to reporters covering future protests and should be dropped immediately.

Jan 25 - Florida governor warns ports against trade with Havana: Florida’s Governor Rick Scott threatened ports in Florida that they could lose state money if they do business with Cuba. Scott made the warning on his Twitter account following news reports of the first legal import from Cuba in more than 50 years arriving at Fort Lauderdale port in southern Florida.

Jan 25 - Trump orders construction of wall along southern border: President Donald Trump signed directives ordering a wall to be built along the US-Mexican border and to strip funding from cities in so-called “sanctuary counties,” where local authorities refuse to cooperate in enforcement of federal immigration laws. Trump said the move would help stem illegal migration from Central America and would improve the security of both Mexico and the US. The border wall had been one of Trump’s key campaign pledges although in Mexico and Central American the wall has led to concerns that relations with the US may deteriorate.

Jan 24 - President Trump reverses suspensions of controversial pipeline projects: US President Donald Trump signed executive orders reversing the suspensions imposed by his predecessor on controversial pipeline projects — the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access — which prompted significant civil unrest since 2015. TransCanada Corp, which is building the Keystone XL that had its permit rejected by President Barack Obama in 2015, has said it will resubmit permit applications. The Dakota Access was blocked in late 2016 after months of blockades and protests by indigenous activists over alleged violation of ancestral lands. The move by Trump is likely to rekindle unrest against the pipelines.

Greece
Jan 27 - Ankara issues new extradition request for eight officers: Turkey's justice ministry has made a new extradition request after Greece's Supreme Court ruled against sending back eight Turkish servicemen who fled their country by helicopter immediately after the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016. The Supreme Court refused the extradition request by arguing that the soldiers could be refused a fair trial in Turkey. The rejection caused some tension between the two countries, who face longstanding tensions over the uncertain maritime borders in the Aegean.

Turkey
Jan 27 - Police arrest 11 in Izmir in connection with Istanbul nightclub attack: Counter-terror police arrested 11 people in Izmir for suspected connection with the Istanbul nightclub attack that killed 39 people in the early hours of 1 January. The suspects are reportedly women of foreign nationality, and were carrying counterfeit passports, fake Syrian identity cards, and plans to attack tourist spots in Izmir. Police said they also confiscated a military grade GPS device, occasionally used by Islamic State (IS) militants to determine the positions of their meeting points. Night vision equipment, a sniper scope, an ammunition belt and other military equipment were also found during the raids. IS claimed responsibility for the nightclub attack, and promised further attacks in Turkey after the militant responsible was captured on 16 January.

Jan 26 - US State Department, Swedish embassy issue security warning for Ankara: The US State Department updated its security warning for Turkey, citing intelligence suggesting an increased risk of terrorist attacks against foreign nationals in the country. The Swedish Embassy in Ankara issued a similar warning on the same day, urging its citizens to stay away from Ankara’s Kizilay square. Kizilay square was targeted by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) in March 2016, when car suicide bombs killed 38 and injure 138 people waiting at bus stops in the square. Security warnings by the US State Department have preceded several terrorist attacks in the past.

Jan 24 - Deputy PM warns of terrorist attacks ahead of constitutional referendum: Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has warned the press that terrorist organisations may intensify terrorist attacks inside Turkey ahead of the constitutional amendment referendum that will likely be held in April. Kurtulmus added that a popular “yes” vote, meaning the approval of amendments including the executive presidency, could put an end to the terrorists’ will to target Turkey. Kurtulmus said that terrorist organisations may also try to assassinate high level figures ahead of the referendum to block the “yes” vote. Turkey has been hit by tens of terrorist attacks, perpetrated by several different groups, since the summer of 2015.

Morocco
Jan 27 - Authorities arrest seven IS suspects: Moroccan authorities announced the arrest of seven suspected members of the Islamic State group from El-Jadida, Sale and other towns. The suspects held arms, explosives and two suicide bomb belts, according to the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation. No known target of an attack has been announced. Morocco has conducted multiple arrests of IS suspects in the past two years and has had many nationals leave the country to support the group fighting in Iraq and Syria.

India
Jan 26 - Unidentified attackers throw bombs at CPIM state secretary in Thalassery: Two unidentified attackers on motorcycles hurled home-made explosives at Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in Thalassery in the Kannur district. There were no reported casualties from the attack. The CPIM blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the attack, who dismissed the accusation. There has been an escalation of violence in the region in recent days, with the murder of a saffron activist on 25 January leading to the arrest of several CPIM workers.

Jan 25 - New Delhi set for travel disruption on Republic Day: The federal capital will face travel disruption on 26 January, when the annual parade to mark Republic Day – the anniversary of India adopting the constitution – is held. New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport will be closed between 1030 and 1230 hrs local time, and no flights will be allowed to take off or land during that time. The restriction is likely to delay tens of flights. Commuters will also be blocked from using National Highway-8 through Dhaula Kuan, as it will be shut for senior officials travelling to attend the parade. Key metro bus and train stations will also be closed. There will be an increased security presence across the city, particularly after intelligence reports warned of possible terrorist attacks. More than 25,000 security personnel have been deployed as the parade attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Australia
Jan 26 - Tens of thousands protest on national day: Tens of thousands of people protested nationwide against the Australia Day national holiday. The largest protest took place in Melbourne and there were reports of clashes between police and demonstrators at a march in Sydney. Protesters demanded that the date of the holiday be changed as the date reflects the first arrival of Europeans and is offensive to Aboriginal Australians.

Jan 22 - Government to overhaul security at airports: Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection plans to implement biometric recognition of faces, irises and fingerprints at airports in an attempt to abolish paper passenger cards and manned stations. The government aims to have 90 percent of travellers processed automatically, with no human involvement by 2019-20, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The department aims to trial the technology in July at Canberra airport, which handles limited flights to New Zealand and Singapore, before introducing it at a major airport in November, according to the newspaper.

Bahrain
Jan 26 - Police, protesters clash in Diraz: Security forces clashed with demonstrators in the small northwestern village of Diraz (around 16km away from Manama), near the home of a prominent Shi’a cleric, Isa Qassim, who had been targeted in a government crackdown on the opposition. Police reportedly fired birdshot and live ammunition at the protesters, leaving several injured. Sectarian tensions between the ruling Sunni regime and largely Shi’a opposition in the past fueled civil unrest in Bahrain, however the situation seems far more contained now. No impact on Cruise expected.

Belgium

Jan 26 - Authorities warn of increase in hacking attacks at ports: A security expert from Grant Thornton, Andrew Harbison, reported an increase in hacking attacks on ports by criminals such as drug traffickers during an annual data protection conference by the Irish Computer Society and the Association of Data Protection Officers. Harbison said traffickers are hacking ports to mark certain shipments are checked when they had not been. In 2016, a hack by drug traffickers diverted containers at Belgium’s Antwerp port.

Jan 25 - Anti-terrorism police raid houses around Brussels: Belgian anti-terror police reportedly raided several houses in eight areas around Brussels in the early hours of 25 January. A spokesperson for the federal prosecutor stated that the raids were not linked to the Paris and Brussels attacks in November 2015 and March 2016. Suicide bombings at the Brussels Airport and the city’s metro system killed 32 people in March 2016.

Brazil
Jan 26 - Government orders 11.5 mn yellow fever vaccines: Brazil’s health ministry ordered 11.5 mn doses of the yellow fever vaccine amid the largest outbreak of the illness since 2000. Forty deaths from yellow fever have so far been confirmed since the start of January, most of which were registered in rural areas in Minas Gerais state. There have also been three confirmed cases in São Paulo, and one each in Espiritu Santo and Bahia.

Jan 25 - Update: Yellow fever death toll reaches 40 in Minas Gerais: Health authorities confirmed that a total of 40 people have died of yellow fever in the eastern state of Minas Gerais and that a further 47 deaths and 368 suspected cases are under investigation. Authorities said a study would be conducted to establish whether there is a link between the outbreak and the collapse of the dam at the Samarco iron ore mine, which polluted the Rio Doce in 2016 in one of the worst environmental disasters in Brazil's history. Health officials have advised people in nine states in the region to get vaccinated.

Jan 24 - Authorities seize 645 kg of cocaine at port in Santa Catarina: Officials confiscated 645 kg of cocaine concealed on a ship due to sail from a port in Santa Catarina to the Belgian port of Amberes. Authorities said they believe the narcotics to be of either Peruvian or Colombian origin. Santa Catarina has become an important transit point for drugs destined for Europe in recent years.

Jan 24 - Around 200 escape Sao Paulo prison in riot: Authorities said that around 200 inmates had escaped the CPP III prison in Bauru, Sao Paulo state, following a riot. The riot comes after repeated unrest in prisons across Brazil in the first weeks of 2017, attributed to escalating rivalry between the First Capital Command and Red Command criminal groups. On 18 January, the government said that it would use the armed forces to reduce violence at prisons.

Germany
Jan 26 - Prosecutors charge man with far-right plot in Berlin: German prosecutors charged a 51-year old man in Berlin with a far-right plot against migrants, asylum seekers, and Jews. The man was detained on 25 January during a large-scale police operation against far-right groups in the country. Prosecutors say that the suspect had explosives, weapons and ammunition that were seized as evidence. Far-right groups frequently target migrants and asylum seekers in the country.

Jan 25 - Police target far-right supporters in nationwide rides: German police raided 12 apartments across the country in connection with several far-right groups threatening to attack the police, asylum seekers, and the Jewish community. The raids included the houses of six people who founded a social media group that planned attacks in 2016. The police statement said there were no indications that concrete plans for attacks had already been made, although far-right groups have targeted immigrants and the police in the past.

Jan 25 - Police arrest two for Islamist extremism in Bonn: German police arrested two German-Moroccan brothers for travelling to Syria to fight with the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as Al-Nusra Front). Prosecutors believe that the two brothers travelled to Syria in 2013 in order to join the groups, and are suspected of participating in several battles and acquiring military training before returning to Germany. Their motivations for returning have not been specified. German authorities are on high alert since the truck attack that killed 12 people in Berlin on 19 December 2016.

Jan 22 - Police detain two suspected of planning terror attack in Neuss: German special forces police announced they arrested a man and a woman suspected of planning a terrorist attack in the city of Neuss. The woman was released after questioning while the man was arrested on terrorism charges. The Neuss arrest followed a tipoff from Austrian authorities, who have arrested an 18-year old Albanian national on similar charges. The German security forces have been on high alert since a failed asylum seeker drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market on 19 December 2016, killing 12 people.

Indonesia
Jan 26 - Authorities say former finance ministry official tried to join IS: A security official told Channel News Asia that a former finance ministry official and his family were deported from Turkey back to Indonesia after they allegedly tried to enter Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group. His deportation comes four days after 17 other Indonesians were expelled from Turkey for trying to join IS. The former finance ministry official was reportedly not on the authorities’ radar for extremism due to his high level of university education and his successful career with the government.

Jan 24 - Thousands rally in Jakarta for hardline Muslim cleric: More than 2,000 people protested in outside the Jakarta police headquarters and the Masjid Agung al-Azhar, the capital’s second-largest mosque, in support of a hardline Muslim cleric who is under investigation for blasphemy against other religions. The probe has prompted heightened tensions between the authorities and the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), which cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab leads and which held the mass protests in Jakarta in late December 2016 against Governor Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama. Rizieq was questioned for more than five hours by police over comments he made about the national symbols on the new rupiah bills. The FPI has accused the police of bias in its investigation of their leader for blasphemy.

Jan 22 - Authorities detain 17 suspected militants returning from Syria: Immigration authorities at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport detained 17 Indonesian nationals returning from Syria on suspicion of ties to militant groups, according to officials. The suspects, including children, were detained after disembarking from Turkish Airlines’ Instabul-Jakarta flight and have been handed over to police for questioning. Indonesia has been on high alert for Islamist militants returning from battlegrounds in the Middle East since Islamic State (IS) claimed an attack on Jakarta in January 2016 which killed four civilians.

Oman
Jan 26 - Armoury service provider to halt service to companies in February: Sovereign Global Services floating armoury service provider said that it would cease to provide the service to private maritime security companies after mid-February. The reason for the decision was not immediately clear. The move is expected to impact the operation of private armed security personnel in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Oman.

Panama
Jan 26 - Canal delays continue to affect shipping: A Panama Canal Authority manager said that delays at the Canal continued with a waiting time of around six days for non-booked Panamax-class vessels. The official said that transiting slots for Neo-panamax vessels for the coming 14 days are nearly entirely booked up and regular vessels are facing delays of three days. Delays on the canal have improved from 17 January when all vessels were subject to a seven-day wait.

Philippines
Jan 26 - Manila says IS seeking closer links to Asia-based militant groups: Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Islamic State (IS) militant group is seeking to form closer links with domestic militant groups in Asia, raising fears of IS’s growing presence in the region. The official said that a commander of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been trying to spread IS influence into new areas of the country, away from ASG stronghold Basilan. Indonesia and Malaysia have also seen growing signs that IS is infiltrating local militant groups, as demonstrated by an attack in Jakarta in January 2016.

Jan 23 - Regional maritime security forces discuss further cooperation: Malaysian and Philippine maritime security forces met to discuss deepening cooperation on terrorism, illegal fishing and organized crime in the region during a three-day meeting. Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia have long re-affirmed commitments to joint maritime patrols to combat maritime crime and kidnapping at sea by Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, although so far such measures have failed to prevent abductions. Strained relations between Manila and Kuala Lumpur have previously hindered bilateral cooperation.

Jan 22 - Authorities suspect pirates abducted three fishermen off southern coast: Authorities believe that Islamist militant outfit the Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped three fishermen from the southern coast of the Philippines, where the militants are known to be active, although the authorities stopped short of confirming the incident as a kidnapping as there has been no claim of responsibility. The Philippine-based Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf began kidnapping sailors for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in 2016.

Jan 22 - Navy to send 30 speedboats, special forces to fight Abu Sayyaf: The Philippine Navy will send 30 speedboats, as well as special forces, to its borders with Malaysia and Indonesia to fight the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, which has been targeting cargo and fishing vessels in the area for abductions. Abu Sayyaf reportedly has 26 hostages in Sulu, including seven Indonesians, five Malaysians, a Dutch national, a German and six Filipinos.

Russia

Jan 26 - FSB says 70 million cyberattacks repelled in 2016: Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia stated that it had to repel 70 million cyberattacks against the country in 2016. FSB said that the targets included critical infrastructure such as power grids, as well as private companies and financial services. FSB said that small-to-medium sized companies are not doing enough to secure themselves online, making their services and customers susceptible to cyberattacks. The announcement comes at a time if increased US-Russian tensions due to reports of alleged Russian cyberattacks on the US presidential elections.

Jan 26 - Aircraft carrier’s passage through the Channel causes row with London: Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov’s passage through the English Channel has caused a row between Moscow and London as the British jet fighters reportedly “escorted” the aircraft carrier. A Russian spokesperson called the British monitoring of the passage a “show” intended to distract others from the shortcomings of the British navy, while the British defence minister referred to Admiral Kuznetsov as the “ship of shame”. The dispute between the two countries over Syria intervention have caused tensions in the past, most recently during the Russian bombing campaign on the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2016.

Jan 25 - Authorities charge top cybersecurity firm manager with treason: Russia's Kommersant newspaper said that that the manager of Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity firm, Ruslan Stoyanov, was arrested in December 2016 while investigating several Russian hacking attacks, and charged with treason. Stoyanov was reportedly arrested alongside a Russian intelligence officer who is also facing treason charges. The details of the charges were not immediately clear. Russian hackers are believed to be responsible for many cases of financial crime.

Saudi Arabia
Jan 26 - Security agency issues warning after cyberattack: A cybersecurity agency working for Saudi Arabia issued a warning about future hacker attacks after a cyberattack targeted several national organisations on 23 January. The agency stated that the attack used a software called Shamoon, which was used in a large scale cyberattack on the oil company Aramco in 2012, causing severe damages to the company’s IT infrastructure. Shamoon software reportedly overrides computers' hard disk with unneeded information, making them unusable. US intelligence agencies have indicated that Iran was the likely culprit of the 2012 attack.

Jan 24 - Police link bombers to IS, arrest 16 in Jeddah: The interior ministry said that two militants who blew themselves to escape capture by authorities in Jeddah were linked to the Islamic State group. Police said the individuals were managing a bomb-making factory. Sixteen other suspects in Jeddah, including three Saudis and 13 Pakistanis, were also arrested in connection with the incident as part of an ongoing investigation.

Mexico
Jan 26 - Trump spokesperson says Mexico could pay for border wall with 20 percent tariff: US President Donald Trump has said that he could make Mexico pay for the southern border wall he plans on building through the introduction of a 20 percent import tariff on goods from Mexico, according to his spokesperson. Sean Spicer told reporters that the tariff would raise about USD 10 bn a year, which would easily pay for the wall. The White House later said it did not endorse the tariff idea, and no further comments were made. Mexico has repeatedly refused to pay for the border wall, which Trump wants to build to tackle illegal immigration and cross-border crime.

United Kingdom
Jan 26 - Government drafts EU exit bill for parliament vote: The Conservative government headed by Prime Minister Theresa May released a draft bill authorizing the government to trigger the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that will start the UK’s exit negotiations from the EU. The bill will be voted by the parliament after two days of debates, due to start on 31 January. The government hopes to pass the bill from the lower chamber of the parliament, the House of Commons, by 8 February, after when it will require the approval of the upper chamber, the House of Lords. The draft bill comes a few days after the Supreme Court’s rejection of the government’s appeal on its decision that the parliament must be consulted before triggering Article 50.

Jan 25 - Pipe bomb damages house in Northern Ireland town: A bomb thrown into the garden of a house in the Northern Irish city of Derry-Londonderry left a house damaged, and forced the police to evacuate 40 residents in the area. Police investigation revealed that the attack was conducted by a pipe bomb which only partially exploded. The tensions in Northern Ireland between Republicans and Unionists have increased in recent weeks ahead of Assembly elections in March.

China
Jan 25 - Police arrest six men after attack on tourists in Yunnan: Six men were arrested by police after carrying out a violent attack on two female tourists at the ancient town of Lijiang, Yunnan province, which is popular with both local and international visitors. The men attacked the tourists with broken bottles at a barbecue shop in November 2016, and photos of the victims emerged on Chinese social media showing serious injuries. Nobody intervened during the attack, and police were reportedly reluctant to investigate the case, indicating that the men may be linked to a local crime gang.

Jan 24 - Beijing rejects Washington’s comments over South China Sea: China’s foreign ministry issued a statement affirming its “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea after a White House spokesperson said on 23 January Washington would “protect its interests” in the disputed region. The comments come after Rex Tillerson, President Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, said the US would block China’s access to islands in the sea and prevent any further attempts at island building, days before he was poised to formally take up the post. Chinese state news site the Global Times said any such action would result in “a large-scale war” and “devastating” confrontations.

Cuba
Jan 25 - President says unwilling to cede sovereignty to Washington: President Raul Castro said Havana would not grant concessions to Washington that would undermine its sovereignty and independence, although he stated that he hoped both sides would continue to normalize relations. Havana has raised concerns over US President Donald Trump’s statements over regional trade, migration and the environment following the restoration of bilateral relations under former president Barack Obama.

Jan 24 - High tide causes flooding in Havana: Severe coastal flooding was reported in Havana after a high tide rushed through the seawall, Malecon. The high tide swept away cars and inundated buildings on the coast, leading to the evacuation of an unspecified number of people. The flooding also led to traffic delays during the late afternoon and early evening.

Israel

Jan 25 - Tank fires on Hamas post in Gaza: Israeli media reported that an Israeli tank fired on a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip. The incident followed an attack on an Israeli patrol working on the Gaza border fence. No Israeli forces were injured in the exchange of fire. The Israeli army urged farmers working in the area to return to their homes.

Jan 25 - Gunman fires on soldiers in West Bank: A Palestinian gunman fired on Israeli soldiers at a guard post near Halamish in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. The soldiers returned fire, wounding the assailant. No one else was harmed in the attack. Hours earlier, a suspected Palestinian assailant attempted a car ramming attack against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the same region.

Dominican Republic
Jan 22 - Thousands protest against corruption in Santo Domingo: Thousands of people participated in a demonstration against government corruption in Santo Domingo, following allegations that officials received kickbacks in return for granting Brazilian engineering company Odebrecht contracts. The protesters set out from the intersection between 27 de Febrero and Maximo Gomez avenues but were prevented from reaching the National Palace by police, leading the route to shift to Independence Park. There were no reports of violence during the mobilization.

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