Worldview Security Update – October 28, 2019
28-Oct-19

AMERICAS

Chile (Security threat level – 2): As of 28 October 2019, conditions throughout Chile continue to normalize. Full operations on the Santiago Metro have resumed, although a number of stations that were damaged during the recent bout of unrest in the city will remain closed until further notice. Flight operations at Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCEL/SCL) continue to operate normally. While violent unrest has not been reported, multiple demonstrations are planned across the country throughout the day, including in Talcahuano, Hualpén and Concepción.

Meanwhile, President Sebastián Piñera formally lifted all states of emergency across the country effective at 0000 local time (0300 UTC) on 28 October. Prior to this, authorities had already lifted nighttime curfews in a large number of urban areas across the country on 26 October.

Demonstrations continued across the country over the weekend of 26-27 October. On 27 October, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched to the Congress building in Valparaíso. Meanwhile, in Santiago, thousands attended concerts by Chilean artists across the capital. No large-scale demonstrations or widespread violence were reported across urban areas of Chile overnight on 26-27 October following the lifting of nighttime curfews across the country. However, sporadic instances of looting and vandalism — as well as isolated clashes with security forces — occurred in a number of areas, including Concepción, Rancagua, Valdivia and Valparaíso. Meanwhile, on the afternoon of 26 October, large demonstrations occurred in Concepción and Valdivia. Following the protests, small groups constructed barricades near Aníbal Pinto Park in Concepción and on the Pedro de Valdivia Bridge in Valdivia, prompting riot police officers to deploy tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. At least six people were arrested in Valdivia.

On the previous evening, protesters set fire to two entrances of the Baquedano Metro Station in Santiago, located near Plaza Baquedano, amid a large-scale anti-government protest. Police officers used water cannons to disperse protesters, who threw objects into the station and at nearby buildings, including the Teatro Universidad de Chile and the Iglesia de San Francisco. Approximately 1.2 million people participated in the demonstration, which proceeded largely peacefully despite isolated outbreaks of violence. Civil unrest — and sporadic violence — is still likely despite the improving security environment in Chile. Travelers and expatriates should keep abreast of local developments and continue to exercise security precautions as the security situation continues to normalize.

Cuba / United States (Security threat levels – 2 / 2): On 25 October 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice that suspends U.S. commercial carriers from operating to all Cuban airports, with the exception of Marti International Airport (MUHA/HAV) in Havana. The suspensions, which will go into effect on 10 December, currently have no established end date. The decision is not related to safety or security concerns, but rather is in line with the current administration’s stance on Cuba-U.S. relations.

United States (Security threat level – 2): As of 28 October 2019, a state of emergency is in effect in the state of California due to ongoing wildfires in Northern and Southern California. In response to the Kincade Fire, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department issued an evacuation order for the entire county — affecting approximately 190,000 people — overnight on 26-27 October. A map displaying real-time fire and evacuation information for Sonoma County is available here . Additional information regarding fires burning across the state of California can be found here . Meanwhile, utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) began public safety power shutoffs in the area on 26 October. As of 28 October, 1.3 million residents in the Bay Area are without power. Outages are expected to continue until at least 30 October. The blaze has consumed at least 50,000 acres (20,230 hectares) of land thus far. In addition, the fire has destroyed at least 94 structures and damaged 17 others. More than 80,000 structures remained threatened by the blaze. At least 3,000 firefighters are battling the fire, which is only 10% contained. 

Elsewhere in Northern California, fires are burning in San Francisco’s North Bay area, as well as northwest of Stockton in San Joaquin County. In addition, the Rawson Fire is burning near Corning in Tehama County. The Rawson Fire has consumed 675 acres of land and is 15% contained; evacuations are in effect for residents from Rawson Road south of Gyle Road to Simpson Road and west to Paskenta Road. 

In Southern California, the Tick Fire is burning northeast of Santa Clarita, located about 35 mi northwest of Los Angeles. Authorities have lifted all evacuation orders in the area; approximately 50,000 residents have been allowed to return home. The blaze has consumed approximately 4,600 acres of land and destroyed at least 42 structures thus far. The fire is about 70% contained.

United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 0030 local time (0530 UTC) on 27 October 2019, a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire on partygoers during a homecoming party for students of nearby Texas A&M University-Commerce in Greenville, Texas, located about 45 mi (72 km) east of Dallas. Approximately 750 people were in attendance when the shooting occurred; at least two people were killed and 14 others were wounded. The shooter fled the scene and has not yet been apprehended. A second shooting occurred during a vigil held later that evening; no casualties occurred during that incident. Investigators have not yet determined the motive for either shooting.

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): Demonstrations continued across Hong Kong over the weekend of 26-27 October 2019. During the afternoon of 27 October, police officers fired tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons at protesters in several locations, including near Salisbury Garden and along the Kowloon harbor front in Tsim Sha Tsui; in Sham Shui Po; in Mong Kok — including outside the Mong Kok MTR station, along Nathan road and Argyle street — and in Yau Ma Tei. In Sham Shui Po, demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at the police station and Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices. Meanwhile, near Yau Ma Tei, demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at riot police and constructed barricades, causing significant traffic disruptions. In another incident, a bus traveling to Lai Chi Kok was evacuated along Argyle street after encountering tear gas; additionally, tear gas canisters landed inside a restaurant in Mong Kok as well as inside a pharmacy in Yau Ma Tei despite an absence of protesters. Earlier in the day, police officers built cordons and blocked traffic on Nathan road in Tsim Sha Tsui before protesters gathered in the area. As protesters gathered, police officers performed baton charges to disperse them and made a number of arrests. Alternatively, between 1600 and 1800 local time (0800 and 1000 UTC) on 27 October, a peaceful rally was held at the Kwun Tong Promenade. There were no reports of violence or disruptions associated with demonstrations in Hong Kong on 26 October 2019.

EUROPE

Spain (Security threat level – 3): During the morning of 27 October 2019, at least 80,000 pro-government protesters marched along the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona in support of Spanish unity following weeks of pro-Catalan independence demonstrations. Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-Catalan demonstrators conducted a sit-in protest outside the Sants rail station, located approximately 3 km (2 mi) to the southwest. Riot police officers established a cordon at the entrance to prevent protesters from entering. No clashes were reported during the demonstrations. On the day prior, at least 350,000 pro-Catalan independence protesters peacefully marched in Barcelona. However, later in the evening, a group of demonstrators threw stones and bottles and fired fireworks at riot police officers, who conducted baton charges and fired foam bullets in response.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 27 October 2019, anti-government demonstrators protested across Iraq — including in Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Najaf and Nasiriyah — for the third consecutive day. In Baghdad, hundreds of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square. In addition, riot police officers deployed tear gas to disperse protesters reconstructing barricades on al-Jumhariyah Bridge leading to the International Zone (IZ), but no injuries were reported. Protesters also set fires to barricades and threw stones and other projectiles at security forces in Baghdad. There were reports of clashes between protesters and security forces in a number of cities, including Karbala and Nasiriyah. Separately, the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service announced it had deployed across Baghdad to protect government buildings and other installations, and that it was authorized to “use all necessary measures” to end the unrest.

Oman (Security threat level – 2): As of 0900 UTC on 28 October 2019, Tropical Cyclone Kyarr was located approximately 670 km (415 mi) east-southeast of Masirah Island and was moving west at 11 kph (7 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). At that time, Kyarr was generating maximum sustained winds of approximately 240 kph with gusts up to 296 kph. Kyarr is currently equivalent to a Category 4 storm. The cyclone is forecast to gradually weaken as it continues to track toward Oman’s coast through 2 November. The storm may also produce coastal surges. Thus far, the Indian coast guard has rescued at least 19 fishermen and escorted more than 2,100 fishing vessels to port due to the storm.

Syria / Iraq (Security threat levels – 5 / 5): On 27 October 2019, U.S. special operations forces conducted a raid targeting Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. At least nine suspected IS members were reportedly killed, while a number of others surrendered. U.S. President Donald Trump, along with other world leaders and news outlets, subsequently confirmed that al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest while attempting to flee and subsequently died.

Several media outlets have since reported that al-Baghdadi’s former aide — Ismael al-Ethawi — provided valuable intelligence to Iraqi multi-security agencies following his arrest by Turkish authorities in February 2018. The Iraqi agencies then passed the intelligence to the CIA, which tracked al-Baghdadi for several months while planning the raid. Following the operation, U.S. forces also swept the facility and seized material information, including future IS plans.

Analyst Comment: An increase in attacks by IS militants is highly likely as the group attempts to demonstrate its continued capabilities following al-Baghdadi’s death. These attacks will probably include strikes against civilian targets in both the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, along with other countries around the world. The impact that al-Baghdadi’s death will have on the strategic trajectory of the organization remains uncertain. The group has survived previous decapitation strikes, but it is unclear how al-Baghdadi’s death will affect the organization.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Guinea-Bissau (Security threat level – 4): On the afternoon of 26 October 2019, thousands of opposition supporters participated in an unauthorized rally in the capital Bissau. The protesters clashed with police officers in several areas of the city, including along Freedom of the Fatherland Combatants Avenue, where police officers deployed tear gas and used batons to disperse the group. At least one protester was killed and several others were injured during clashes. The opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS) organized the rally to call on the government to delay the 24 November presidential election until it has passed reforms to the electoral process to guarantee fairness and reduce voter fraud.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On 25 October 2019, the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana issued a Fire Alert, which reads in part as follows:

"Location: Baja California, Mexico

"Event: Mexican authorities are responding to dozens of major fires in northern Baja California, including in Tecate, Ensenada, and Playas de Rosarito, due to dry weather conditions and Santa Ana winds. These fires may spread quickly and cause damage to roads, electricity, phone lines, and internet service. Authorities are evacuating residents and closing roads in peak fire areas. Potable water may be limited. Authorities are urging residents outside the fire zone to limit outdoor activities because of unhealthy air quality.

"Actions to Take:

  • If you are a U.S. citizen traveling to or residing in Mexico, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP ) to receive safety messages and other travel information.
  • Monitor advisories issued by the Baja California Civil Protection Agency (“Protección Civil”) and the Baja California Ministry of Environmental Protection (Protección al Ambiente BC). Heed travel warnings and follow guidance regarding emergency response. In case of emergency call 911. Additional emergency contacts within Baja California are listed here.
  • For those living in Mexico, locate or prepare an emergency evacuation kit to include essential items you might need for at least 72 hours following an evacuation if you were unable to access outside resources. Kits might include batteries, flashlights, nonperishable food, and water. Don’t forget to consider prescription medications and any other supplies for children, elderly family members, or pets. If it is safe, ensure vehicles have fuel.
  • If practical, keep your friends and loved ones up-to-date about your whereabouts – via phone, text, social media, etc. – and let them know you are safe.
  • Ensure your U.S. travel documents are up-to-date, and store copies of them along with insurance and other personal papers in a safe place."