Worldview Security Update – December 12, 2019
12-Dec-19

ASIA

India (Security threat level – 3) : On 12 December 2019, violent protests against a controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) — ratified by India’s Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, the previous day — occurred in the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura. Clashes occurred between protesters and police officers in Assam’s Guwahati city, despite an indefinite curfew in the city and restrictions on mobile internet services across the state. Police officers opened fire on protesters in the Lalungaonn area of the city after protesters reportedly threw rocks, bricks and other projectiles at the officers. At least four protesters were injured; one later succumbed to his wounds at a hospital. Protesters set fire to at least four train stations in the state, forcing authorities to suspend train services. At least two domestic airlines, including IndiGo, canceled all flights to and from Assam’s Dibrugarh Airport (VEMN/DIB) for 12 December. Additionally, educational institutions in the state are suspending classes until 22 December in view of the unrest.

Violence also occurred in Tripura state, where restrictions on internet services remain in effect and police officers have arrested at least 1,800 people since 11 December. Authorities have deployed thousands of military and paramilitary personnel to Assam and Tripura in an effort to curb the violence. Residents in the northeastern states — particularly those in Assam and Tripura — resent the CAB, which offers fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim undocumented immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. A notable number of Bangladeshi migrants reside in the two states and could benefit from the bill, which excludes Muslim immigrants.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 12 December 2019, trade unions across France entered the eighth consecutive day of a strike action against a proposed pension reform. Services continue to be significantly disrupted throughout the country, as workers across most public transportation sectors, including bus, rail and tram workers, continue their strike. National rail operator Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) and Paris public transport provider Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) continue to warn of significantly reduced services in the Paris Metro, along with Transport express regional (TER) trains and long-distance TGV trains. Notable transportation disruptions are expected to continue through at least 17 December, as unions have extended the strike period. SNCF announced that approximately 80% of services were canceled. In Paris, only Metro lines 1 and 14 are operating as normal. However, there have been no reports of significant disruptions at airports or to commercial aviation services nationwide, as operations have largely normalized following a strike on 10 December by aviation workers. Union leaders have called for additional protests on 17 December, and warned that additional protests could continue through 25 December if their demands are not fulfilled.

In related developments, on 12 December police officers in Nantes fired tear gas to disperse protesters, and demonstrators in Marseille set fire to vehicles. However, there were no reports of casualties.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Algeria (Security threat level – 4): As of the afternoon of 12 December 2019, clashes between protesters and police officers are occurring across Algeria, as voters are headed to cast their ballots in the presidential election. In the capital Algiers, police officers arrested anti-election protesters who were attempting to block access to polling stations. Meanwhile, in Bejaia, located approximately 250 km (155 mi) west of Algiers, police officers used tear gas to disperse several groups of demonstrators; protesters in the city have since blocked access to all polling stations to prevent voters from participating in the polls. Separately, in Bouira, located approximately 110 km southeast of Algiers, police officers engaged in clashes with protesters, during which several people were injured. Additionally, security forces in Tizi Ouzou, located approximately 105 km east of Algiers, used tear gas to disperse protesters who had gathered in front of the provincial headquarters, but there were no reports of casualties. Protesters are concerned that the government is holding the election without instituting substantive reforms and that the election’s outcome will serve to perpetuate a corrupt political system and not lead to substantive change.

Despite the protests and related clashes, the country’s election monitoring authority stated that approximately 90% of polling stations are open and only around 5% have experienced disruptions due to the protests. The latest reports indicate that voter turnout, however, is low, with only 5% of eligible voters participating in the election thus far.

Analyst Comment: Travelers and expatriates in Algeria should avoid areas near polling stations, where protests are currently ongoing, and should closely monitor forthcoming election-related developments.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 12 December 2019, police officers forcibly dispersed dozens of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) — a banned Shiite Muslim organization — as they gathered in Abuja to commemorate the four-year anniversary of the Zaria massacre. Protesters initially gathered at Wuse Market before marching to the Berger bus stop — located approximately 2 km (1 mi) west of Wuse market along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway — at which point riot police officers began to disperse the crowd. Unconfirmed reports indicate that officers fired live rounds, although it is unclear at this time if the officers deployed tear gas or live ammunition. Demonstrators responded by throwing stones at police officers. A number of businesses in the area are currently closed due to the protests; travelers in eastern Abuja should remain vigilant and avoid all crowds to mitigate the risk of being collaterally affected.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Guinea (Security threat level – 4): On 12 December 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Conakry issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

"There is a planned protest march in Conakry on Thursday, December 12, 2019 starting at 9:00 a.m. The protest march is scheduled to start on Rue de Prince between at Hamdallaye traffic circle and continue to the September 28 Stadium via Bellevue Circle. This protest march is likely to impact normal traffic patterns throughout Conakry.

“Embassy Conakry personnel have been ordered to avoid Rue de Prince between Hamdallaye traffic circle and the September 28 football Stadium starting at 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.”

Indonesia (Security threat level – 4): On 12 December 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

“Location: Indonesia, countrywide

“Event: During the holiday season, the Indonesian National Police will visibly increase their presence at tourist sites, churches, malls, and other public gathering places. The Embassy advises heightened personal security awareness, particularly in public areas frequented by foreigners during this period.”