Worldview Security Report – January 22, 2019
22-Jan-19

AMERICAS

Guatemala (Security threat level – 4):

On 21 January 2019, two assailants attempting to extort a bus driver for money accidentally detonated a homemade explosive device on a public bus in Guatemala City’s Quinta Samayoa neighborhood. The woman carrying the device and at least six passengers on board the bus were injured in the blast. The woman’s accomplice fled the site on a motorcycle. Criminal gangs in the city extort money from public bus operators on a weekly basis in exchange for safe passage of the vehicles; authorities are investigating to determine the gang involved in this particular extortion attempt.

Mexico (Security threat level – 4):

On the evening of 18 January 2019, an explosion occurred when fuel leaking from a ruptured pipeline caught fire in San Primitivo – a community in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo – located approximately 120 km (80 mi) north of Mexico City. The blast occurred after perpetrators drilled into the pipeline in order to steal fuel. Reports indicate that approximately 600 to 800 locals had gathered at the site to collect fuel from the leak at the time of the explosion. At least 91 people were killed and more than 50 were injured in the blast. Residents in the immediate vicinity of the pipeline, which runs between Tuxpan (Veracuz state) and Tula (Hidalgo state), were evacuated following the explosion. State oil company Pemex has stated that an investigation into the cause of the blast remains underway. In response to the event, the government has declared that it will enact increased security measures in sensitive areas vulnerable to similar occurrences.

Venezuela (Security threat level – 4):

On 21 January 2019, a group of soldiers in Caracas released a video calling for the removal of President Nicolas Maduro and for Venezuelans to take to the streets. The video emerged as rogue officers allegedly stole two military vehicles from a police station in the western Macao district and then drove across the city to the barracks in eastern Petare, where they stole weapons and allegedly kidnapped four officials. The group of 25 soldiers then subsequently used the weapons to attack the National Guard post in Cotiza. Security forces quickly surrounded the rogue officers and arrested them. Small groups of protesters later burned trash and a car outside the Cotiza outpost and police officers used tear gas to disperse them. In addition to the protests in Cotiza, there were reports of at least a dozen small-scale demonstrations across Caracas — most of which occurred in the Libertador municipality — which continued into the early morning.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3):

On 19 January 2019, approximately 84,000 people participated in the 10th consecutive weekend of “yellow vest” protests across France. Approximately 7,000 people protested in Paris, where demonstrators gathered near the National Assembly and Invalides museum then marched through the city along the River Seine to Place d’Italie. Isolated scuffles broke out in the Invalides district when protesters reportedly threw firecrackers, bottles and stones at police officers, who responded by firing water cannons and tear gas. Protesters also peacefully gathered on the Champs Elysees. At least 12 people were arrested, but there were no reports of injuries in the capital.

In Toulouse, approximately 10,000 people participated in protests, which turned violent in the evening. Groups of protesters vandalized buildings, including a bank and several shops; at least eight people were injured and 23 were arrested in Toulouse. Demonstrations also occurred in Angers, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Rouen, among other cities. Authorities deployed approximately 80,000 personnel ahead of the protests, including 5,000 police officers in Paris alone.

Greece (Security threat level – 3):

On 20 January 2019, tens of thousands of people gathered in Athens to protest against Greece’s name change agreement with Macedonia. Organizers stated that approximately 100,000 people participated in the protests, while police officers stated that the number was closer to 60,000. Clashes broke out when police officers fired tear gas into the crowd after protesters attempted to climb the steps of the building and break through a police cordon. At least 10 police officers were injured after protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at them.

Russia (Security threat level – 3):

On 22 January 2019, Aeroflot flight SU1515 was diverted to Khanty-Mansiysk Airport (USHH/HMA) in Siberia due to an alleged hijacking attempt. The aircraft had been en route from Surgut International Airport (USRR/SGC) to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport (UUDD/SVO) when it was reportedly diverted after a passenger demanded that the Boeing 737-800 land in Afghanistan. As of last report, the suspect appears to have been detained and passengers were being questioned at USHH. State news media reports that the man was intoxicated and claimed to have a weapon, although upon inspection in Khanty-Mansiysk he was found to be unarmed.

Spain (Security threat level – 3):

At 0600 local time (0500 UTC) on 21 January 2019, taxi drivers in Madrid began an indefinite strike to call for tighter regulations on ride-hailing services. Hundreds of taxi drivers gathered outside the city’s regional government in Sol Square as part of the strike action. Protesters set off firecrackers during the demonstration; there were no reports of arrests or injuries. As of 22 January, there have been isolated reports of violence in Madrid with striking drivers allegedly attacked a photographer who was reporting on the strike at Madrid’s Barajas Airport (LEMD/MAD).

The Madrid taxi driver strike comes as taxi drivers in Barcelona have been on strike since 18 January. There have also been reports of similar taxi driver strikes in other Catalan cities. In Barcelona, striking taxi drivers have been blocking the Gran Vía Boulevard, causing traffic disruptions, since the strike began. In response, on 20 January, several ride-hailing service drivers began using their vehicles to block Avenue Diagonal, further disrupting traffic. There have been multiple incidents of violence since the strike began. Authorities arrested at least seven people on 18 January after protesters attacked a ride-hailing service driver and damaged more than 30 ride-hailing service vehicles. There were also reports of clashes on 18 January when protesters threw objects at police officers and attempted to enter the Catalan regional parliament. At least three police officers were injured in that clash. There have also been continuing reports of localized traffic disruptions in various cities, as taxi drivers continue to block roads.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 3):

At approximately 2010 local time/UTC on 19 January 2019, a bomb inside a stolen delivery van detonated outside of a courthouse located on Bishop Street in the center of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Following the explosion, police officers closed Bishop Street, evacuated nearby buildings and hotels and warned residents to avoid the city center. No injuries were reported. Police officers later arrested four suspects in connection to the bombing. Police officers stated that they believe the New Irish Republican Army (IRA) conducted the attack. The New IRA conducted a fatal car bombing in Belfast in 2016; one prison guard was killed in that attack.

Analyst Comment: Paramilitary groups — primarily Irish Republican militants — have carried out attacks in Northern Ireland in the past. The current U.K. Home Office threat level for attacks perpetrated by domestic terrorist or extremist groups based in Northern Ireland is “severe,” indicating that there an attack is “highly likely.”

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5):

On 21 January 2019, security forces prevented opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu from holding a rally outside the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) headquarters in Kinshasa’s Kasa-Vubu municipality. Police officers arrived at the headquarters prior to the rally and barricaded the building. Approximately 50 police officers and anti-riot vehicles monitored the site and prevented anyone from entering. When event staff arrived with a truck meant to function as a stage and podium for Fayulu’s speech, police officers arrested the driver and confiscated the podium, stating that the event had been canceled. Four political activists were also briefly detained. Authorities later stated that the incident was the result of a misunderstanding. On the same day, motorcycle taxi drivers who support President-elect Felix Tshisekedi reportedly clashed with approximately 300 Fayulu supporters at a public meeting in Kinshasa’s city center. Reports indicate that the drivers attacked the pro-Fayulu activists, who retaliated by throwing stones; one taxi driver was injured in the clashes. Security personnel intervened and dispersed the rally.

The security force actions and clashes occurred one day after the Constitutional Court announced that it had rejected Fayulu’s appeal for a vote recount and declared Tshisekedi the president-elect. In response to the court’s decision, Fayulu accused the court of answering to President Joseph Kabila and has urged his supporters to take part in peaceful protests. It remains unclear when Tshisekedi’s inauguration ceremony will be held; it was originally slated for 22 January, but has since been postponed to an unspecified date for unknown reasons. Meanwhile, the government also restored internet and SMS messaging services across the country in the hours leading up to the presidential confirmation.

Mozambique / South Africa / Malawi (Security threat levels – 3 / 4 / 3):

On 21 January 2019, Tropical Storm Desmond made landfall on the coast of Mozambique, causing heavy flooding throughout the country. As of last report, Biera — the fourth largest city in Mozambique — had received 10 in (277 mm) of rain in the last 24 hours. More flooding is expected in central Mozambique and southern Malawi before it dissipates in the next 24 hours. Remnants of Desmond are then expected to join with another weather formation that is currently over central Madagascar.




GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Burkina Faso (Security threat level – 4): On 18 January 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso issued a Security Alert regarding terrorist and criminal groups, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Location: East Region and Sahel Region
  • “Event: Terrorist and criminal groups continue plotting attacks in Burkina Faso, targeting security and military forces, hunting and security outposts, mining sites, and schools. Terrorists and criminal groups continue to attack and abduct Westerners, sometimes murdering victims. Since December 15, 2018, two Westerners have been missing and are presumed abducted and a third was kidnapped and killed.
  • “Actions to Take:
  • “Avoid travel to the Komondjari, Topa, Komienga, and Gourma provinces in the Eastern Region and the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso.”

  • Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On 18 January 2019, the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Location: Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, Mexico
  • “Event: The Consulate General is aware of a series of connected attacks against police officers in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City that started on January 17, 2019. Authorities believe that members of organized criminal groups are carrying out these attacks, which are expected to continue. U.S. government personnel have been advised to avoid police stations and other law enforcement facilities in both cities to the extent possible until further notice.”

  • Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 18 January 2019, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

  • “Location: Nigeria, Countrywide
  • “Event: There is an increase in ISIS propaganda videos specifically directed to Nigeria and the ongoing civil unrest in Borno state and the Northeast. ISIS West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram have both stated they plan to disrupt the upcoming 2019 presidential elections by conducting attacks on Nigerian Security and infrastructure, as well as places of gathering such as markets, hotels, and malls. While we have no specific threat information to the U.S. Embassy or within Nigeria during the election season, U.S. citizens in Nigeria should remember to follow personal security precautions on a regular basis.
  • “Actions to Take:
  • Expect additional police and military checkpoints and possible road blocks throughout the country.”

  • Ukraine (Security threat level – 4): On 22 January 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
  • “Event: Today, January 22, 2019, marks the 100th anniversary of the unification of eastern and western Ukraine. Numerous Unity Day events throughout Kyiv are expected to create heavier than normal vehicle and pedestrian congestion. Delays and increased security are anticipated throughout the city, especially in the vicinity of St. Sophia’s Cathedral, where a concert will take place, and the Paton Bridge, which will host a human chain uniting both banks of the Dnipro River. Some nationalist groups are expected to take part in events.”

  • Zimbabwe (Security threat level – 4): On 20 January 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Zimbabwe, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Following widespread disruption, including violent protests, in many areas of Zimbabwe during week beginning 14 January 2019, the situation remains unsettled in Harare and Bulawayo in particular. There is a risk of further disruption, including violent protests and activity by the security services. There remains a heightened security presence in urban areas. You should exercise caution and monitor local media and this travel advice for updates. Access to the internet has been disrupted across Zimbabwe and you should not rely on particular apps for communications as these may be blocked.
  • “You’re advised to exercise caution and avoid any political gatherings or demonstrations. These can be unpredictable and may turn violent. Taking photographs of members of police and armed forces personnel and of demonstrations and protests is not permitted. You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places. Ensure you carry identification, so that you can produce it if required to do so by the security forces.”

  • 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.