Worldview Security Update – July 29, 2019
29-Jul-19

AMERICAS

United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1800 local time on 28 July 2019 (0100 UTC on 29 July), a gunman opened fire at an outdoor food festival in the town of Gilroy, California, located approximately 25 mi (40 km) southeast of the city of San Jose. The gunfire caused panic among attendees at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival — which was taking place at the town’s Christmas Hill Park — prompting them to flee the site. Police officers shot and killed the perpetrator; however, searches for a possible accomplice have since remained underway. Investigators suspect that the perpetrator and the possible accomplice cut through a wire fence surrounding the festival’s perimeter to circumvent security personnel. The shooting took place on the third and final day of the annual event, which attracts thousands of visitors. A total of three people were killed and 15 others were wounded in the shooting. An investigation to determine a potential motive of the perpetrator(s) is ongoing.

ASIA

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): Shortly before 1700 local time (1230 UTC) on 28 July 2019, four militants launched an attack on the headquarters of the Green Trend party, located in Shaheed Circle in Kabul’s Police District 4. A suicide attacker first detonated a car bomb in the area and at least three gunmen then entered the four-story building. A gunbattle between the assailants and security forces ensued and lasted for approximately six hours, during which security personnel rescued more than 100 people, including vice-presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh, and killed the attackers. A total of 20 people were killed and approximately 50 others were injured during the episode. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, both the Islamic State and the Taliban frequently perpetrate such attacks in Kabul.

Analyst Comment: The attack occurred on the first official day of the presidential election campaigning period. Vice-presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh — who suffered minor injuries during the attack — attended a campaign inaugural ceremony along with his running mate and incumbent President Ashraf Ghani earlier in the day. Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in September 2019; an increase in similar attacks against political targets is likely in the lead-up to elections.

China (Security threat level – 3): Over the weekend of 27-28 July 2019, police officers in Hong Kong clashed with anti-government protesters. On 28 July riot police officers used tear gas to disperse a group of anti-government protesters who had assembled near the Beijing Liaison office in Hong Kong’s Sai Wan district. Protesters initially gathered in Charter Garden, located close to Hong Kong government headquarters, and elsewhere in the central business district, including in Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay. The demonstrators then blocked several major roads in the area, despite a police ban against a protest march following the approved rally at Charter Garden on 28 July. At least 16 people were injured, and police officers arrested 49 protesters.

Meanwhile, on 27 July police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters in central Yuen Long, located in the New Territories region, during an unauthorized demonstration to protest a 21 July attack by crime groups on protesters at Yuen Long MTR station. The protesters initially marched peacefully on Yuen Long’s Castle Peak Road; however, at approximately 1720 local time (0920 UTC) security forces deployed tear gas when protesters refused to disperse from the area. Protesters armed with metal poles and makeshift shields entered into a standoff with police officers, who continued to use tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray. Groups of protesters retreated to Yuen Long train station after police officers carried out a baton charge against the protesters. At least 24 people were injured and authorities arrested 13 protesters during these clashes.

In a related development, on 29 July China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office held a press conference to address the ongoing anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong. A spokesperson condemned the protests and expressed support for Hong Kong’s government and police force. The spokesperson reiterated the central government’s commitment to the “one country, two systems” approach and stated that the protest movement must present “no harm to national security, no challenge to the central government’s authority and the Basic Law, and no using Hong Kong as a base to undermine China.”

Furthermore, beginning at 0730 local time on 30 July, Mass Transit Railway (MTR) drivers reportedly plan to strike if MTR management does not respond to three previously submitted demands over the failure of authorities and railway management to respond to the attacks at Yuen Long MTR station on 21 July. However, it remains unknown how many drivers may adhere to the strike. MTR officials stated that they plan to monitor operations for potential disruptions, and implement measures to address any possible disruptions. Additionally, labor groups are calling for a general strike to begin at 1300 local time on 5 August in seven districts including Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin, Tai Po, Mong Kok, Tuen Mun and Admiralty as part of continued protests against the government.

EUROPE

Russia (Security threat level – 3): On 27 July 2019, police officers detained more than 1,300 people attempting to hold an unauthorized rally outside the City Hall in central Moscow to protest the exclusion of at least 30 opposition candidates from running in the upcoming 8 September elections for the 45-seat parliament. Riot police officers used batons to disperse the crowd of approximately 8,000 protesters in attendance and conducted arrests. The protest lasted for more than seven hours. A number of protesters suffered moderate injuries, including broken limbs and head wounds. Organizers have called for additional protests to be held in central Moscow on 3 August.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 2): As of 29 July 2019, flood warnings remain in place across England following 30-40 mm (1-1.5 inches) of rain that affected locations across the country the previous day. The floods forced the closure of major roads, including parts of the M60 motorway, and caused delays on trains between Manchester Victoria station and Southport. An unspecified number of flights scheduled to operate through Gatwick Airport (EGKK/LGW) were also canceled due to the storms. The Met Office has stated that while most of the storms will clear on 29 July, warnings for severe thunderstorms remain in effect for 30 July. There were no weather-related casualties.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Myanmar (Security threat level – 4): On 29 July 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Yangon issued a Health Alert that reads in part as follows: “Location: Yangon City, Yangon Region, Burma

“Event: The Yangon City Development Committee announced cuts to the water supply for various Yangon-area townships on July 30, 2019 from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. due to maintenance on the water supply system. The list of affected townships includes: Ahlone, Bahan, Botahtaung, Dagon, Hlaing, Insein, Kamayut, Kyauktada, Kyimindaing, Lanmadaw, Latha, Mayangone, Mingalar Taung Nyunt, Mingalardon, North Okkalapa, Pabedan, Pazundaung, Sanchaung, Taketa, Tamwe, Yankin.”