Worldview Security Update – October 18, 2019
18-Oct-19

AMERICAS

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On 17 October 2019, security forces engaged in prolonged gunbattles with suspected members of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Culiacán, the Sinaloa state capital, following the arrest of the son of “El Chapo” Guzmán — the former leader of the cartel — son on drug trafficking charges. During the fighting, suspected cartel members launched armed attacks on security forces across the city, blocking streets with burning vehicles and firing military-grade rifles. At least two people were killed and 21 others were injured. In addition, at least 25 prisoners escaped from a local prison during the unrest; police officers have since recaptured most of them. Authorities later released the detained suspect in an attempt to pacify the situation.

United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1700 local time on 17 October 2019 (0100 UTC on 18 October), Peninsula Airways (PenAir) Flight 3286 with 39 passengers and three crew members on board skidded off the runway upon landing at Unalaska Airport (PADU/DUT), located adjacent to Dutch Harbor on Alaska’s Amaknak Island. The SAAB-Scania 2000 aircraft veered off the runway and came to a stop near the water. At least 12 people were injured in the accident; two of the injured remain in critical condition. The aircraft originated in the city of Anchorage, Ravn Air Group — which owns the airline — is collaborating with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the impending investigation to determine the cause of the accident.

ASIA

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 1400 local time (0930 UTC) on 18 October 2019, two consecutive explosions occurred during Friday prayers at a mosque in the Jaw Dara area of the Haska Meyna district in the eastern Nangarhar province. The blasts killed at least 62 people and injured approximately 60 others. It is currently unclear whether the explosions were the result of a suicide bombing or a rocket attack. No group has yet claimed responsibility, although the Afghan government has stated that Taliban militants perpetrated the attack. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State are active in the province and have launched attacks in the past.

China (Security threat level – 3): On 18 October 2019, protesters gathered in various areas of Hong Kong — including Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok — to protest against the government’s mask ban. Protesters wearing masks carried signs and banners as they marched through the streets during the afternoon. Separately, demonstrators gathered at Chater Garden to observe a moment of silence for a 15-year-old female whose body was found in the sea off Tseung Kwan O in early September. Some protesters speculated that the girl’s death was related to the ongoing unrest. There were no reports of violence or disruptions associated with any of the demonstrations.

In a related development, authorities banned an upcoming march by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) set to take place on 20 October. In the letter of objection, police officers cited violence during recent protests as the reason for banning the upcoming march. The CHRF had applied for approval to organize a march from Salisbury Garden, Tsim Sha Tsui, to the West Kowloon railway station. In response to the letter of objection, the CHRF filed an appeal, which is expected to be heard on 19 October. It remains unknown if the march will proceed as planned if the ban is upheld.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 18 October 2019, members of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) in various French regions are observing an impromptu strike, causing severe traffic disruptions to Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer (SNCF) services. The strike is affecting services on train lines in several regions — including Ile-de-France, Grand-est, Pays de la Loire and Nouvelle-Aquitaine — with the worst disruptions occurring in the Côte d’Azur. The strike has primarily affected Transport Express Régional (TER) regional trains and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) suburban trains in Paris, while the Paris Métro remains unaffected. At this time, SNCF officials are unable to predict the impact of the strike on train operations for the remainder of the day. The CGT called for the labor action after a collision between a truck and a TER train on 16 October left at least people 11 injured.

Spain (Security threat level – 3): On 18 October 2019, transportation disruptions are ongoing in Barcelona on the fifth consecutive day of pro-Catalan independence protests, which coincided with a general strike planned in the city. Authorities in Barcelona closed roads throughout the city in preparation for the arrival of pro-independence marches that began in the cities of Berga, Girona, Tarragona, Tàrrega and Vic on 16 October. In addition, protesters set up roadblocks to further disrupt transportation. Meanwhile, the general strike organized by labor unions is disrupting transportation services across the city, including aviation. Public transportation — including Barcelona Metro, trams and regional train services — are operating on a reduced timetable. In the aviation sector, the strike has caused flight disruptions at Barcelona El Prat Airport (LEBL/BCN). For example, Iberia Airlines canceled 12 flights between Barcelona and Madrid, while Vueling has canceled an additional 36 flights.

Currently, a large-scale demonstration is planned at Barcelona’s Plaça de la Universitat; other demonstrations are expected in the city throughout the day. Violence and transportation disruptions are likely to continue throughout the weekend, as protesters plan to continue demonstrations against the Supreme Court’s sentencing of nine Catalan political leaders.

On the previous evening, Catalan protesters clashed with police officers in Barcelona for the fourth consecutive night. Protesters set fire to barricades in the city center and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers, who responded with foam bullets. Additionally, violence broke out when right-wing, anti-independence protesters attempted to storm a large separatist protest. At least 19 people were injured in the unrest and police officers arrested 18 others.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): As of 18 October 2019, anti-government protests are ongoing in several areas of Beirut, including near the government headquarters and parliament building, for the second day in a row. In downtown Beirut, police officers deployed tear gas at protesters who broke through security barriers outside the parliament building and began throwing stones at security forces. Elsewhere in the city, reports indicate that the road to Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (OLBA/BEY) is currently impassable due to burning tires, but the protests have not affected flight operations. Due to the protest actions, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has temporarily restricted the movement of U.S. personnel amid security concerns. The U.K. government also warned its citizens to avoid areas where protests are ongoing.

On the previous day, protesters burned tires, blocked roads and chanted anti-government slogans in several areas of Beirut in protest of a proposed tax on the Whatsapp messaging service. The protests were largely nonviolent during the evening but escalated later at night. Thus far, at least 40 people have been injured during the clashes. In addition, two foreign workers were killed when bonfires lit on the street spread to nearby buildings. Elsewhere in Lebanon, demonstrations occurred in Tripoli, Sidon, Jounieh and the Bekka Valley. Vehicular traffic is disrupted, as protesters have set up barricades and blocked major highways throughout the country.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Bolivia (Security threat level – 3): On 17 October 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Bolivia, which reads in part as follows: “Presidential elections will be held on 22 October 2019. All forms of transport are prohibited on 21 October until 7:00pm, with the exception of some taxis and ambulances that will have permits. Consumption of alcohol is forbidden all day on Friday 18, Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October. You should avoid public demonstrations and do not attempt to cross blockades.”

India (Security threat level – 3): On 18 October 2019, the U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

“Location: Hyderabad

“Event: Local media reports that the Telangana State Taxi and Drivers Joint Action Committee, which includes Uber and Ola drivers, will join the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation in observing the statewide transportation strike (bandh) on Saturday, October 19. There is an increased likelihood of overburdened public transportation, large crowds gathering, a heightened police and security force presence, and road closures that may affect travel plans. Roads may be closed, diverted, or otherwise restricted by authorities without prior announcement.”

Pakistan (Security threat level – 5): On 18 October 2019, the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

“Location: Chehlum Procession Route from Dehli Gate/ Nisar Haveli to Karbala Gamay Shah, Lahore, Pakistan

“Event: A procession commemorating the Chehlum religious observance will take place beginning at approximately 0700 on Sunday, October 20 at the Dehli Gate/ Nisar Haveli (Walled City) area and proceed to the Karbala Gamay Shah. An image of the procession route is attached. The main procession is expected to draw between 40,000 and 50,000 participants. The procession should conclude at approximately 2300.

“The procession may cause traffic delays, unplanned transportation disruptions, and increased police presence near the procession route. Cellular service in the city may be interrupted during this period.

“U.S. government personnel are advised to limit their movements in the city during this period.”

Sao Tome e Principe (Security threat level – 1): On 17 October 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, issued a Security Alert for São Tomé e Príncipe, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: São Tomé and Príncipe

“Event: There have been reports of demonstrations near Universal Church of the Kingdom of God locations in São Tomé since Wednesday, October 16. The demonstrations reportedly concern the conviction and sentencing of a São Tomean pastor associated with the church by a court in Côte d’Ivoire. Local media outlets have reported incidents of violence and vandalism near several Universal Church of the Kingdom of God locations.

“Actions to Take:

• Avoid Universal Church of Kingdom of God locations in São Tomé and Príncipe, including the locations in the capital, Trindade, and Bom-Bom."