Global Security Forecast – Week 17

Sri Lanka: Nationwide      Coordinated bombings kill hundreds in Eastern Sunday terror attack A series of coordinated bombings targeting three churches and three luxury hotels took place on 21 April, Easter Sunday, in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. The first 6 blasts, exploding around 08:45 am local time, were aimed at maximising casualties, targeting people gathering for Easter mass and breakfast in the hotel restaurants. Two more bombs exploded later in the afternoon in Colombo, in a large-scale jihadist terror attack. It was the deadliest strike suffered by Sri Lanka since the end of the 26-year-long civil war against Tamil separatists, marking the end of a decade of relative peace and hope for a future of security, democracy and rule of law. On Tuesday, ISIS claimed official responsibility for the attack through its news agency Amaq, without giving any evidence and claiming the attack was a retaliation to the attack in New Zealand. ISIS supporters had already honoured the Easter Sunday attacks on their media channels, framing it as rightful revenge for the anti-Muslim shooting that took place on 15 March in Christchurch as well as the war in Syria. Sri Lankan authorities consider local radical Islamist group, the National Tawheed Jamath, as responsible for the terror attacks: this was also indicated in an intelligence memo warning the government of the plans by the militants to strike churches, apparently informed by foreign intelligence services. The government increasingly seemed to have failed to pre-emptively react to the terrorist attack, although the police and the intelligence services were reportedly informed of the threat on 4 April by Indian and American intelligence operatives. The tip-off detailed the plans by National Thawheed Jamaath to carry out a terror attack on the churches and reportedly did not reach the top officials in the government, fatally preventing any counter-terrorism operation. For more information, read our full report on the terror attack here.
United Kingdom: London Extinction Rebellion protest ends, 25 April Over the last two weeks, the environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion has held a number of protests and sit-ins around the world demanding the recognition of the ongoing climate emergency. The largest event has been in London and travel disruption within the city has been significant. The protests were centred around five key locations in central London including Mable Arch, Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus, and Piccadilly Circus. So far over 1,000 people have been arrested. However, on 24 April, Extinction Rebellion announced that they would be ending their protests and blockades early on 25 April. They argued that their point had been made and that the climate conversation was back in the national agenda. A closing event was held at 18:00 BST at Hyde Park’s speakers corner. The protests have been largely peaceful although damage was done to the Shell HQ in London. Hundreds of solidarity protests occurred in cities all over the world although it is unclear if they will continue beyond the 25 April. A police presence is likely to remain in key location over the weekend.
Mozambique: North Cyclone Kenneth makes landfall in northern regions bringing heavy rainfall and high winds Extreme winds and heavy rain have started to cause damage across northern Mozambique. Kenneth made landfall in Cabo Delgado, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Pemba at the end of the day on Thursday. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 200 km/h (124 mph), the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans. Forecasting services are expecting a slow-moving cyclone, which could remain in the area at the north of the country close to the border with Tanzania, with several days of continuous rain that are likely to cause severe flooding and disruption. Storm surges of around 3-5 meters have occurred in coastal areas around Cabo Delgado. Schools and airports across the region have closed in preparation for the storm. Cyclone Kenneth is the first storm of this strength to hit Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado since records began 60 years ago. Before reaching Mozambique, Kenneth killed three people in the Comoros Islands. Sustained heavy rainfall of 250mm (10 Inches) is expected across most areas with some areas anticipated to receive 1,000mm (40 inches). Mozambique is still reeling from cyclone Idai which killed over 1,000 people and left tens of thousands displaced in the south of the country at the start of April.
Russia: Vladivostok President Putin hosts North Korean leader for first bilateral summit North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on an armoured train for a bilateral meeting with President Putin on Wednesday 24 April and was greeted by a military band. The two leaders met for the first time on Thursday on Russky Island and reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing relations, deescalate tensions and improve the security environment in the region. Russia also expressed the desire for a multilateral approach to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the reopening of the Six-Party Talks, which were held between 2003 and 2007, but failed to reach an agreement. This consultation comes shortly after the failure of the second US-DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) meeting that was held in Hanoi in February and was cut short by President Donald Trump over a disagreement regarding the terms of the denuclearisation process. Many believe this to be a retaliatory move by Kim Jong Un, who reportedly executed four foreign affairs officials after the summit failure. The meeting of Putin and Kim puts additional pressure on the US to be more flexible in future talks. Kim’s trip also adds to his new image of international statesman rather than despotic dictator, having now successfully put the diplomatic ball back in the US’s court.
Myanmar: Hpakan Landslide in a jade mine in Kachin State kills 54 At least 54 people are suspected to have been killed in a mudslide that took place in a jade mine on 22 April at 23:30 local time. According to local authorities, a mud filter collapsed at a mine in the Hpakan region in Myanmar, trapping the workers while they were sleeping. Rescue operations began early on Tuesday with three bodies recovered from the rubble, but the authorities do not expect to find any more survivors. The area is known to produce some of the highest quality jade, which is exported to neighbouring China and fuels a notoriously dangerous illegal trade network, generating an estimated 31 billion USD every year. The miners, most likely small jade pickers, are believed to be internal migrants who dug through the debris produced by big mining companies to find the precious mineral. Incidents of this kind are a frequent reality in Myanmar with dozens dying every year, especially during the monsoon season in mines that are opened without adequate considerations over health and safety regulations. According to statistics, the overall death toll has been rising in the past years, particularly as the establishment of a civil government in 2010 led to the lifting of several international sanctions previously affecting jade exports.
South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal province Heavy rains result in deadly flooding and mudslides in South Africa Torrential rain that lasted days and culminated with a severe downpour on Monday resulted in mudslides, flooding and structures collapsing in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal, in the southeastern region of South Africa. Emergency services are working to provide aid, while authorities have declared a death toll of approximately 60 people. The flooding severely disrupted businesses and caused more than 1,000 people to be displaced. Dozens of people have been taken to hospital, and search and rescue teams are looking for more survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings. The flooding has also affected the neighbouring East Cape Town province, killing three people. Severe weather warnings remain in place and the risk is considered high particularly in coastal areas. On Sunday, the heavy rains led to the death of 13 people by causing a church in KwaZulu-Natal to collapse during Easter mass.
Spain: Nationwide Spain will hold a snap election on Sunday 28 April On 28 April, Spain will hold the third election in 4 years, in the latest attempt to form a stable government amidst polarising issues such as corruption, immigration and Catalan separatism. The election was called by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez after less than a year since his inauguration, due to the repeated rejections of its yearly budget by the Parliament. Currently, the polls show the traditional Socialist Party in the lead. The ever-shifting political stances among Spain’s multiparty system and a fragmented electorate makes it virtually impossible for the leading party to form a strong majority, perpetuating the chronic instability in the government. For years, in fact, the power has been held by main traditional parties, such as the Socialist and the Popular Party, which historically governed alone or with smaller parties, generally avoiding a bipartisan coalition. However, the recent fragmentation in Spanish politics has sparked the emergence of smaller political factions, such as the centrists Ciudadanos, Unidos Podemos and the right-wing Vox. This division in the electoral support has made it impossible for the main political forces to gain a definitive majority in the elections and the radicalisation of the smaller political parties also contributed in making the coalition more volatile.
Japan: Kyoto Japanese emperor to step down on 30 April On 30 April, Japan’s Emperor Akihito, who has reigned since January 1989, will step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne. This is the first abdication in Japan’s monarchy in two centuries. Emperor Akihito has stated that his health is his primary motive for his abdication, particularly following his heart surgery in 2012. Celebrations and events are planned across the country for the abdication ceremony that will be held on 30 April. This ceremony will be a small private gathering with only 300 guests. Japan’s Imperial Household Agency lists Emperor Akihito as the 126th emperor of Japan with verified accounts of this family stretching back until the sixth century. The role is now largely symbolic as the emperor has no say in politics, but holds great significance to the Japanese populous. Akihito’s eldest son, 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito, will take the throne the following day in a series of solemn ceremonies, receiving the imperial regalia – an ancient mirror, sword and jewel – considered crucial evidence of an emperor’s legitimacy.