United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1100 local time (1700 UTC) on 15 January 2022, a gunman took four people hostage inside a synagogue in the northern Texas town of Colleyville, located about 25 mi (40 km) northeast of downtown Dallas. A standoff then ensued between the gunman and police officers, during which authorities engaged in negotiations with the suspect. One of the hostages was released after approximately six hours. Police officers later entered the building and rescued three remaining hostages, ending a more than 10-hour-long standoff. The gunman was killed during the rescue operation. The hostage-taker — a 44-year-old U.K. national who had arrived in the U.S. in late December 2021 — reportedly demanded the release of a convicted terrorist serving an 86-year sentence at a nearby federal prison in Texas for attempting to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. An investigation into the event is currently underway; police officers in Manchester, England, have arrested two individuals in relation to the event.
United States (Security threat level – 2): A severe winter storm affected the eastern region of the United States during 16-17 January 2022, causing significant transportation disruptions and power outages across the region. More than 4,200 flights across the country were canceled on 17 January and almost 90,000 homes and businesses between the states of Georgia and Maine experienced power outages. The Ohio town of Ashtabula, located on the shores of Lake Erie, received 27 in (68 cm) of snow, while Grand Island, New York, received 22 inches of snow. Additionally, on 16 January several airlines canceled more than 2,700 domestic flights and 1,600 others were delayed due to inclement weather conditions. Nearly 95% of scheduled flights at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport (KCLT/CLT) were canceled. The governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia all declared states of emergency. In North Carolina, at least two people were killed in the city of Raleigh after losing control of their vehicles due to the weather conditions.
China (Security threat level – 3): On 15 January 2022, authorities announced that all inbound travelers to the capital Beijing will be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours after their arrival in the city as of 22 January, following the first confirmed case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 detected in the city. Inbound travelers are already required to take a COVID-19 test within 48 hours prior to their departure for Beijing and have a green code on the city’s tracking app. Local officials are attempting to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases before the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on 4 February.
Japan (Security threat level – 1): On 15 January 2022, authorities shortened the COVID-19 quarantine period for arriving international travelers to 10 days from 14. Although most foreign nationals remain banned from entry, Japanese citizens and foreign nationals residing in Japan will be permitted to self-isolate at home for a shorter period if they attend health check-ups and avoid the use of public transportation. Additionally, the government has granted prefectural authorities the right to allow essential workers to quarantine for six days after contact with COVID-19 cases. Additionally, healthcare personnel are not required to quarantine if they submit a negative coronavirus test daily.
Fiji (Security threat level – 2): As of 18 January 2022, most Fiji Airways services have resumed after the airline canceled scheduled flights to and from Fiji on 16 January due to an ash cloud emitted in the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on 15 January. Other airlines, including Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Qantas, also canceled flights. Travelers should check directly with their airlines regarding the status of their flights.
South Pacific Islands (Security threat level – 1): As of 18 January 2022, the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano and the subsequent tsunami have caused significant damage across Tonga, including to the main island of Tongatapu where the capital Nuku’alofa is located. The full extent of the damage remains unknown due to ongoing communications disruptions caused by damage from the tsunami, including severe damage to the country’s main undersea communications cable. Authorities are attempting to restore telecommunications services throughout the country. Authorities in Australia and New Zealand have deployed ships and personnel to assist with cleanup efforts and to deliver supplies such as water, due to concerns regarding contamination from volcanic ash.
On 15 January a 1.2-m (4 ft)-high tsunami struck the capital Nuku’alofa, causing damage to buildings, vehicles and homes, and flooding the city. The tsunami followed the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano, located approximately 65 km (40 mi) north of the capital, which created an ash plume approximately 20 km (12 mi) high and was followed by several strong tremors, according to Tonga Meteorological Services. Local residents reported volcanic ash and small rocks falling from the sky as they attempted to evacuate coastal areas. At least two people, including a British national, died as a result of the tsunami.
France (Security threat level – 3): On 16 January 2022, the National Assembly voted to approve additional coronavirus-related legislation, which includes a requirement for residents to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter entertainment venues and restaurants as well as to travel aboard long-distance trains. Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted 215 in favor and 58 against the legislation. Vaccine certificates are tentatively scheduled to be enforced beginning on 20 January.
Analyst Comment: Thousands of French citizens have engaged in weekly demonstrations in cities across the country in opposition to coronavirus-related requirements. On occasion, these demonstrations have resulted in clashes between protesters and police officers, during which the officers have employed crowd control tactics. The passage of the vaccine requirement legislation increases the likelihood of additional coronavirus-related demonstrations as well as labor actions by unions throughout France.
Netherlands (Security threat level – 2): On 14 January 2022, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that some nonessential businesses may resume operations for the first time since a nationwide lockdown was imposed in December 2021. Businesses such as retail stores, gyms and hair salons are now permitted to operate until 1700 local time (1600 UTC) daily. However, businesses deemed high-risk for COVID-19 transmission, including bars, restaurants and cultural centers, remain closed until at least 25 January due to concerns over the omicron variant of COVID-19.
Iraq (Security threat level – 5): Late on 16 January 2022, a large explosion occurred in central Baghdad’s Karada neighborhood — located along the eastern banks of the Tigris River and adjacent to the Green Zone. According to a local official, several commercial buildings were damaged in the explosion and components of a possible improvised explosive device (IED) were found near a bank that was damaged in the blast. There were no immediate reports regarding injuries or deaths. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.
United Arab Emirates (Security threat level – 2): On 17 January 2022, a drone attack caused three fuel tankers to explode at the Mussafah Fuel Depot in the capital Abu Dhabi, killing three people and injuring six more. Following the explosions, a minor fire broke out at a storage facility near Abu Dhabi International Airport (OMAA/AUH). Several flights were briefly disrupted at the airport, but airport authorities indicated that no significant damage occurred. The Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 17 January 2022, security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at pro-democracy protesters marching toward the presidential palace and near Khartoum University in the capital Khartoum. Thousands of demonstrators had gathered in a continuation of weekly protests against the ruling military junta. Several demonstrators blocked roads with burning debris near the Al Diyum neighborhood located north of the city center, while dozens of others engaged in clashes with police officers. According to the Sudan Doctor’s Committee, at least seven people were killed by gunfire, and more than 50 others were injured.