Worldview Security Update – September 16, 2019
16-Sep-19

AMERICAS

Bermuda / United States / Bahamas (Security threat levels – 1 / 2 / 2): As of 0900 UTC on 16 September 2019, Hurricane Humberto — a Category 1 storm — was located approximately 1,225 km (760 mi) west of Bermuda and was moving in a northeasterly direction at about 7 kph (5 mph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). At that time, Humberto was generating maximum sustained winds of 140 kph and higher gusts. As of the latest forecasts, the center of Humberto will approach Bermuda in the late hours of 18 September. Hurricane-generated swells are currently affecting most of the southeastern coastlines of the United States. These swells are expected to affect the U.S. coastlines from east-central Florida to North Carolina as well as northwestern Bahamas over the next few days. Although areas in northwestern Bahamas are expected to receive 25-50 mm (1-2 in) of rain, with isolated maximums of up to 150 mm, no coastal warnings or watches have been issued.

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): Shortly after 1400 local time (1900 UTC) on 15 September 2019, a twin-engine Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftan aircraft with nine people on board crashed into a residential area in Popayan, the capital of southwestern Cauca province, shortly after departing from nearby Guillermo Leon Valencia Airport (SKPP/PPN). The crash killed at least seven people aboard the aircraft and injured two others; an additional five people on the ground were injured. Colombia’s civil aviation authority has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the crash.

Honduras (Security threat level – 4): On the morning of 15 September 2019, police officers in the capital Tegucigalpa clashed with members of the Libertad y Refundacion Party — the country’s main opposition party — on Morazan Boulevard, as the opposition members attempted to march toward National Stadium, where a parade to commemorate the country’s Independence Day was being held. Police officers deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters, who threw rocks and other projectiles at the officers. However, there were no reports of injuries or arrests. The opposition organized the protest against President Juan Orlando Hernandez and demanded his immediate departure, in addition to the release of political prisoners and justice for the families of murdered of prominent social leaders.

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): Over the weekend of 14-15 September 2019, a number of anti-government protests occurred across Hong Kong. In the evening hours of 15 September protesters and police officers engaged in clashes in the Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Central and Wan Chai districts and the North Point and Fortress Hill areas. Protesters also started fires at and near a number of Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations. As a result of the damage sustained during the violent demonstrations, MTR officials temporarily suspended services through the Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Wan Chai stations; operations resumed at these stations on the morning of 16 September.

Earlier in the day on 15 September, several thousand protesters gathered outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay and marched to Chater Garden in Central. As the march proceeded to Wan Chai and Admiralty districts, some of the protesters smashed windows and surveillance cameras and erected barricades at the entrances of MTR stations. Protesters then marched to the government headquarters on Harcourt Road in Admiralty and threw bricks and Molotov cocktails at riot police officers stationed inside the building. In response, the officers deployed tear gas, and fired rubber bullets and water cannons laced with blue dye at the crowd. Activists then retreated to Wan Chai before spreading across the city in smaller groups and perpetrating violence through the nighttime hours. At least eight people were injured during clashes that took place over the course of the day.

At approximately 1500 local time (0700 UTC) on 14 September, small-scale clashes broke out between government supporters and pro-democracy protesters at the Amoy Plaza shopping complex in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district. Police officers arrived at the scene by 1530 local time and intervened to separate the opposing groups, after which there were no reports of additional confrontations. Earlier, at approximately 1100 local time, confrontations had occurred in Tseung Kwan O in New Territories and in Fortress Hill on Hong Kong Island after government supporters attempted to destroy a “Lennon Wall,” an area for pro-democracy protesters to post notes. However, there were no reports of arrests.

Additional protests were held in Tin Shui Wai and Edinburgh Place in Central the same day. In Edinburgh Place, secondary students held a peaceful rally. Despite a ban on the demonstration in Tin Shui Wai, anti-government protesters still attended. Between 1700 and 2030 local time, a group of protesters and riot police had a standoff along Tin Wah road. Authorities stated that at least 25 people suffered injuries during the violence on 14 September.

Meanwhile, on 13 September peaceful demonstrations were held throughout the city in observance of the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. Protesters gathered atop Lion Rock and Victoria Peak to form human chains to demand that the government accept the remaining four demands of the protesters, which are as follows: an independent investigation into alleged police brutality, pardons for all arrested protesters, a government retraction of the classification of the protests as “riots” and democratic reforms.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 14 September 2019, approximately 1,800 people gathered in Nantes for the 44th consecutive weekend of “yellow vest” protests. Police officers fired tear gas and water cannons after demonstrators threw projectiles and attempted to destroy windows of nearby businesses. An unspecified number of people were injured in the violence and police officers arrested at least 35 protesters. Additional demonstrations occurred in the cities of Lyon, Nancy, Paris and Toulouse, but there were no reports of violence at those gatherings

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Saudi Arabia (Security threat level – 3): On 14 September 2019, Houthi rebels based in Yemen claimed responsibility for coordinated armed drone attacks against two Saudi Aramco facilities — the Abqaiq facility in the eastern town of Buqayq and the Khurais oil field, located approximately 165 km (102 mi) east of the capital Riyadh. The drone strikes caused fires at both locations and led to several subsequent explosions at the Abqaiq facility; Saudi authorities stated that they have contained the fires. According to a Houthi spokesperson, the group employed a total of 10 armed drones to conduct the attacks. No casualties were reported as a result of the fires or subsequent explosions.

The attacks have forced a reduction in Saudi Arabia’s oil production of approximately 50% while authorities work to restore full oil supply capacity. Immediately following the attacks, the price of crude oil increased approximately 19%, due in large part to the fact that the Abqaiq processing facility and Khurais oil field together account for approximately 5% of global crude supplies.

On 15 September U.S. officials released satellite images showing the extent of the damage at the Abqaiq oil facility. The images showed at least 17 impact craters at the facility. U.S. officials assert that the pattern of damage at the facility indicates that the attacks did not originate in Yemen, but rather in a country to the north of Saudi Arabia, such as Iraq or Iran.