Bangladesh (Security threat level – 4): On 26 February 2019, authorities in Dhaka instituted vehicle restrictions ahead of local elections on 28 February. Between 26 February and 1 March, all private motorcycles will be banned from polling areas in the Dhaka North City Corporation; all other vehicles will be banned in those areas starting on 27 February. Emergency vehicles and vehicles with permits will be exempt from the ban. Additionally, the ban will not affect major roads and highways.
Pakistan (Security threat level – 5): On 27 February 2019, India and Pakistan suspended commercial flights in their territory amid escalating border tensions. In India, authorities closed at least eight airports to civilian traffic in the northwestern part of the country, including in the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir. The affected airports included: Jammu Airport (VIJU/IXJ), Srinagar Airport (VISR/SXR), Pathankot Airport (VIPK/IXP), Leh’s Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (VILH/IXL), Amritsar’s Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport (VIAR/ATQ), Shimla Airport (VISM/SLV), Kangra Airport, Gaggal (VIGG/DHM) and Kullu–Manali Airport (VIBR/KUU). As of this writing, some of the aforementioned airports have resumed flights, but delays and cancellations remain likely for the remainder of the day. Meanwhile, Pakistan closed its entire airspace, including to commercial overflights. While initial reports indicated that Pakistani airspace would remain closed until 2359 local time (1859 UTC) on 28 February, preliminary reports indicate that the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan has partially opened the country’s airspace, as two flights were able to depart Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport (OPKC/KHI).
The airport/airspace closures occurred after Pakistan launched airstrikes into Indian-controlled Kashmir earlier in the day on 27 February. Pakistan maintains that the airstrikes hit six “non-military targets” to “avoid human loss and collateral damage” and that no Pakistani aircraft crossed the border. India claims that the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) targeted military installations and that the Indian Air Force (IAF) chased Pakistani aircraft out of Indian territory and forced them into Pakistani airspace, where PAF jets then shot down two Indian military aircraft inside Pakistani airspace. One of the jets reportedly crashed in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, while the other crashed in Indian controlled-Kashmir. Pakistani troops reportedly arrested one Indian pilot on the ground, although initial reports indicated two were arrested. Indian authorities have confirmed that one of India’s MiG-21 fighter jets was “lost” in an “aerial engagement” with Pakistani forces and that one pilot is missing in action. However, they have not commented on reports that a second Indian jet was also shot down. Indian authorities also contend that the IAF shot down one Pakistani F-16 during the encounter, which Pakistan has denied. Meanwhile, residents and officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir reported that an IAF Mi-17 helicopter had crashed into an open field in Budgam district. At least seven people were killed; it is unclear if this crash was related to Pakistan’s claim of shooting down a second Indian aircraft.
The airport/airspace closures also occurred one day after Indian military aircraft carried out airstrikes in Pakistani territory, marking the first time that airstrikes were launched across the Line of Control (LoC) — the de facto border that divides India-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir — since 1971. The strikes targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant training camp near the town of Balakot in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Indian Foreign Ministry stated that the airstrikes killed “a very large number” of militants and avoided civilian casualties, and that the action was carried out to prevent “imminent” suicide attacks in India; Pakistan stated that the strikes hit an open ravine, and resulted in minimal damage and no casualties. The strikes occurred after JeM claimed responsibility for a 14 February suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir in which more than 40 Indian troops were killed.
As of this writing, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imram Khan has called for negotiations with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who has yet to respond. Khan is also due to meet with various government bodies later on 27 February to formulate a response to India.
Analyst Comment: Heightened tensions are likely for both countries for the foreseeable future, especially in the Kashmir region, and along the Line of Control specifically. Further escalation at this point is difficult to ascertain, and would likely involve continued tit-for-tat retaliation. However, both countries’ choice of targets thus far appears to indicate a willingness to avoid a major escalation. International pressure may also help to reduce tensions, as it is not in either country’s long-term interest to escalate the conflict.
Egypt (Security threat level – 4): On 27 February 2019, a train crashed into a concrete barrier at Cairo’s Ramses train station, causing the train’s fuel tank to explode and triggering a massive fire at the station’s main building. At least 28 people were killed and 50 others injured in the accident, although the death toll could rise further. Firefighters have contained the fire, but rail services at the station remain suspended. Authorities have stated that they are investigating the cause of the crash and have vowed to punish those found to be negligent. In response to the incident, Egypt’s minister of transportation has resigned. Egypt’s railway system has a poor safety record and rail accidents are common.
Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 27 February 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Abuja issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:
Security threat levels range from 1 (Very Low) to 5 (Very High) and are determined using a comprehensive system that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The primary factors used to determine a location’s security threat level are Armed Conflict, Crime, Demonstrations/Strikes, Ethnic/Sectarian Tensions, Graft/Corruption, Kidnapping, Political Instability, Government Restriction and Terrorism.