Worldview Security Update – July 22, 2019
22-Jul-19

AMERICAS

Puerto Rico (Security threat level – 2): Thousands of Puerto Ricans are currently participating in a large-scale march in the capital San Juan on the morning of 22 July 2019. Protesters gathered outside the city’s Hiram Bithorn stadium at approximately 0900 local time (1300 UTC) and are expected to march along Roosevelt Avenue to the Expreso Las Americas (PR-18) highway. Traffic disruptions are expected. An island-wide general strike accompanies the major demonstration and is expected to shut down shopping malls in the area. Protesters are organizing these actions to increase pressure on Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign from his position, despite Rossello’s 21 July announcement in which he stepped down as president of the ruling New Progressive Party (PNP) and stated that he will not seek reelection in November 2020.

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): On 21 July 2019, thousands of protesters gathered in front of China’s representative office in the Sai Ying Pun area of Central and Western District in Hong Kong during an authorized rally. Following the conclusion of the organized protest, hundreds of activists marched past the end-point of the rally and defaced the building with eggs and graffiti. Riot police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

During the same time period as the unrest at the Liaison Office took place, a group of masked men attacked commuters and anti-government protesters at the Yuen Long train station in New Territories with bamboo sticks and clubs. At least 45 people were injured in the attack. The suspects’ identities remain unknown, but opposition leaders have claimed that the assailants are associated with local crime groups.

Separately, on 20 July tens of thousands of people participated in a pro-police rally in Hong Kong’s Tamar Park, located adjacent to the Legislative Council. During the rally, demonstrators called for an end to clashes between police officers and anti-government protesters, which have occurred in recent weeks during anti-government protests over a now-suspended extradition bill. According to event organizers, approximately 316,000 people attended the rally; however, police officers stated that about 103,000 people participated in the demonstration’s peak. There were no reports of violence or major disruptions during this event.

China (Security threat level – 3): On 19 July 2019, police officers seized a cache of explosives in the industrial Tsuen Wan area of New Territories. The cache included 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of explosive materials, 10 Molotov cocktails, corrosive liquids, weapons and metal poles from a home-based laboratory. Additionally, leaflets related to the ongoing anti-extradition protests were found at the site. Authorities stated that it was the largest such cache ever seized. Police officers arrested three suspects the following day, and at least one of those detainees is associated with the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party.

India (Security threat level – 3): In the afternoon hours of 22 July 2019, a fire broke out at the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited building in Mumbai’s Bandra West area. At least 14 fire engines are responding to the blaze. The fire is believed to be confined to the third and fourth floors of the nine-story building. While there have been no reports of major injuries or fatalities, firefighters are currently attempting to evacuate approximately 60 people who are believed to be trapped on the roof. In addition, the adjacent Sanjary Apartment building filled with smoke and was evacuated.

EUROPE

Portugal (Security threat level – 2): As of 22 July 2019, approximately 1,700 firefighters, more than 350 firefighting vehicles, a contingent of soldiers and several helicopters and other aircraft are working to contain three wildfires, which have spread across the Castelo Branco district and the Santarem district, located approximately 200 km (125 mi) northeast of the capital Lisbon. Several major roadways have been closed while several villages and river beaches have been evacuated as a precaution. Most containment efforts are focused on the blaze in the Vila de rei municipality, but strong winds have caused one fire to spread as far as Mação municipality, which is located approximately 70 km southwest of Castelo Branco. A government official stated that approximately 90% of the fire has been contained but strong winds on 22 July are expected to cause the remaining fires to spread. At least 30 people – including eight firefighters — have suffered injuries due to the ongoing fires. Police officers are investigating the possibility that the fires were started deliberately and have arrested at least one man suspected of starting a blaze in the same area.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 0915 local time (0815 UTC) on 20 July 2019, a tear gas attack occurred on a Victoria line train at Oxford Circus station in central London. Although paramedics treated several people for respiratory issues, including coughing and lack of breath, there were no serious injuries or major health concerns. While services on the line remained unaffected, the targeted train has been taken out of service for quarantine purposes. British Transport Police officials are currently investigating the attack and pursuing at least two suspected perpetrators.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Egypt (Security threat level – 4): On 20 July 2019, a British Airways representative confirmed that the airline has canceled all flights to Cairo until 27 July. The airline stated that the decision is a “precaution to allow for further assessment.” However, the motive for this decision is currently unknown and it is unclear how many flights are affected.

British Airways stated that it constantly reviews security arrangements at each airport it operates through and makes decisions accordingly for the safety of its passengers and crew members. German carrier Lufthansa followed suit later on 20 July, but resumed flights on 21 July. It is presently unclear if other airlines will take similar actions. Thus far, no other airline has canceled flights from Cairo to the U.K. On 19 July the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Egypt, which reads in part as follows: “There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK.”

Iran / United Arab Emirates / United Kingdom (Security threat levels – 3 / 2 / 2): On 19 July 2019, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized one U.K. oil tanker and briefly detained another in the Strait of Hormuz. The first vessel was the U.K.-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero; it originated from the port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and was headed for Jubeil, Saudi Arabia, when IRGC vessels forced it to divert. The second vessel was the U.K.-operated oil tanker Mesdar, which is registered in Liberia. Iranian officials claim that the Stena Impero violated international maritime rules and freed the Mesdar without incident. The company that owns the Stena Impero released a statement saying that small boats and a helicopter seized the ship, and that there were 23 crew members on board. The crew did not resist the seizure, and there were no reports of casualties in either incident.

In response to the seizure, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) issued a Maritime Alert, which reads in part as follows: “A maritime threat has been reported in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz in positions 26-25N 056-21E and 26-02N 054-58E on July 19, 2019. Two vessels, United Kingdom and Liberian flagged, were harassed, boarded, and possibly seized by Iranian military personnel in these reported positions. These reports have been confirmed. Exercise caution when transiting this area. Vessels operating in this area are advised to review U.S. Maritime Advisories 2019-004 (Naval Activity – Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, and Arabian Sea) and 2019-008 (Threats to U.S. and International Shipping from Iran – Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Red Sea). Further updates will be provided when available. This alert will automatically expire on July 26, 2019. Any maritime industry questions regarding this alert should be directed to [email protected]

Analyst Comment: The IRGC’s seizure of the Stena Impero appears to be retaliation to the seizure of an Iranian-owned tanker in Gibraltar by U.K. authorities on 11 July. U.K. authorities accused the seized tanker of smuggling oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): As of 1430 local time (1330 UTC) on 22 July 2019, police officers are engaged in clashes with protesters after the demonstrators set fire to a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) sub-station in eastern Abuja. The protesters, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who are demonstrating against the detention of IMN leader Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, began their demonstration in the Wuse II district and marched toward Eagle Square until police officers cordoned off the road leading to the Three Arms Zone, where the Supreme Court, the National Assembly and the Presidential Villa are situated Police officers reportedly opened fire on protesters in an attempt to disperse them after they set fire to the NEMA sub-station. As of the latest reports, at least two people have been killed and several others were injured.

Somalia (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 1100 local time (0800 UTC) on 22 July 2019, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated near Afrik Hotel and the K4 junction — a security checkpoint located on the main route to Aden Adde International Airport (HCMM/MGQ) — in Mogadishu. At least 17 people were killed and 28 others were injured in the attack; the blast also caused damage to several nearby buildings and vehicles. The al-Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Kosovo (Security threat level – 4): On 20 July 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Kosovo, which reads in part as follows: “Following the resignation of the Prime Minister on 19 July, it is possible that parliamentary elections will be held in the coming months. You should avoid demonstrations, exercise vigilance and follow local media for updates on developments. Protests have the potential to turn violent, you should take care if you see large crowds gathering during heightened political tensions in the city. Check local media, consult hotel receptions for advice and regularly review information on this site for updates.”