United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1400 local time (2200 UTC) on 9 January 2022, a commuter train crashed into a downed aircraft near southern California’s Whiteman Airport (KWHP/WHP), located approximately 20 mi (30 km) north of the city of Los Angeles. The Cessna 172 single-engine aircraft had made an emergency landing on the Metrolink Antelope Valley line train tracks and emergency responders had rescued the aircraft’s pilot — the sole occupant — shortly before the crash. The pilot was taken to a hospital for medical treatment. Rail services were temporarily suspended as was vehicular traffic in the area. The cause of the emergency landing and subsequent crash remain unknown.
China (Security threat level – 3): On 9 January 2022, authorities in the city of Tianjin – located approximately 115 km (70 mi) southeast of the capital Beijing – began testing all 14 million of the city’s residents after two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 were discovered. Residents may only leave the city after obtaining approval from authorities and providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours before travel. Furthermore, three-tiered movement restrictions have been imposed in the city. In lockdown areas, residents may not leave their homes. Meanwhile, in control areas, only one person per house may leave every two days to buy essential goods. In prevention areas, residents may not leave their respective neighborhoods.
Kazakhstan (Security threat level – 4): As of 10 January 2022, ongoing unrest throughout Kazakhstan has subsided significantly following a heavy-handed security response — termed by authorities as a counter-terror operation — that includes a shoot to kill order in effect throughout the country. In Almaty, the epicenter of the recent unrest, streets were largely empty, although most shops have reopened and public transport has resumed. However, due to supply chain disruptions caused by the protests and subsequent security response, staples such as bread, eggs and flour are in short supply. Internet and mobile communication services have been at least partially restored in Almaty, but not in the capital Nursultan. The public square near the Almaty mayor’s office remains closed to the public. The unrest was also accompanied by a five-day internet blackout. More than 160 people have died in the unrest and at least 8,000 people have been detained since 2 January when the unrest began. Authorities declared 10 January a day of mourning for those killed in the protests.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has blamed the unrest on foreign elements and terrorists and requested military aid from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an alliance lead by Russia that deployed approximately 2,500 troops to secure government facilities and other important sites. The entire country is under a state of emergency which includes a 2300-0700 local time (1700-0100 UTC) curfew and restrictions on entry and exit to major cities, until at least 19 January. While most of these restrictions are not likely to continue in the long-term, President Tokayev’s rhetoric, the violence of the protest movement and the heavy-handed government response indicate that tensions and elevated levels of risk are likely to persist regardless of the survival of the protest movement. The overall security situation in Kazakhstan is not likely to return to the previous normal swiftly, if it does at all.
In related developments, on 8 and 10 January, the U.S. Mission in Kazakhstan issued Security Alerts regarding the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and families from the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty; the most recent alert is available here.
In response to the unrest, on 8 January UnitedHealthcare raised the threat level for Kazakhstan to 4 (High) from 3 (Medium) to reflect the ongoing violent protests and political instability in the country. The threat levels for Almaty and the capital Nursultan have also been raised to 4 (High) from 3 (Medium).
France (Security threat level – 3): On 8 January 2022, tens of thousands of anti-vaccination protesters gathered in several cities nationwide in response to comments made by President Emmanuel Macron disparaging the country’s unvaccinated citizens. In Paris, thousands of citizens gathered near the Boulevard Des Invalides and the Avenues des Champs-Élysées near the city center. Demonstrators obstructed traffic, and on several occasions, dozens of people engaged in clashes with police officers.
Elsewhere in the country, thousands of protesters marched near the downtown area in the southern city of Montpellier. Several businesses reported instances of looting by demonstrators. Additionally, passenger railway services were suspended at several stations due to the ongoing demonstrations. Protests also occurred in the cities of Le Mans, Marseille, and Nantes.
Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): At approximately 2000 local time (1800 UTC) on 8 January 2022, a countrywide power blackout occurred after unknown protesters tampered with a connection transformer at the Aaramoun substation in Aaramoun village in the Aley district, located approximately 15 km (10 mi) south of Beirut. Operations at Beirut International Airport (OLBA/BEY) were temporarily affected due to the lack of electricity. Many business and emergency services in the country already use backup power generators due to the frequency of power outages.
Mali (Security threat level – 5): On 9 January 2022, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to immediately impose additional sanctions on Mali and its transitional government after Malian officials stated that the country will be unable to conduct elections in February 2022 as authorities originally agreed to do. Members of the 15-nation regional bloc agreed to close their land and air borders with Mali and suspend non-essential financial transactions. Additionally, Mali will be suspended from accessing regional financial markets and all 15 nations have agreed to recall their ambassadors. ECOWAS did not provide a starting date regarding when the sanctions would take effect. Mali’s transitional government suggested elections be held in December 2025 due to regional insecurity and the lack of election-related infrastructure.