Weekly Risk Roundup – Week 45

Headlines From This Week

  • Untied States: California: Mass Shooting in Bar – Twelve people were killed, and multiple injuries reported, after a gunman opened fire at 23.20 in a crowded bar on 7 November. The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting a live music event for students when the gunman forced his way into the bar and threw a smoke grenade before opening fire on the crowd. The perpetrator was killed after security forces entered and secured the building. No motive for the attack has been identified and investigations are ongoing. There have been 307 mass shootings in the US since 1 January.  The attack highlights a continued threat posed by mass shootings throughout the US and travellers should remain vigilant when in public areas.
  • France: Arrest of six people in connection with far-right terrorist plot – French security forces apprehended six people over an alleged plot to attack French President Emmanuel Macron. According to local reports the suspects, aged between 20 and 60, were all members of a far-right movement and one of the suspects was found in possession of a firearm when he was arrested. The recent arrests, while indicating the capability of the intelligence services to identify and disrupt such plots, highlight an uptick in right-wing extremism across Europe that is likely to persist in the medium to long term.
  • Yemen: Hodeidah: Fighting intensifies near port city – The Saudi-led coalition have started a renewed offensive against the vital port city, launching over 100 airstrikes on the eastern part of Hodeidah in the last 72 hours and cutting off all access routes. The increase in hostilities comes amidst calls from international governments to negotiate a ceasefire due to increasing civilian casualties. UN-sponsored peace talks are scheduled to take place in Sweden at the end of November and the recent Saudi-led offensive is believed to be a tactic to secure as much ground as possible prior to any cease fire being implemented.  The port has been under blockade by the Saudi-led coalition since 2015, a decision that has been blamed for the current humanitarian crisis affecting 14 million people in Yemen. Despite the blockade, over 70 percent of food and medical supplies for Houthi held areas of Yemen come through Hodeidah.
  • Sahel Region: Burkina Faso; Chad; Niger; Mauritania, Mali: Islamist militants intensify attacks against security forces – There has been an escalation in attacks being committed by Islamist groups against security forces in the Sahel region. On 8 November, a Police Station was attacked by militants in Soum province (Sahel region) and two days earlier two soldiers were killed in the same province of Burkina Faso following the detonation of an IED near a military convoy.   On 3 November Nigerien military units engaged with Islamist militants in Tillaberi region, along the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, destroying several training camps associated with Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). On 27 October, Islamist militants launched two attacks on United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in Tombouctou and Mopti regions. Militants launched a complex attack on the MINUSMA military base in Ber, killing two peacekeepers. A further attack targeted a MINUSMA convoy with an IED, injuring two peacekeepers. The recent escalation in violence highlights a continued deterioration in the security environment and travellers should seek professional security advice prior to travel to any of the border regions.

What To Look Out For Next Week

  • Pape New Guinea (PNG): APEC Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM) to cause travel disruption in Port Moresby from 12 – 18 November – The Summit brings national delegates from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation together and is the final event of PNGs APEC hosting year. The main two event venues include the International Convention centre and APEC Haus and travellers in country should anticipate severe disruption around both the venues. Local authorities have drafted in additional police resources in an effort to bolster security. Road closures should be expected, especially when dignitaries are moving between venues and Jacksons International Airport. The PNG government has been widely criticised amongst opposition and religious leaders in the country due to the high levels of spending on the event. PNG remains one of the poorest countries in the region and the summit is likely to result in protests over both, internal socio-economic issues and global issues affecting PNG, such as climate change. Such protests are expected to be localised and quickly contained. Nevertheless, as a precaution, all such protests should be avoided.
  • Myanmar / Bangladesh: Repatriation of Rohingya refugees set to begin – The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to begin the repatriation of 750,000 Rohingya refugees who fled western Rakhine state in 2017 following widescale ethnic violence directed towards Muslim communities. For the last year the Rohingya’s have been living in camps established in south-eastern Bangladesh near the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar. The presence of refugees in the region has added considerable strain to the Bangladesh economy and lead to tensions between local communities and refugee communities, over competition for scarce natural resources. The repatriation agreement has been met by widespread condemnation from international groups, including the UN, who state that the Rohingya’s are at high risk of persecution if they return. The UN’s High Commission for Refugees also added that Rakhine state was not yet in a conducive state for returns. The announcement has led to isolated protests in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh with one refugee attempting to commit suicide after being told that he would be involuntarily repatriated.  Any forced repatriation is likely to be met by strong resistance by Rohingya communities and widespread unrest and civil disobedience remains likely in the coming weeks.
  • France: Travel disruption expected during protests near Place de la Republique, Paris, on 11 November – French civil action groups have called for a widespread protest following President Macron’s decision to invite US President Donald Trump as honoured guest to the 100th anniversary commemorative event celebrating Armistice Day, the end of World War I. Protesters will gather at 14.00 on 11 November in Republic Square. The event is likely to be well attended and result in widespread traffic disruption in the local area. Travellers should plan routes bypassing the event and anticipate heightened security in the local area.