Worldview Weekly Security Overview – May 17, 2019
17-May-19
Monday 13 May 2019:

Pakistan (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 1650 local time (1150 UTC) on 11 May 2019, three gunmen stormed the upscale Pearl Continental Hotel, located in the Koh-e-Batil area of Gwadar in Balochistan province. Police officers exchanged gunfire with the attackers for several hours, eventually shooting and killing all three. Four security officers and one hotel employee were also killed, while six other people were injured during the attack. Authorities stated that there were no guests and few staff members in the hotel at the time of the attack due to Ramadan. The Balochistan Liberation Army — an active secessionist militant group in the province — claimed responsibility for the attack and stated that it was directed at “Chinese and other foreign investors.”

Saudi Arabia / United Arab Emirates (Security threat levels – 3 / 2): On 13 May 2019, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister stated that two of the nation’s oil tankers were attacked off the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 12 May. The UAE Foreign Ministry confirmed that the two Saudi commercial vessels were sabotaged, but also reported that two other commercial vessels (one Emirati and one Norwegian) were sabotaged near UAE territorial waters on 12 May. There were no reports of injuries. While two of the Saudi vessels reportedly sustained significant damage, there were no reports of oil spills.
Meanwhile, in a separate incident on 13 May, an unidentified object damaged a Norwegian-registered oil tanker off the coast of Fujairah. Reports indicate that the object left a hole in the hull of the vessel, but reports indicate it remains seaworthy. It is unclear if the incident is related to the alleged sabotage attacks.

In response to the incidents, the U.S. Maritime Administration issued an updated Maritime Security Communication to Industry, in which it stated that while it had received reports of the “attacks or sabotage on one or more vessels,” it had no information regarding ”the precise means of attack or sabotage.” It advised vessels in the area to “exercise caution when transiting this area.”

Analyst Comment: The Saudi government claims that there is possible Iranian involvement in the sabotage incidents. Commercial maritime operators in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz should monitor developments closely.

Tuesday 14 May 2019:

Sri Lanka (Security threat level – 3): On 14 May 2019, authorities extended a nationwide curfew for a second day following incidents of communal violence that targeted mosques and Muslim-owned businesses. The nationwide curfew will last from 2100 local time until 0400 local time (1530 UTC until 2230 UTC) on 15 May, although certain parts of the countries will have different restrictions. For example, the Gampaha district in Western Province will be under curfew from 1900 local time until 0600 local time. Meanwhile, the North Western Province, where most of the violence took place, will be under curfew from 1800 local time until 0600 local time. Security forces have been deployed to the affected areas to prevent the spread of violence. Travelers with passports and valid flight tickets will still able to travel to airports during the curfew.

Saudi Arabia (Security threat level – 3): On 14 May 2019, Saudi officials reported that an armed drone had attacked two pumping stations in the provinces of Afif and al-Duwadmi. Reports indicate the attack in al-Duwadmi caused a fire, but no casualties. The attack on the pumping station in Afif did not cause any damage. Saudi officials have temporarily shut down the East-West Pipeline while they assess and repair any damage. Yemeni-basedHouthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they launched seven armed drones at facilities in Saudi Arabia; there was no independent corroboration of this claim.

Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 14 May 2019, protesters in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman set up roadblocks and burned tires following a series of clashes between protesters and security forces the previous day. There have been no reports of violence thus far.

The previous day, security personnel clashed with protesters outside Khartoum’s army headquarters shortly after ruling military officials and protest leaders reached an agreement on the structure of a new administration. At least six protesters and one security force member were killed, while a number of protesters were injured. Similar clashes occurred in nearby Omdurman. While protesters blamed the soldiers for the violence, the army blamed “unidentified elements.”

Meanwhile, in a separate incident on 13 May, Sudanese security forces used tear gas to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters in Khartoum‘s Bahri neighborhood (commonly called Khartoum North). Security forces also forcibly dismantled barricades, which the protesters had erected. There were no reports of casualties related to this incident.

Ethiopia (Security threat level – 4): On 13 May 2019, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Ethiopia, which reads in part as follows:

  • Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ethiopia due to sporadic civil unrest and communications disruptions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
    Do Not Travel To: Somali Regional State due to potential for civil unrest, terrorism, kidnapping, and landmines.
  • Reconsider Travel To: The East Hararge region and the Guji zone of Oromia State due to armed conflict and civil unrest. Benishangul Gumuz and the western part of Oromia State due to armed conflict and civil unrest. Border areas with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea due to crime, armed conflict, and civil unrest.
  • Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence may occur without warning.
  • The Government of Ethiopia has restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest. These restrictions impede the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with, and provide consular services to, U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.
  • The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Addis Ababa. As a precaution, U.S. government personnel must request permission for any travel outside of Addis Ababa (personal and official), and are required to carry personnel tracking devices and, in some cases, satellite phones. U.S. government personnel and their families may not travel to the areas listed as Level 3 and Level 4 in this Travel Advisory except for official business and with prior approval from the Embassy.
  • Israel / Palestinian Territories (Security threat levels – 3 / 4): On 13 May 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • Location: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza
  • Event: May 14, 2019, is the anniversary of the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem, as well as related protests along the Gaza periphery. Terrorist groups may choose the anniversary, which coincides with the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv (May 14-18), or Nakba Day (May 15), to conduct violent protests or an attack. Security incidents can occur well beyond Gaza and its periphery and at any time, as demonstrated by the May 3-5 rocket attacks in southern Israel, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Be’er Sheva, and the March 14 and March 25 rocket attacks in Central Israel.
  • As security incidents, including rocket fire, often take place without warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. In the event of mortar and/or rocket fire, a Red Alert siren may be activated. Treat all such alerts as real; follow the instructions from local authorities and seek shelter immediately. Know the location of your closest shelter or protected space. U.S. government personnel and their family members may be restricted from traveling to areas affected by rocket activity, sirens, and/or the opening of bomb shelters.
  • Thursday 16 May 2019:

    India (Security threat level – 3): On 16 May 2019, armed militants and soldiers exchanged gunfire in the town of Pulwama, located in southern Indian-administered Kashmir. The gunfight took place after militants opened fire on soldiers conducting a search operation. A total of five people — including three militants, one soldier and a civilian — were killed in the attack, while two other soldiers and a civilian were injured. At least one home was damaged in the clash. Following the incident, hundreds of residents attempted to march to Pulwama to show their support for the militants. Protesters threw stones at security forces, who responded by firing shotgun pellets and tear gas. There were no reports of serious injuries resulting from the protest clashes.

    Venezuela / United States (Security threat levels – 4 / 2): On 15 May 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered aviation operators to cease all passenger and cargo flights between the U.S. and Venezuela, citing “conditions in Venezuela [that] threaten the safety and security of passengers, aircraft and crew.” The order also specifically references “reports of civil unrest and violence in and around the airports,” as well as U.S. officials’ “inability to gain access to Venezuelan airports to conduct required security assessments,” other major carrier’s decisions to cancel all services and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued earlier this month, which prohibits U.S. aircraft from flying below 26,000 ft (7,924 m) over Venezuelan territory. A number of Venezuelans have expressed concerns that the measure will affect the delivery of humanitarian aid.

    Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5): On 16 May 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which reads in part as follows:

  • Be alert to the risk of street crime and armed robbery at all times. Foreigners are at particular risk of street robbery in Kinshasa, especially near hotels and supermarkets in the centre of town. Robberies by gangs of street children are increasingly common and can be aggressive. Recent months have seen an increase in such criminal activity in and around the city of Lubumbashi including violent robbery.”
  • South Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 16 May 2019, the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan issued a Security Alert regarding protests in Juba, which reads in part as follows:

  • Location: Juba
  • “Event: Unconfirmed calls for demonstrations in Juba have been reported for Thursday, May 16 starting in Freedom Square. There has been an increase in security forces throughout Juba. Road closures and impeded traffic flow could occur. U.S. Embassy personnel movements will be restricted from Wednesday evening until Friday morning.”
  • Sri Lanka (Security threat level – 3): On 16 May 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo issued a Security Alert regarding recent violence that reads in part as follows:

  • Location: Nationwide, Sri Lanka.
  • Event: The Sri Lankan government has declared local and island-wide curfews recently due to communal unrest in the northwest region of the country. Additional curfews and checkpoints are possible with little notice over the coming holiday weekend.
  • The U.S. Embassy reminds American citizens of the current Level 3 Travel Advisory (Reconsider Travel). Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, hospitals, and other public areas.
  • Security threat levels range from 1 (Very Low) to 5 (Very High) and are determined using a comprehensive system that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The primary factors used to determine a location’s security threat level are Armed Conflict, Crime, Demonstrations/Strikes, Ethnic/Sectarian Tensions, Graft/Corruption, Kidnapping, Political Instability, Government Restriction and Terrorism.

    Security threat levels range from 1 (Very Low) to 5 (Very High) and are determined using a comprehensive system that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The primary factors used to determine a location’s security threat level are Armed Conflict, Crime, Demonstrations/Strikes, Ethnic/Sectarian Tensions, Graft/Corruption, Kidnapping, Political Instability, Government Restriction and Terrorism.