AMERICAS Argentina / Jamaica / Panama (Security threat levels –...
United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1700 local time (2100 UTC) on 16 March 2021, a shooting occurred at a massage parlor in Acworth, Georgia, located on the northern outskirts of the city of Atlanta. Police officers responding to the event discovered five people with gunshot wounds, two of whom died at the scene. The other three wounded individuals were taken to a local hospital, where two more succumbed to their injuries. Nearly one hour later, police officers responded to a call regarding a robbery in progress at a massage parlor in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood — located approximately 30 mi (50 km) from the shooting site in Acworth — where three women were shot and killed. An additional shooting occurred at another spa situated across the street while the officers were at the scene; one woman was found dead from gunshot wounds at the latter facility. Authorities then launched a pursuit and arrested a 21-year-old male suspect in Crisp County, located about 150 miles south of Atlanta, more than three hours after the initial shooting in Acworth. Six of the eight people killed in the shootings were of Asian descent, which has raised concerns that the killings may have been racially motivated. Local and federal law enforcement officials are investigating the events.
Philippines (Security threat level – 4): On 16 March 2021, the government announced that foreign nationals as well as citizens who are not Overseas Filipino Workers will be banned from entering the Philippines from 20 March until 19 April in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants. Limited exceptions exist for emergency situations and medical repatriations. Additionally, international arrivals will be capped at 1,500 people per day during that time period.
Papua New Guinea / Australia (Security threat levels – 4 / 2): On 17 March 2021, Australian authorities suspended flights between Papua New Guinea’s Jacksons International Airport (AYPY/POM), located in the capital Port Moresby, and Cairns Airport (YBCS/CNS), located in the state of Queensland, effective until 31 March. Additionally, authorities have banned workers from entering and leaving Australia, except those working in sectors deemed essential. Freight, medevac and other critical flights are exempt from the suspension. The flight suspension follows a COVID-19 surge in Papua New Guinea, where 2,351 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed. Health experts fear the real number is much higher due to undetected cases of community transmission. Australian authorities are deploying vaccine doses and personal protective equipment to Papua New Guinea to assist with controlling the outbreak.
Russia (Security threat level – 3): On 16 March 2021, the Russian government extended a ban on flights to and from the U.K. until 16 April due to a more infectious strain of coronavirus currently circulating in the U.K. The measure has been in place since 22 December 2020 and was due to expire on 16 March. The flight suspension may be extended further at the discretion of Russian health authorities.
Serbia (Security threat level – 3): On 16 March 2021, authorities announced a nationwide lockdown from 17 to 22 March due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. During the lockdown, all businesses are required to close, except for grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and food delivery services. Meanwhile, cafes and restaurants located in hotels are restricted to serving registered guests only.
Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): On 16 March 2021, anti-government demonstrators angry about the continuing devaluation of the Lebanese currency closed roads across the capital Beirut, including near the American University of Beirut and in the Koraytem neighborhood, an upscale area located southwest of the Central District. Protesters also burned tires near the Banque Du Liban and vandalized windows of grocery stores. Over the last two weeks, the exchange rate has risen from 10,000 Lebanese pounds to the U.S. dollar, to 15,000 pounds to the dollar, prompting some grocery stores to close. In the northern city of Tripoli, demonstrators marched to politicians’ homes and damaged the security cameras installed at the residences. Other demonstrators blocked primary throughfares linking major regions in the country, including roads in the southern city of Naqoura — located along the coast near the Israeli border.
Analyst Comment: It is highly likely that protests will intensify in Lebanon over the coming months due to impending subsidy cuts. Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced that money for fuel subsidies will run out by the end of March and that the government will be able to fund other subsidies of food and medicine only until June 2021.
Niger (Security threat level – 5): On 16 March 2021, reports emerged regarding a series of attacks that occurred the previous day near the town of Banibangou in the Tillabéri region, located close to the Niger-Mali border. According to local security officials, gunmen riding motorcycles staged assaults on several villages and roadways as civilians returned to the villages of Chinagodrar and Darey Dey from a popular weekly market in Banibangou. The assailants killed at least 58 people and injured another. In addition, two vehicles were set ablaze and the gunmen stole several grain silos and seized two vehicles during the raids. While no group has thus far claimed responsibility for the attacks, militants affiliated with the Islamic State operate in the area. Following the attacks, a government spokesperson declared three days of national mourning for the victims.
Analyst Comment: Such attacks are common in the region and Banibangou is a lucrative target due to the weekly livestock market in the city, as well as its proximity to the border with Mali. Most recently, in January 2021, jihadists attacked two villages in the Tillabéri region, killing at least 100 civilians.
Bangladesh (Security threat level – 4): On 16 March 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka issued a Security Alert regarding the upcoming Independence Day holiday, which reads in part as follows: “Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) request all residents to refrain from non-essential movements throughout the city from Wednesday, March 17 through Saturday, March 27 in observance of Bangladesh’s 50 Years of Independence. Police officials made this request to minimize vehicular traffic so official VIP visitors will be able to move unimpeded with police escorts through the city. Police have also advised against holding political rallies or social gatherings in public spaces.
“During this 10-day period, DMP may implement additional security measures in select locations to include road closures. In addition, the Civil Aviation Authority will suspend air traffic during the flight arrivals and departures of state guests. In honor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birthday on March 17 shopping malls and shops will be closed. Pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants will remain open.
“U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise increased vigilance during this period. Please be aware of surroundings, review personal security plan, monitor local media for updates, and keep mobile phones accessible in case of emergency.”
Haiti (Security threat level – 4): On the morning of 17 March 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows: “There are reports of planned protests and roadblocks throughout Port au Prince today, March 17. Many roadblocks have already been established, and the U.S. Embassy has restricted non-official travel of its direct-hire U.S. citizen staff to the immediate Embassy neighborhood. Please avoid unnecessary travel in this area at this time.”