Worldview Weekly Security Update – 28 October – 31 October 2019
1-Nov-19
Monday 28 October:

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday 29 October 2019:

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 29 October 2019, anti-government protests continued across Iraq, with protesters in Baghdad continuing to camp out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square in defiance of a 0000-0600 local time (2100-0300 UTC) curfew. Violence resumed during the day, when security forces deployed tear gas against protesters, but there were no reports of casualties.

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Karbala, unidentified gunmen opened fire on anti-government protesters and drove motor vehicles through crowds. Unconfirmed reports claim that the gunmen were members of Iraqi security forces. At least 13 people were killed and another 143 were injured. Iraqi officials dispute the reporting, claiming that no protesters were killed in the event. Earlier on 28 October, the Iraqi government declared a curfew from 1800 local time on 28 October until the morning of 29 October in Karbala; however, similar to Baghdad, protesters defied the curfew.

Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): As of the afternoon of 29 October 2019, street clashes between supporters of militant group Hizballah and protesters are ongoing in downtown Beirut. The clashes broke out after Hizballah members and supporters of political party al-Amal attacked protesters on Beirut’s Ring Bridge, as well as journalists who were reporting on the protest. Conflicting reports indicate that the attackers may have been armed with sticks. The Lebanese military and security forces have intervened.

Wednesday 30 October 2019:

France (Security threat level – 3): Significant travel disruptions are expected in Paris during the Toussaint (All Saint’s Day) holiday weekend beginning on 1 November 2019 due to notable modernization projects planned by French rail operator SNCF on the Réseau Express Régional (RER) train network through the weekend. RER lines A, C, L, J and N will be closed and replaced by bus services. Additionally, sections of the RER B line that services Charles de Gaulle Airport (LFPG/CDG) will be closed. SNCF has warned travelers to plan for longer than usual travel times.

Additionally, TGV rail workers called for strikes over work conditions during the 1 November holiday weekend. SNCF announced plans to add additional staff and trains to minimize disruptions in preparation for the strike, and expects approximately 80% of services to be operational. Strike actions by rail workers since the previous week have forced SNCF to cancel train services connecting Bordeaux, Nantes, Paris, Rennes, Saint-Malo and Toulouse throughout the past week.

South Africa (Security threat level – 4): On 30 October 2019, police officers fired rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse a group of several hundred sit-in protesters outside the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Cape Town’s central business district. Police officers arrested at least 100 participants and there were reports of injuries among the protesters. A recent eviction order filed by a local business that housed some of the protesters during the sit-in prompted the dispersal. Demonstrators began the sit-in several weeks ago to demand that the UNHCR assist foreign nationals leaving South Africa following recent incidents of xenophobic violence.

Israel / World (Security threat level – 3): As of 30 October 2019, Israeli diplomatic facilities worldwide are closed following the start of a strike by diplomats and military envoys late on the evening of 29 October. In a statement, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that consular services will not be provided and individuals will not be allowed into embassy or consulate buildings. The mass closures are likely to affect Israelis traveling to foreign countries and those in need of emergency services. In addition, the border between Israel and the Palestinian Territories has been closed. Information regarding when the foreign missions will reopen is currently unavailable. Diplomatic personnel launched the strike due to a dispute over expense stipends for foreign envoys.

Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 29 October 2019, the U.S. Department of State updated its Level 3 Travel Advisory for Nigeria. The advisory reads in part as follows:

"Reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime, which includes kidnappings, hijackings, boardings, theft, etc. Some areas have increased risk.

"Do Not Travel to:

  • Borno and Yobe States and Northern Adamawa State due to terrorism
  • Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, and Yobe states due to kidnapping
  • Coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime

“Country Summary: Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, and rape – is common throughout the country. Exercise extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate violence.

“Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria, especially in the Northeast. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather.

“Sporadic violence occurs between communities of farmers and herders in rural areas.

“There is maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea.

“The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Nigeria due to security conditions.”

Thursday 31 October 2019:

China (Security threat level – 3): Multiple protests are scheduled for the weekend of 1-3 November 2019 in Hong Kong. Beginning at 1230 and 1245 local time 0430 and 0445 UTC) on 1 November flash mob demonstrations are expected to be held at Chater Garden in Central and InPARK in Kwun Tong. On 2 November a rally to reiterate the protest movement’s five demands is scheduled to begin at 1500 local time at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Turnout is likely to be high as organizers of a separate protest on 3 November canceled the event and urged attendees to participate in the 2 November rally.

Separately, during the evening of 31 October police officers fired tear gas at demonstrators gathered along Nathan Road outside of Prince Edward MTR station in Hong Kong’ Mong Kok district. The protesters gathered at the station to mark the two month anniversary of violence at the station between police officers and demonstrators, which sparked rumors of possible deaths. MTR authorities closed the station early at 1400 local time. Simultaneously protesters gathered at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay at 2000 local time and began marching to Lan Kwai Fong — a popular nightlife location — in Central. Police officers previously cordoned off Lan Kwai Fong to accommodate Halloween revelers. As of the most recent reports, large crowds have gathered in the area, and there is also a large police presence. MTR authorities also closed the nearby Central MTR station at 2100 local time.

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 30 October 2019, unidentified militants fired at least two mortar shells into Baghdad’s International Zone (IZ), where a number of foreign embassies are located. The shells landed approximately 50 meters (165 ft) from the U.S. Embassy compound, killing one Iraqi soldier. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Analyst Comment: This most recent mortar attack is consistent with previous unclaimed mortar and rocket attacks on the IZ. Travelers should monitor developments closely, even in the relative safety of the IZ.

Chile (Security threat level – 2): On 31 October 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Chile, which reads in part as follows:

"Following civil unrest across Chile you should expect to see a military presence in major cities. Further large demonstrations are expected in Santiago and other cities. Under Chilean law, foreign nationals visiting or living in Chile could be deported for involvement in protests and demonstrations. You should follow the instructions and advice of the local authorities, remain vigilant, monitor local media for updates and avoid protests and demonstrations.

"All of Santiago’s public transport – including the metro and buses – is running a very limited service at this time. Public transport in other cities may be affected. Some banks, shopping malls and supermarkets are operating reduced hours or remaining closed.

"Some domestic and international flights have been delayed or cancelled in recent days. You should check the status of your flight with your airline before travelling to the airport.

"Some land border crossing points between Chile and the neighbouring countries of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru are currently being closed overnight. If you plan to cross any land border point, check with authorities for exact closure times prior to travel."

Guinea-Bissau (Security threat level – 4): On 30 October 2019, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) updated its travel advisory for Guinea-Bissau to include the following:

“Demonstrations have taken place in Bissau. Due to the tense political climate, these demonstrations could lead to violence. Past demonstrations have resulted in a death and several injuries.

“Be extremely vigilant if you’re travelling in the affected areas.”