Global Security Forecast • Week 12

Global Security Forecast • Week 12

Netherlands: Utrecht

At least three people killed following suspected terrorist shooting on tram; suspects confesses

On 18 March, Turkish born Gokmen Tanis opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The tram was located at 24 Octoberplein when the incident occurred and stopped in the middle of a road junction. Three people were killed in the attack with a further seven hospitalised. The assailant fled the scene following the attack with police quick to respond; effectively locking down the city. Three of those wounded remain in a critical condition following the attack

Police stated that they suspected a terrorist motive and, on Friday, 22 March, prosecutors reiterated this suspicion. It is also believed that a letter in the hijacked vehicle that the suspect left supports this hypothesis. However, investigations are also stated to see if this terrorist motive was “combined” with any personal problems.  According to people who knew the perpetrator, he suffered from drug and alcohol addiction and was, at times, “insane”. However, contrary to this, others stated that he preached righteousness and was a pious Muslim on certain days and drunk or drugged the next day. He also had a verdict pending on a rape case and had been arrested for shoplifting and illegal firearms possession.

Another man, believed to be in his 40s, was reportedly arrested by police on 19 March.

ADVICE: Acts of terrorism are not uncommon in Europe. Travellers should also expect heightened security in Utrecht and the rest of the country.


Mozambique: Beira

Widespread destruction as majority of Beira is submerged following Cyclone Idai

On 14 March, Cyclone Idai hit the port city of Beira in Mozambique, before proceeding inland and impacting the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe and Malawi. The storm was followed by several days of rainfall that caused extreme flooding in most of central Mozambique and forming what have been defined as “inland oceans”. There are also significant shortages in food, water, fuel and medicine. While relief operations are ongoing, the disaster is likely to have severe medium- and long-term consequences that might trigger a region-wide humanitarian crisis

The cyclone, which is being termed the worst weather-related disaster in the southern hemisphere, has affected 2.6 million people and caused critical damage to the majority of structures, including houses, roads, bridges and powerlines in the region. The heavy rains that followed the cyclone have resulted in heavy flooding, with rising water levels causing both additional infrastructural damage and hindering the efforts to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of aid operations. Entire regions and towns have been left isolated, with inhabitants stranded on rooftops and trees, making it challenging to deliver aid and locate survivors due to a complete failure in the communication infrastructure. There are currently severe shortages in food, water, fuel and medicine, which has put a strain on operations in the region. According to the World Food Program (WFP), these are not expected to be resolved in the short term and the power grid is not expected to be restored before at least April.

Although an accurate assessment of the damage and death toll is still unclear, this has been rated as the worst weather-related disaster in the southern hemisphere. To date, approximately 217 victims have been confirmed in Mozambique, 139 in Zimbabwe and 56 in Malawi.

ADVICE: Travellers are advised to avoid non-essential travel to the region. Furthermore, expect significant disruption to both transport in the region and the medical, electrical and communication infrastructure in the affected countries. To read more, see our latest travel advisory: https://www.solaceglobal.com/report/cyclone-idai-kills-hundred-causes-long-term-humanitarian-crisis-south-eastern-africa/


Iraq: Mosul

Almost 100 people have died after a ferry sank in the Tigris River

At least 19 children and 61 women were among the 94 people that are reported to have died following the sinking of a ferry in the Tigris near Mosul. According to media reports, 55 people were rescued from the water with around 200 people thought to be aboard the vessel. The ferry was heading towards a tourist island, Umm Rabaen island, as part of new year celebrations.

The vessel is understood to have turned sharply and tilted sharply to the right before taking on water. It then flipped over entirely and was caught in the strong currents of the river. The ferry was reportedly overloaded for the journey and following the tilting and the inundation of water; the vessel began to sink. Authorities had reportedly warned people about rising water levels as the gates of the Mosul dam had been opened, and some are accusing the ship operator of ignoring the advice.

ADVICE: Travellers should not take ferries in Iraq; safety standards are considered poor. Additionally, vessels often operate overcapacity and perform unsafe manoeuvres; as demonstrated by the recent incident. In general, public transport throughout the country should be avoided with only pre-booked security vetted transport being used.


China: Yangcheng

Large explosion in a chemical plant in eastern China kills 47

On Friday 22 March in the early morning, China suffered one of the worst industrial accident in recent times, when a chemical factory in the city of Yangcheng in Jiangsu province. The blast killed 47 and injured 90, severely damaging factory structures and building within a 3km radius. People living in the vicinity of the site have been moved due to fears of additional blasts or leaks.

Industrial incidents are considered relatively common in China, where health and safety standard can be poorly enforced at times, despite the government’s efforts to reduce their number. In November 2018, for instance, an explosion close to a chemical industry in northern China killed 23 people and injured 22.

ADVICE: Travellers should avoid the affected area, while remaining aware of the polluting effects of the chemical smokes released by the explosion. Emergency services and hospitals are likely to have slower response times due to the facilities being overloaded with those affected by the blast.


Kazakhstan: Astana (renamed Nursultan)

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced his resignation

In a statement, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced his resignation after almost three decades in office. Nazarbayev has been in office since 24 April 1990 when he was elected as the nation’s first president following its independence from the Soviet Union. Speaker of the Senate Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev will fulfil the duties of the President of the country before the elections. As Kazakstan’s first president he was granted the right to run an unlimited amount of times and in the 2015 election, he won 97.7 percent of the vote. While the reason for the resignation is unclear, many believe the decision is designed to strengthen the president’s legacy. It is also unclear whether Nazarbaev, who is now 78, would take another position.

In honour of the outgoing president, the capital, Astana, has been renamed Nursultan.

ADVICE: Travellers in the country are advised to be aware that there may be rallies in support of the president which may result in disruption. At this time, it is unlikely that any instability or unrest will occur; however, media sources and further Solace Secure alerts should be monitored in case instability results from the announcement.


Venezuela: Caracas

Venezuelan agents detain and search homes of Guaido’s aide

On 21 March, Venezuelan intelligence agents detained Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaido. Marrero was accused of planning acts of sabotage against officials and was detained following an operation to dismantle a terrorist cell. Moreover, authorities stated that weapons were discovered by Venezuelan agents during a raid on his home. Guaido responded to these accusations claiming that the items allegedly found had been planted.

Marrero’s detention has provoked international disapproval leading to a number of governments to condemn these acts and to demand his immediate release. Local sources reported that the home of Guaido’s attorney, Sergio Vergara, was also searched, however, he was not taken into custody nor charged. This event follows Guaido’s involvement in a power struggle with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, currently facing international pressure to resign amid an escalating economic and humanitarian crisis.

Supporters of political leader Juan Guaido’s are likely to stage protests following the arrest.

ADVICE: Protests in Venezuela are currently violent and have led to a significant deterioration of the security environment. In relation to this, on 22 March, American Airlines suspended their flights to Venezuela, citing the ongoing political unrest. For this reason, all non-essential travel to Venezuela should be avoided and travellers in-country should review their evacuation options. Consular services are not available in parts of Venezuela and food, water and fuel shortages have been reported.


Europe: Brussels
European Union agrees a conditional Brexit extension

Media reporting indicates that The European Union has agreed to extend the Brexit process. Should UK Prime Minister Theresa May succeed in getting Members of Parliament to back her withdrawal agreement, the process will be extended until 22 May in order for supplementary legislation to pass parliament. However, should MPs reject the agreement, the extension will last only until 12 April. The UK had previously been due to leave the EU on 29 March.

Media reporting indicates that The European Union has agreed to extend the Brexit process. Should UK Prime Minister Theresa May succeed in getting Members of Parliament to back her withdrawal agreement, the process will be extended until 22 May in order for supplementary legislation to pass parliament. However, should MPs reject the agreement, the extension will last only until 12 April. The UK had previously been due to leave the EU on 29 March.

ADVICE: Preparations for a no-deal Brexit are unclear, businesses and travellers should make preparations as a contingency.


Pakistan: Nationwide
Pakistan Day celebrations likely on 23 March

Pakistan day is due to be celebrated nationwide on 23 March. Vehicle access to certain areas of Islamabad will be restricted between 19-23 March for military preparations a parade. Road closures and detours are expected to be in effect for this period. Heightened security is likely in response to the persistent terrorist threat in Pakistan. There is a possibility of celebratory gunfire in rural areas.

ADVICE: Travellers are strongly advised to avoid large public gatherings in Pakistan. Travellers should also monitor local media for updates regarding road closures in Islamabad and other major Pakistani cities. If in the vicinity of celebratory gunfire, travellers are advised to seek hard cover for at least 15 minutes after the last gunshot.


Thailand: Nationwide

Elections in Thailand are set to take place on 24 March after five years of military rule.

Bangkok is set to hold its first democratic elections since the 2014 military coup d’état that followed the previous electoral process and subsequent violent confrontation in the streets. The campaigning started in December 2018 and followed the historical political divide between conservative pro-junta forces and populist ones, although politically-motivated insurgency seems to have significantly subsided over the past years. However, tensions in the country are still a source of concern, as popular desire for free and fair democratic elections has been frustrated by repeated delays of the election dates and the decision to outlaw a newly formed opposition party due to its candidacy of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi.  The new constitution, introduced in 2017 and heavily favouring the ruling military junta, has also been perceived as an attempt to prevent any significant gain by the opposition forces, which have won every election since 2001 only to be overthrown by the military establishment.

The latest polls show that most of the population will vote in favour of the democratic anti-military parties and a skewed election may frustrate the voting population and lead to episodes of civil unrest, in which case military retaliation is to be expected. However, due to historical precedents, it is also possible that the Thai population would accept a pro-establishment government in order to prevent further political repression and, in the most extreme scenario, another coup.

ADVICE: Travellers in Thailand should keep up to date with local news and expect episode of unrest or friction at polling stations, especially in the nation’s capital. There is also a chance that the highly symbolic election and large gatherings could be targeted by terrorist action, so anticipate heightened security at public venues and exercise increased vigilance. Travellers should also avoid discussing the political situation and openly criticise the military junta or the monarchy, as it might be considered a crime.


Israel/Palestine: Gaza and West Bank

One-year anniversary of the “March of Return”; violent protests expected

Next Friday will be the anniversary of the start of the “Great March of Return” protests in Gaza. Since protests began on 30 March 2018, Israeli forces have killed at least 214 Palestinians and wounded more than 18,000. The next demonstration coincides with Land Day, which commemorates the date in 1976 when Israel announced the seizure of thousands of dunams (a Middle Eastern measurement unit equivalent to around 1,000 square metres) of Palestinian land for “state purposes” and is recognised as a pivotal event in the struggle over land and in the relationship of Arab citizens to the Israeli state.’

According to media sources, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is preparing for tens of thousands of Palestinians to gather along the Israel-Gaza border and will be deploying additional troops and heightening security. Furthermore, according to IDF assessments, Hamas will seek to surpass last years protests by transporting more than 50,000 people to the main protest points along the border fence.

The anniversary comes as Hamas has suffered protests against themselves due to the frustrations of local Palestinians protesting over the conditions under Hamas rule. Thus far, Hamas has been able to control the unrest by either forcibly removing street protesters.

ADVICE: Travellers are advised to expect heightened security throughout the West Bank and at all border checkpoints in the coming days and especially next Friday. Be aware that protests may occur throughout the West Bank and Israel with little or no warning and may result in clashes.


SIGNIFICANT DATES & EVENTS

Date Country Event Potential for Violence
22 March Laos Day of the People’s Party LOW
22 March Puerto Rico Emancipation Day LOW
23 March Pakistan Pakistan Resolution Day LOW
24 March Argentina Truth and Justice Day LOW
25 March Greece/Cyprus Greek Independence Day LOW
26 March Bangladesh Bangladesh Independence Day MODERATE
26 March Mali Martyrs’ Day MODERATE
27 March Myanmar Armed Forces Day LOW
29 March United Kingdom Brexit (Delayed) LOW
29 March Central African Republic Barthelemy Boganda Day LOW
29 March Chile Day of the Young Combatant LOW
29 March Madagascar Martyrs’ Day LOW
29 March Israel/Palestine Anniversary of March of Return SEVERE
30 March Israel Land Day MODERATE
30 March Slovakia Presidential Run-Off Election LOW
30 March Trinidad and Tobago Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day LOW