Worldview Security Update – January 27, 2020
27-Jan-20

ASIA

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 1300 local time (0830 UTC) on 27 January 2020, an aircraft crashed and caught fire in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni, located approximately 150 km (95 mi) southwest of the capital Kabul. Initial reports suggested that the aircraft was a commercial flight operated by Ariana Airlines; later reports have indicated that the aircraft may have been a Bombardier E-11A belonging to the U.S. Air Force, although this information has yet to be fully corroborated. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the Afghan government announced that the aircraft was a Boeing 737-470 — registration YA-PID — operating as Flight AFG507A from Herat International Airport (OAHR/HEA) to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport (OAKB/KBL); however, officials from Ariana Airlines denied that the crashed aircraft belonged to them and asserted that Flight AFG507A had landed safely in Kabul earlier in the day. Officials from the Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan also later denied reports that the crash involved a commercial flight. Afghan special forces have deployed to secure the crash site, which is located within territory controlled by the Taliban. Unconfirmed reports suggest Taliban insurgents are currently at the crash site and are securing the area. Additional information, including casualty estimates and an official identification of the affected flight, is unavailable at this time and the situation remains volatile.

Cambodia / China / Malaysia / Mongolia (Security threat levels – 3 / 3 / 3 / 1): As of 27 January 2020, there have been more than 2,750 cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) reported across at least 30 provinces in China, while additional cases have been confirmed in at least 13 other countries, including: Australia (5), Cambodia (1), Canada (1), France (3), Japan (4), Malaysia (4), Nepal (1) Singapore (4), South Korea (4), Taiwan (4), Thailand (8), Vietnam (2) and the U.S. (5). At least 81 people have died from the virus thus far. In China, the travel ban has been extended to central China and covers at least 15 cities. Approximately 56 million people are currently in locations under lockdown. Municipal officials in Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province have implemented citywide travel restrictions beginning on 26 January in an attempt to limit the spread of the outbreak.

The following municipalities have implemented travel restrictions in addition to those currently in effect for Wuhan and Hubei province:

  • Inter-provincial transportation services have been suspended in Beijing, Shandong province, Shantou City, Shanghai, Tianjin and Xi’an;
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport (ZSPD/PVG) will suspend long distance bus services to and from the facility on 28 January; businesses have been ordered to remain closed until 1200 local time (0400 UTC) on 9 February;
  • Intercity bus, rail and taxi services have also been restricted in these areas and elsewhere.

Authorities may implement further restrictions on travel within the above municipalities in addition to other major cities or provincial districts across China in the short-term as authorities work to reduce the spread of the viral outbreak. Meanwhile, the Chinese government announced that the Lunar New Year holiday would be extended by three days to 2 February, while Hong Kong extended its school holiday until 17 February.

Numerous governments have begun preparations to evacuate diplomatic personnel and private citizens from Wuhan, including Australia, France, India, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. Chinese authorities have been coordinating with relevant governments to facilitate such operations. Furthermore, on 27 January authorities in Malaysia announced they would stop issuing visas for Chinese nationals from Hubei province until further notice. Likewise Mongolia’s government announced that beginning on 28 January the border crossing with China will be restricted until further notice as a precaution to prevent the spread of the virus.

The U.S. State Department, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and a number of additional governments have advised against all travel to Hubei province due to the outbreak. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a “Warning – Level 3” alert regarding the outbreak; additional information can be found here .

EUROPE

Turkey (Security threat level – 4): As of 27 January 2020, at least 41 people have been confirmed as killed and more than 1,600 others injured following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in eastern Turkey on 24 January. Authorities also report that dozens still remain trapped under rubble, while emergency responders have rescued at least 45 trapped individuals thus far. The earthquake struck approximately 40 km (25 mi) south of the city of Elazig in eastern Elazig province, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and registered at an approximate depth of 10 km. Since the quake, there have been at least 400 aftershocks in the area and local officials continue to warn residents of the potential for further aftershocks. The earthquake was felt throughout eastern Turkey, Syria and northern Iraq, as well as parts of Lebanon, Georgia and Armenia.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 26 January 2020, at least three rockets directly struck the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, located in the city’s International Zone (IZ). One embassy staff member was injured in the attack; additionally, there were reports of minor damage to the embassy cafeteria and the surrounding area. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, Iranian-linked militant groups have conducted similar attacks in recent months.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Gambia (Security threat level – 3): On 26 January 2020, hundreds of people affiliated with the “Operation Three Years Jotna” activist group gathered in the capital city Banjul to demand that incumbent President Adama Barrow step down from office. Clashes broke out between protesters and police officers after protesters deviated from the planned protest route and attempted to march toward the city center. Police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators, who responded by throwing stones and setting fire to debris along the Banjul-Serrekunda Highway. At least three people were killed and dozens of others — including seven civilians and 18 police officers — were injured during the clashes; police officers also arrested at least 135 protesters.

Analyst Comment: Following the 26 January protest violence, the Gambian government released a statement in which it reiterated that “Operation Three Years Jotna” is banned from holding political gatherings, describing it as a “subversive, violent and illegal movement.” Three Years Jotna has been organizing regular demonstrations to demand Barrow’s resignation since December 2019. Barrow previously stated that he would step down in January 2020 after three years in office; however, he recently announced he would serve his full five-year term and elections would be held in 2021. 

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Guatemala (Security threat level – 4): On 24 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

“Location: Municipality of Villa Nueva, Department of Guatemala

“Event: State of Prevention, Increased Military and Police Presence

“The Government of Guatemala has announced a State of Prevention for the Municipality of Villa Nueva. The State of Prevention is due to the ongoing security situation in Villa Nueva where there is significant gang activity and other violent crime. The State of Prevention is expected to last for six days, and there will be an increased military and police presence in this area to conduct search warrants and arrest operations.

“Effective immediately, U.S. Embassy official and personal travel to the Municipality of Villa Nueva will only be authorized on a case-by-case basis throughout the State of Prevention period. The Municipality of Villa Nueva falls along a major travel route (CA-9 South) to non-restricted destinations. Travel along CA-9 S will still be permitted; however, U.S. Embassy personnel are advised to not stop in Villa Nueva while transiting to other destinations.

“Please be aware that there will likely be official police check points along CA-9 and other routes leading to / from Villa Nueva. If you are stopped at an official checkpoint, please comply with all police commands and requests. Embassy operations are normal.”

Malawi (Security threat level – 3): On 27 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Malawi

“Event: Constitutional Court Announcement

“The Malawian Constitution Court is expected to announce election-related information sometime between January 27, 2020 and February 3, 2020.Crowds may gather in anticipation and or as a result of these announcements.”