Worldview Security Update – August 19, 2019
19-Aug-19

AMERICAS

United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1615 local time (2015 UTC) on 17 August 2019, a twin-engine Cessna 303 aircraft with three people on board crashed into a two-story residence in the town of Union Vale, located in Dutchess County, New York. At least three residents were inside the home, which was engulfed in flames after the crash. One of the occupants of the home was killed and another was seriously injured; the third person remains unaccounted for. The pilot of the aircraft was also killed, while the two passengers survived with injuries. The aircraft had just departed nearby Sky Acres Airport (44N) and was en route to Republic Airport (KFRG/FRG) in East Farmingdale, New York. The aircraft originated from Orange County Airport (KMGJ/MGJ), located in Montgomery, New York, and had stopped at Sky Acres Airport to refuel. A local official stated that the aircraft had experienced unspecified engine issues before the crash; the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the crash.

ASIA

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): On 19 August 2019, at least 10 explosive devices detonated in several districts across Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. The explosions, which appeared coordinated, targeted several busy marketplaces and public squares where crowds had gathered for Independence Day celebrations. Security forces reportedly discovered and defused a number of additional explosive devices scattered throughout the city. According to a government official, at least 13 people were killed and 70 more were injured. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) are known to conduct attacks in the area.

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5) : At approximately 2240 local time (1810 UTC) on 17 August 2019, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vest at the Dubai City wedding hall in a predominately Shiite Hazara area of western Kabul. The assailant detonated in the middle of the hall as several attendees were dancing. Officials stated that at least 63 people were killed and 182 others were injured in the attack. A local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

China (Security threat level – 3): Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters participated in demonstrations in Hong Kong over the weekend of 17-18 August 2019. On 18 August a pro-democracy rally in Causeway’s Victoria Park turned into a march to the city’s financial district. According to event organizers, approximately 1.7 million people participated in the protest; however, official police estimates set the number of protesters who gathered at Victoria Park at approximately 128,000 during the height of the event. Although vehicular traffic was interrupted in the vicinity of the protest venue, there were no reports of major disruptions or clashes between protesters and police officers. City officials had only granted permission to hold the rally in Victoria Park, but had not approved a march; however, the event turned into a march as additional protesters joined the demonstration.

Meanwhile, on 17 August pro-democracy and pro-government demonstrators staged protests in the city. In Admiralty, tens of thousands of pro-government protesters peacefully gathered in Tamar Park. Protest organizers claimed that approximately 476,000 people attended the event; however, police officers maintain that only about 108,000 people participated. Meanwhile, in Mong Kok, police officers cleared a group of pro-democracy protesters who reportedly threw eggs at the police station and pointed lasers at the officers. Despite the scuffles, police officers did not deploy tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and there were no reports of injuries. In a separate rally, thousands of people marched in west Kowloon to demand a cap on the number of tourists coming from mainland China to Hong Kong and to call on police officers to exercise restraint. Earlier in the day, thousands of teachers marched from Chater Garden to the Government House. The Professional Teachers’ Union estimated that at least 22,000 teachers were in attendance, while police authorities claimed that about 8,300 protesters participated in the march at the event’s peak. There were no reports of major disruptions.

India (Security threat level – 3): On 18 August 2019, Indian authorities reimposed movement restrictions in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, following renewed clashes between protesters and security personnel overnight on 17-18 August. Residents in several parts of Srinagar — including Gojwara, Nowhetta, Rainawari and Soura — threw stones at police officers, who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray. One person was killed and at least 17 others were injured in the unrest. Authorities had relaxed travel restrictions earlier on 17 August; however, such restrictions have been reinstated following the violence. While landline telephone services have partially resumed, internet and cellphone services remain suspended.

Indonesia (Security threat level – 4): On 19 August 2019, hundreds of protesters gathered in Manokwari — the capital of West Papua province — to demonstrate against the recent arrest of 43 Papuan students in Surabaya, the provincial capital of East Java. The protesters burned tree branches and tires to block roads and set fire to the local parliament building and nearby structures. Police officers deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd. However, there were no reports of injuries or arrests. Local media sources also claimed that protesters entered Domine Eduard Osok Airport (WASS/SOQ) in Sorong — also located in West Papua province — and caused minor damage, but there were no reports of disruptions to airport operations. Security personnel secured the airport to prevent further unrest. In Jayapura — the capital of neighboring Papua province — at least 500 protesters staged a peaceful demonstration. Protests in Jayapura ended peacefully after the governor of Papua province appealed to the protesters to disperse. 

EUROPE

Spain (Security threat level – 3): As of 19 August 2019, authorities have evacuated approximately 8,000 people from Gran Canaria, part of the Canary Islands, due to a wildfire that began on 17 August. Officials have closed at least 11 roads around Tejeda — the town closest to the site of the blaze — while the fire has burned at least 3,400 hectares (8,400 acres) of land. Approximately 700 firefighters and at least 10 firefighting aircraft are working to extinguish the blaze, but officials have warned that it could take several days for emergency responders to contain the fire. According to officials, the fire has spread due to high temperatures, powerful gusts of wind and low humidity. This is the second time that authorities have evacuated Tejeda due to wildfires this month.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Syria (Security threat level – 5): On 19 August 2019, Syrian military aircraft conducted airstrikes against a Turkish military convoy near the town of Khan Sheikhoun, located in Idlib governorate, approximately 255 km (160 mi) north of the capital Damascus. While there were no reports of Turkish military casualties, three civilians were reportedly killed in the strikes. Turkish authorities stated that the convoy was headed to Turkish observation posts in the area, but Syrian officials contend the convoy was poised to reinforce Syrian rebels in Khan Sheikhoun. Turkish officials condemned the strikes, calling them a violation of the Russo-Turkish de-escalation agreement, and reports indicate the Turkish military has provided fighter aircraft escorts to the convoy in an effort to dissuade further attacks.

Analyst Comment: While Turkish and Syrian government forces are both active in Idlib, clashes of this type between the two parties are rare due to a de-escalation agreement between Turkey and Syrian government ally Russia. Entities with interests in Syria should monitor developments closely.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 17 August 2019, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) announced that Akanu Ibiam International Airport (DNEN/ENU) — a domestic airport located in Enugu, the capital of Enugu state — will be closed beginning at 0000 local time on 24 August (2300 UTC on 23 August) for renovations. The airport’s runway will be lengthened to support international flight operations and to improve overall safety and security conditions at the facility. Officials have not confirmed a date for the airport’s reopening.

Zimbabwe (Security threat level – 4): As of 19 August 2019, a strong presence of riot police officers and military vehicles is reported in Bulawayo — Zimbabwe’s second largest city — in response to a planned opposition protest in the city that day. Despite a low turnout of protesters thus far, security forces are conducting patrols throughout the city center and Bulawayo’s surrounding townships. Reports indicate that the majority of businesses in the city are open and operating normally. Government officials banned the demonstration, citing security concerns and noting that the event would lead to “public disorder.”

Analyst Comment: Police authorities banned a similar demonstration in Harare, the capital, on 16 August, but protesters gathered despite the ban; security forces forcefully dispersed the demonstrators, causing several injuries. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance has announced that similar demonstrations are planned in Gweru on 20 August, Mutare on 21 August and Masvingo on 22 August; as such, increased security measures are likely to remain in effect throughout Zimbabwe through at least 22 August in anticipation of the planned anti-government protests.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): On 19 August 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Afghanistan, which reads in part as follows: “Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition in terms of politics, economy and security. Presidential elections are scheduled for 28 September 2019. Political events, rallies and polling stations have been the target of violent attacks during previous elections. You should avoid all political demonstrations and public gatherings. Keep up to date with developments in the security situation, including through monitoring local media.”

Cameroon (Security threat level – 4): On 16 August 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Cameroon, which reads in part as follows: "Armed separatists have announced that they will impose a general strike in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon from Monday 2 to Friday 6 September and Monday 9 September to Friday 13 September. You should monitor local media to check for the latest information about the shutdown. Armed separatists also imposed an extended general strike in February 2019, with reports of violence and loss of life. Urban transport in towns and cities was affected and vehicular traffic in and out of the region was restricted. Incidents of sporadic gunfire also occurred, including shooting in Bamenda, Buea and the outskirts of Limbe."

Myanmar (Security threat level – 4): On 19 August 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Yangon issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

“Location: Eastern Mandalay Division and Northern Shan State, Burma

“Event: Fighting continues between the Burmese security forces and ethnic armed groups in eastern Mandalay Division and northern Shan State. Over the August 17-18 weekend, armed engagements spread northeast in Shan State, reaching areas northeast of Lashio. Many roads, railways, and bridges between townships in northern Shan State are closed. Commercial flights are available from Lashio airport to other parts of Burma. Some roads to Lashio are closed due to fighting.

“Actions to Take:

  • Do not travel along Highway 3 from Pyin Oo Lwin to Muse and along Highway 34 from Hseni to Hopang at this time due to armed fighting. U.S. Embassy personnel are still permitted to travel to the city of Lashio.
  • Read our current travel advisory at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/burma-travel-advisory.html
  • If you are in northern Shan State, make contingency plans to leave, possibly via Lashio airport. If you are unable to travel due to fighting, shelter in place, maintain contact with local authorities for travel options, and call us at 01-536509 for assistance.
  • Monitor local media for updates.
  • Notify friends and family of your safety.”