December 14, 2020
14-Dec-2020

AMERICAS

United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1545 local time (2045 UTC) on 13 December 2020, a gunman opened fire outside of a cathedral located in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood in New York City. The assailant, armed with two semiautomatic handguns, began shooting immediately after the conclusion of the cathedral’s Christmas event, causing panic among hundreds of people who were leaving the scene. Three police officers — who were providing security at the event — fired 15 rounds in response, killing the gunman, according to New York’s police commissioner. It is unknown whether the gunman was shooting in the air or targeting people in the area; however, no other individuals were harmed. Police officers seized the two handguns and a backpack that contained a can of gasoline, multiple knives, rope, wire, a roll of tape and a Bible. The assailant had a long criminal history. Authorities are currently investigating to determine a motive for the attack.

United States (Security threat level – 2): On 12 December 2020, violence broke out in Washington, D.C. — the national capital — amid rallies organized to protest the outcome of the 3 November presidential election. Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the Supreme Court and at Freedom Plaza for the “Stop the Steal” rally in the morning hours; while police officers mostly kept those demonstrators separated from counterdemonstrators during the daytime hours, isolated scuffles occurred between the two sides, as well as between police officers and counterdemonstrators, in the city center area after dark. Clashes also occurred between members of the Proud Boys — a self-proclaimed “Western chauvinist” organization — and police officers near Black Lives Matter Plaza as police officers prevented them from entering the area. Separately, a stabbing attack occurred near a bar in the downtown area, during which four people were wounded. An additional five people, including two police officers, suffered injuries and were transported to hospitals. Authorities had arrested a total of 33 people by the early morning hours of 13 December.

United States / Canada / Mexico (Security threat levels – 2 / 2 / 4): On 11 December 2020, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared that the U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel through 21 January 2021 in a continued effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. Individuals involved in cross-border trade and transport are exempt, as are other essential personnel — including health care staff and emergency officials — and individuals who transit the border daily for work or to obtain basic necessities, such as food or medicine. The border restrictions, which do not apply to air travel, were initially enacted on 21 March and had been set to expire on 21 December before being extended.

Venezuela (Security threat level – 5): On 13 December 2020, President Nicolás Maduro announced the immediate suspension of international flights to and from Venezuela until further notice in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Exceptions to the suspension include flights to and from Bolivia, Mexico and Turkey. Maduro stated that the government is also considering the implementation of a nationwide 14-day lockdown in January 2021 to control the spread of COVID-19.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia / New Zealand / South Pacific Islands (Security threat levels – 2 / 1 / 1): On 14 December 2020, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the governments of Australia and New Zealand had agreed in principle to create a travel bubble in order to resume unrestricted movement between the two countries. The Cook Islands reached a similar agreement with New Zealand on 12 December. Efforts to finalize details of the policies and arrange the necessary border control measures are ongoing, with both corridors expected to open in late March or early April 2021.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 12 December 2020, demonstrations occurred in multiple French cities to protest a controversial security law draft that would criminalize the publication of images of police officers with the intent to harm them. In the capital Paris, riot police officers deployed water cannons at a group of protesters who were marching toward Place de la Republique. Police officers arrested 142 people during the demonstration, which organizers claim drew an estimated 10,000 people. Meanwhile, in Lyon, police officers arrested five individuals allegedly involved in vandalizing street signs, attempted looting and trying to cross a police barricade on Place Bellecour in the city center. Additional demonstrations occurred in the cities of Lille, Marseille, Montpellier, Strasbourg and Toulouse.

Germany (Security threat level – 3): On 13 December 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country will be under a lockdown from 16 December to 10 January 2021 in an effort to stem the surge of COVID-19 cases. During the lockdown period, nonessential businesses and schools will shut down while social gatherings will be limited to a maximum of five people from two different households. The restriction on gatherings will be eased from 24 December to 26 December, during which time a household will be allowed to host a maximum of four immediate relatives from other households. Meanwhile, the state of Bavaria is set to expand the 2100 to 0500 local time (2000 to 0400 UTC) nightly curfew currently in effect for areas with higher infection rates to the entire state starting on 16 December and continuing through 5 January 2021.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Saudi Arabia (Security threat level – 3): Early on 14 December 2020, an explosion and subsequent fire occurred aboard the Singapore-flagged oil tanker BW Rhine after a suspected sea mine struck the vessel off the southwestern coast of Jeddah. All 22 crew members aboard the ship survived unharmed, but the vessel sustained damage and may have leaked an unknown quantity of oil as a result. The U.K. Marine Trade Operations group – which is associated with the British Royal Navy — issued a warning, advising vessels in the area to exercise caution. The warning also noted that investigations into the event are ongoing. Operations at the port of Jeddah have reportedly suspended following the explosion and fire.

A similar event occurred on 25 November, when the Maltese-flagged MT Agrari oil tanker struck a mine off the coast of al Shuqaiq, located approximately 515 km (320 mi) south of Jeddah. No injuries were reported, but the vessel sustained hull damage. While no group has claimed responsibility for either attack, the Yemen-based Houthi rebels routinely deploy sea mines in shipping lanes off the coast of Yemen.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

South Pacific Islands (Security threat level – 1): On 11 December 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu issued a Weather Alert regarding the potential for the development of a tropical cyclone near the Vanuatu islands, which reads in part as follows: “The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department and the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center advise that the likelihood for the development of a significant tropical cyclone in/around the Vanuatu Group between December 13 and December 17 is high.

“While the path and intensity of the potential storm is uncertain at this time, U.S. citizens in Vanuatu are advised of the possibility of heavy rain, damaging winds, flash flooding, and rough seas. U.S. citizens should closely monitor local weather forecasts over the coming weekend and take steps to prepare themselves and their families for a potential tropical cyclone.”