Worldview Weekly Security Update – 2 September – 5 September 2019
6-Sep-19
Monday 02 September 2019:

NSTR

Tuesday 03 September 2019:

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 2200 local time (1730 UTC) on 2 September 2019, a suicide bomber detonated a large truck bomb near Kabul’s Green Village neighborhood, which houses several U.N. and international aid offices. Following the explosion, militants launched an armed assault on the area, which lasted for several hours. According to officials, at least 16 people were killed and approximately 120 others were injured in the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and stated that it was in response to security raids conducted by Afghan and U.S. forces in other areas of the country.

China (Security threat level – 3): On 31 August 2019, riot police officers clashed with anti-government protesters across Hong Kong. Riot police deployed tear gas at demonstrators on Harcourt Road near the Legislative Council (LegCo) building and the police headquarters in Admiralty district. Clashes escalated after demonstrators attempted to dismantle barricades in front of the LegCo building and threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at the officers, who responded with multiple rounds of tear gas and deployed a water cannon containing blue dye to disperse the protesters. Simultaneous clashes occurred as riot police moved to disperse demonstrators across Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Kowloon, Mong Kok and Wan Chai districts. Police officers reportedly fired two live rounds into the air in Victoria Park as a warning to demonstrators, who immediately fled the scene. Additionally, at least 32 Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations sustained damage in the violence.

On 1 September demonstrators blocked access to Hong Kong International Airport (VHHH//HKG). Demonstrators set up blockades on Airport Road and traffic was further constricted by the presence of additional police checkpoints on the road. Airport officials stated that at least 25 flights were canceled, and there were widespread disruptions to public transportation, including bus and MTR service to and from the facility. Officials stated that clashes between police officers and protesters caused damage to 12 rail stations. The Airport Express train service from Hong Kong Station to Airport / AsiaWorld-Expo Station was suspended, along with service from Tsing Yi and AsiaWorld Expo Stations. Airport Express services resumed by 2230 local time (1430 UTC), and services on the other lines have since resumed as well. Police officers arrested at least 63 individuals involved in the protests, including two local legislators.

On 2 September protesters targeted MTR stations during the morning rush hour, preventing train doors from closing on several main lines. The protests caused major delays on the rail network, but did not devolve into violence. Police officers dispersed protests at the Lok Fu Station in the Wong Tai Sin district along the Kwun Tong Line, where at least one person was arrested. Despite a call for a citywide general strike on 2 September, the MTR protests were the only notable disruption.

France (Security threat level – 3): On 31 August 2019, a stabbing attack occurred in the parking lot of Laurent Bonnevay metro station, located approximately 10 km (6 mi) east of central Lyon in the suburb of Villeurbanne. At least one person was killed and nine others were injured in the attack. Police officers arrested the perpetrator, who – according to authorities — suffers from mental illness. While preliminary reports indicate that the event was not terrorism-related, an investigation into the attack remains under way.

Israel / Lebanon (Security threat levels – 3 / 4): On 1 September 2019, clashes broke out between Israeli military forces and Lebanese Hizballah militants on Israel’s northern border. The clashes began when Hizballah militants fired two anti-tank missiles at Israeli military positions along Israel’s northern border. One of the missiles destroyed an Israeli military ambulance, while the second landed in an open area. Israeli forces responded by firing 100 artillery shells at Hizballah positions in Lebanon. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officials briefly opened bomb shelters in communities along the border with Lebanon, but closed them after the exchange ended. There were no reports of casualties in the incident.

Libya (Security threat level – 5) : On 2 September 2019, officials with the Civil Aviation Authority — affiliated with the internationally -recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) — announced that flights at Mitiga International Airport (HLLM/MJI) will be suspended until further notice due to the ongoing fighting. The authority’s decision follows reports of heavy artillery shelling during fighting on the evening of 31 August. The extent of the damage at the facility remains unclear, and it is unknown when the facility will resume operations. Mitiga airport is Tripoli’s primary international airport and has been closed numerous times since the beginning of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) offensive on Tripoli in April 2019.

South Africa (Security threat level – 4): As of 3 September 2019, sporadic clashes are ongoing between security personnel and protesters in several townships in Gauteng province. During the morning hours, police officers fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters who attempted to loot several businesses in Alexandra township, located approximately 18 km (11 mi) north of Johannesburg’s city center. There were no reports of injuries. On the previous day, disruptive protests occurred in the Jeppestown, Malvern, Hillbrow, Tembisa and Turffontein townships. Police officers arrested more than 60 people in connection with incidents of looting, vandalism and arson. The protests were initially triggered by the killing of a taxi driver — allegedly by foreign nationals involved in drug-related activity — in Pretoria on 27 August.

India (Security threat level – 3): On 3 September 2019, the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai issued a Security Alert regarding the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which reads in part as follows:
“Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India "Event: Mumbai’s annual Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganesh Immersion) festival takes place from September 2–12, and features large crowds and street parades that can cause serious traffic disruptions throughout the city
"Actions to Take: U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise caution and make informed personal security choices during the festival season. The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai reminds U.S. citizens in Western India that large gatherings remain potential targets for terrorist groups, and also provide conditions for crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing and assault. Please review the Safety and Security section on the State Department’s country information page for India for additional information and recommendations."

Wednesday 04 September 2019:

 China (Security threat level – 3): On the evening of 4 September 2019, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that she would formally withdraw a controversial extradition bill when the Legislative Council resumes in October. Lam first made the announcement in an internal meeting with pro-Beijing lawmakers and Hong Kong delegates of China’s National People’s Congress and later in a televised address to the general populace. In response to other demands of the ongoing protest movement, Lam stated that the government would support the work of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) in investigating allegations of excessive use of force by the police against protesters, and would act on any of the IPCC’s recommendations. However, Lam refused to withdraw the government’s classification of the protests as “riots” and does not plan to push for the release of demonstrators arrested during the protests, claiming it would infringe on the sovereignty of the Department of Justice. Lam also pledged to open dialogue with larger segments of society to address social and economic concerns such as housing and income distribution.

Protests over the controversial extradition bill — which would have allowed crime suspects to face trial in mainland China — began in April, but became relatively more frequent and violent in June and broadened into a larger anti-government movement.. The complete withdrawal of the bill has been one of five core demands of the protesters who are also demanding the independent investigations into alleged police brutality, the release of demonstrators arrested at protests, retracting characterization of the protests as riots and universal suffrage in Hong Kong. In response to the announcements, pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and protest organizers largely stated that anti-government protests will continue until authorities fulfill the remaining four demands.

Analyst comment: While the decision to withdraw the bill is a positive step in an effort to curb the ongoing unrest, it is unlikely to fully resolve the situation. Demonstrations are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, but it remains unknown if the decision to withdraw the bill will significantly reduce the intensity of the protests. Following the high-profile instances of alleged police violence toward protesters, the anti-government movement will likely now focus its efforts on gaining concessions toward accountability of police officers involved in repressing the protests.

South Africa / Zambia / Nigeria (Security threat levels – 4 / 3 / 5): As of 4 September 2019, unrest in South Africa’s Gauteng province has reportedly quelled following several days of violence and riots across Gauteng, including in various areas of Johannesburg and Pretoria since 1 September. Sporadic clashes occurred throughout the day on 3 September in several townships in Gauteng province, as well as in the central business districts (CBD) of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Police officers deployed tear gas at protesters, some of whom were reportedly armed with axes and machetes. Protesters were also engaged in widespread looting and vandalism targeting foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg’s CBD. Police officers have arrested more than 180 people involved in riots in Gauteng province thus far. Additionally, at least five people have been killed in related violence that occurred in Johannesburg’s Corronationville, Jeppestown and Hillbrow townships on 1-3 September. A significant number of security personnel have deployed throughout the province, including in Johannesburg and Pretoria, in response to the protests, which were initially triggered by the killing of a taxi driver — allegedly by foreign nationals involved in drug-related activity — in Pretoria on 27 August.

Meanwhile, the recent xenophobic violence has prompted protests and episodes of violence in several cities across Nigeria. A number of South African-owned businesses in Nigeria are closed — including all Nigerian locations of Shoprite Supermarket, as well as offices of MTN, a South African telecommunications provider — following violence targeting these businesses. In the capital Abuja, protesters reportedly attempted to storm the Shoprite Abuja Gateway location and blocked portions of Airport Road. Violence was also reported on the previous night at Shoprite locations in Ibadan, Oyo state, and in Lekki, Lagos state. In Lagos state, police officers reportedly shot and killed at least one person during a protest at a Shoprite in Lekki off the Lekki-Epe Expressway.

Additionally, related protests are also ongoing in the Zambian capital Lusaka on 4 September. A number of South-African owned commercial establishments in the city are closed. Meanwhile, police officers fired tear gas toward protesters and warning shots into the air in an attempt to disperse protesters who had gathered in Lusaka during the morning. Incidents of looting targeting South African businesses were also reported during the protest.There were no reports of injuries during the unrest. The U.S. Embassy in Lusaka has issued a Demonstration Alert, which details areas where the demonstrations are ongoing. Please see the Government Warnings section below.

Zambia (Security threat level – 3): On 4 September 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

Location: Areas include, but are not limited to, Kabulonga, Woodlands, Crossroads, Manda Hill, Long Acres, Lusaka

Event: Demonstrations are ongoing in several areas of Lusaka in response to recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Thousands of youth are protesting and the Embassy has received reports of looting, particularly targeting South African chain stores. Protesters do not have permission to protest and we anticipate a heavy police presence and response, including lethal and non-lethal means. We have received reports of police firing warning shots into the air and using tear gas on protesters.

Thursday 05 September 2019:

Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): On the morning of 5 September 2019, a car bomb detonated near a security checkpoint in the Shashdarak area of Kabul’s Police District 9 near the Green Zone, which houses a number of foreign embassies. At least 10 people, including a U.S. soldier and his Romanian counterpart, were killed and approximately 40 others were wounded in the bombing. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Jordan (Security threat level – 3): On 5 September 2019, Jordanian security forces deployed tear gas to disperse a group of teachers protesting in Amman’s 4th Circle neighborhood. Police officers fired tear gas canisters toward the demonstrators after they attempted to march from the square in front of the House of Representatives to the interior ministry, which officials specifically forbade prior to the protest. Reports also indicate that police officers used batons to disperse the crowd, but there were no reports of casualties. A teachers’ union organized the protest to call for a 50% increase in salaries.

Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5): On 5 September 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa issued Health Alert regarding health checkpoints, which reads in part as follows:

"Location: Congo’s Nord-Kivu, Ituri, and Sud-Kivu Provinces

"Event: To control the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) authorities continue to establish health check points throughout the Nord-Kivu, Ituri, and Sud-Kivu Provinces, including in the cities of Goma, Beni, and Butembo and in Virunga National Park. New checkpoints may be created with little notice.

You may encounter health checkpoints at the land border crossing connecting Goma, DRC to Gisenyi, Rwanda at the pedestrian (Petite Barrière) and vehicular (Grande Barrière) crossing points. These checks may slow border crossings.

There are at least three health checkpoints in Virunga National Park set up by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) at the Rwindi bridge on the Goma-Butembo axis in Rutshuru territory, at the Semuliki bridge, and Kambo ferry in Beni territory.

Over 3,000 cases of Ebola Virus Disease and 2,000 deaths have been confirmed in the three provinces of Nord-Kivu, Ituri, and Sud-Kivu in the DRC since the first confirmed case was reported in August, 2018. In August 2019, cases were confirmed in Mwenga, Sud-Kivu.

The CDC issued a Level 2 Travel Notice for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. EVD is one of the hemorrhagic fever illnesses. It is transmitted through direct contact with infected persons or their blood, bodily fluids and secretions; through direct contact (handling or washing) with infected corpses; or through contact with objects that have been in contact with infected secretions.

Actions to Take:

  • Be prepared to stop at all checkpoints, follow the instructions of authorities, and experience delays in travel.
  • Provide for extra time to clear health checks at the Goma International Airport. 
  • Follow instructions of authorities at all health checkpoints, which may include temperature testing, handwashing, and personal registration. Expect waits and exercise patience at all checkpoints.
  • Always carry a local identification or your passport with a valid DRC visa in case you are stopped at a checkpoint. 
  • Take active steps – including malaria prophylaxis – to avoid malaria and other insect-borne and gastrointestinal illnesses that may mimic EVD symptoms and lead to preventable health scares.