1 September 2014

News summary

MEXICO - Teachers' protests to affect Mexico City and Oaxaca city
URUGUAY - FENAPES calls for countrywide strike and protests
AFGHANISTAN - Bombing results in casualties in Jalalabad
AFGHANISTAN - Protests possible in Kabul and elsewhere over delayed vote audit
MALAYSIA - Hijacked vessel released by gunmen near Tioman Island
PAKISTAN - Casualties reported following unrest in Islamabad
PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Mount Tavurvur volcano erupts on New Britain Island
SAMOA - High-profile event to take place in Apia
UZBEKISTAN - Independence Day commemorations to take place
TURKEY - Possibility of further rallies to mark International Peace Day
TURKEY - Heightened tensions and unrest in Mardin province
EGYPT - Anti-military protests fail to materialise despite countrywide calls
IRAQ - Security forces end Amerli siege amid ongoing bombings elsewhere
LEBANON - Kuwaiti national kidnapped in Baalbek
LIBYA - Conflict continues in Benghazi and Tripoli
MOROCCO - Illegal immigrants and locals clash in Tangier
TUNISIA - Power cut affects numerous areas across the country
YEMEN - Militants target army base in Al-Qatn
YEMEN - Several soldiers killed in car bombings in Shabwah governorate
YEMEN - Renewed calls for protests in Sanaa amid clashes in Marib and al-Jawf governorates
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - (Update) Local hostages released in Ituri
LESOTHO - Possible coup following security incidents in Maseru
MALI - (Update) Algerian nationals kidnapped in Gao released unharmed
SOMALIA - Pro-government forces launch offensive in central regions and militant attack in Mogadishu
SUDAN - Communal conflict in North Darfur state



MEXICO (Country risk rating: High); 1 September; Teachers' protests to affect Mexico City and Oaxaca city

Members of Mexico's largest teachers' unions, CNTE and SNTE, are set to stage protest marches in the capital, Mexico City, and in Oaxaca city, Oaxaca state, on 1 September. In Mexico City, participants are set to gather from 16:00 local time at Angel de la Independencia. They will then march along avenida Paseo de la Reforma towards Hemiciclo a Benito Juarez. In Oaxaca city, protesters are also expected to gather at the same time at Plaza de la Constitution (Zocalo) and march towards the state education building, Instituto Estatal de Educacion Publica de Oaxaca along calle Macedonio Alcala. The demonstrations have been planned as a part of an ongoing protest campaign to denounce a number of socio-economic issues, including ongoing education reform in the country. Various teachers' unions have been staging an ongoing protest campaign over grievances relating to education reforms since early 2013; associated gatherings have involved protest encampments at Plaza de la Constitucion in Mexico City, as well as numerous roadblocks and motorcades on major thoroughfares throughout the country. Consequently, travel disruptions should be anticipated in central areas of the capital and Oaxaca city on 1 September. Although widespread civil unrest is not anticipated during the gatherings, previous protests have been marked by low-level clashes between protesters and security forces, as well as incidents of civil disorder. Police officers have used rubber bullets, baton charges and teargas to disperse protesting teachers in the past; as such, there remains an incidental risk to bystanders. Clients in Mexico, particularly the aforementioned cities, are advised to monitor local media for updates regarding the planned action, make allowances for travel disruptions, and avoid all large street gatherings as a precaution against civil unrest.

URUGUAY (Country risk rating: Medium); 2 September; FENAPES calls for countrywide strike and protests

The National Federation of Secondary School Teachers (FENAPES) has called for a countrywide strike and associated protests across Uruguay on 2 September. The action has been called over a wage dispute and other concerns. Although details regarding the locations of the protests have not been provided, gatherings should be expected in the capital, Montevideo, and other major cities. Likely gathering points are major squares/plazas, city centres or near prominent government buildings, particularly those linked to the education sector. Two protest hotspots in Montevideo (Plaza Independencia and Avenida 18 de Julio) may be affected by the planned protest action. Major acts of violent civil unrest are not anticipated; however, the risk of low-level confrontations remains a possibility. Clients in Uruguay on 2 September should monitor local developments closely. In addition, persons requiring additional information on the protests and the potential impact on their travel location should consult with trusted local contacts or their security provider. All street protests should be avoided as a precaution.

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Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 August; Bombing results in casualties in Jalalabad

At least six people were killed and 33 others injured in a militant attack on the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Jalalabad, capital of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, on 30 August. The incident occurred in the early hours of the morning and involved a suicide bombing and a gun battle. The incursion was claimed by the Sunni-extremist militant group, the Taleban. There is an extreme threat of terrorism throughout Afghanistan. This stems from a number of Islamist extremist terrorist organisations, of which the Taleban is the most prevalent. Given the ongoing insecurity in the country, further attacks are likely in the near- to medium-term. Due to a number of ongoing security concerns, all travel to Afghanistan is advised against. Clients currently in the country are advised to implement maximum security protocols.

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 27 August; Protests possible in Kabul and elsewhere over delayed vote audit

Political tensions in Afghanistan have escalated since 27 August, due to further disputes over the UN-supervised audit of the 14 June presidential run-off election. One of the candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, has withdrawn his observers from the auditing process, which is underway at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) offices in the capital, Kabul. Concern has arisen over the increasing risk of protest action in urban centres, especially in the capital, in the coming days. In order to maintain the appearance of impartiality, the UN has also requested that audit observers of Abdullah's rival, Ashraf Ghani, remove themselves from the audit process, which may somewhat mitigate the threat of protests. Despite this, the electoral process has been subject to numerous delays, some as a result of disagreements between Ghani and Abdullah, and others of a logistical nature. Consequently, although the original presidential election was held on 5 April, no candidate has emerged victorious. Given the protracted and disputed nature of the vote, protests by supporters of both candidates are increasingly likely. Should these take place, they are most likely to focus on the IEC offices on Jalalabad Road, the Presidential Palace on Airport Road, and other locations in Kabul's city centre. In addition to the threat of clashes between rival groups of supporters, conflict between security forces and protesters is also possible, as police have been known to use violence as a first resort in dealing with unruly gatherings. Due to a number of ongoing security concerns, all travel to Afghanistan is advised against. Clients in the country should maintain a low profile and avoid all concentrations of security forces and protest action. Persons in Kabul are advised to request regular updates on the developing situation from their security provider.

MALAYSIA (Country risk rating: Medium); 29 August; Hijacked vessel released by gunmen near Tioman Island

Authorities from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, confirmed that a Thai-flagged vessel and its crew members were released on 29 August, after being hijacked by armed assailants a day earlier. The vessel, en route from Singapore, was hijacked near Malaysia's Tioman Island in Pahang state, off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Maritime security in the waterways surrounding Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia has been a long-standing concern in the region due to the prevalence of sea piracy. Geographically, this maritime region is scattered with thousands of islands and islets amid larger land masses and peninsulas from which pirates may base their operations. The vast majority of piracy incidents that occur in this region can be characterised as opportunistic 'hit and run' robberies of vessels (as opposed to hijackings) carried out by fishermen (usually Indonesian nationals) who are using piracy as a means of supplementing their income. As attacks occur primarily at night and stealth is preferred over confrontation, violence is seldom reported; however, pirates are often armed and the threat of violence during such attacks cannot be completely discounted. Significant declines in pirate group activities and incidents in recent years have been attributed to the coordinated efforts of the littoral states around the Straits of Malacca, namely Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. Despite these measures, there has been a spike in incidents in recent months; accordingly, the risk of piracy still exists. Further incidents are therefore possible. Persons intending to utilise waterways in the area are advised to plan their route carefully and in coordination with local maritime authorities. Although the majority of vessels targeted by pirates are commercial ships, it is possible that leisure boats may be affected in the future.

PAKISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 August to 1 September; Casualties reported following unrest in Islamabad

At least eight people were killed and up to 300 injured during unrest between security forces and supporters of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political parties in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, on 30 August. Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at protesters attempting to march from Parliament towards Prime Minister House, both located in D-Chowk in the city's high-security Red Zone. Protesters responded by throwing stones and other small projectiles at security forces. In addition, a stampede occurred when police fired into the crowd, resulting in numerous casualties. Low-level altercations between security forces and protesters continued on 31 August. Most recently, on 1 September, protesters stormed the PTV broadcasting building and forced the network to temporarily shut down; however, services have since resumed. PAT and PTI have been staging sustained demonstrations in Islamabad since 15 August; the parties have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and the dissolution of Parliament. Further clashes between protesters and police are likely to prompt opposition groups to intensify protest action in the capital, as well as other cities. Although political parties have called for peaceful demonstrations, there is a significant risk of violence at all large public gatherings throughout the country at this time. Due to a number of ongoing security concerns, red24 advises against all travel to Pakistan. Clients currently in the country should defer travel to Islamabad until the opposition protests have concluded. Persons in the country are advised to maintain a low profile and avoid all large street gatherings, opposition events and concentrations of security forces. In-country personnel should request regular updates on the developing situation from their security provider.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA (Country risk rating: High); 29 August; Mount Tavurvur volcano erupts on New Britain Island

Hundreds of people were evacuated due to the eruption of the Mount Tavurvur volcano in Papua New Guinea (PNG)'s East New Britain province, located on New Britain Island, on 29 August. The eruption resulted in disruptions to international flights in the region. There were no reports of casualties. PNG is located along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' and volcanic activity on the various islands is common. Mount Tavurvur sporadically releases ash clouds, which can lead to transport disruptions. In 1994, Mount Tavurvur largely destroyed the town of Rabaul following a major eruption. Further evacuations and disruptions to air travel services cannot be ruled out at this time due to the likelihood of further eruptions in the near-term. Persons in the affected area are advised to monitor local media and follow any advisory issued by local authorities. Clients intending to travel in the area in the coming days are advised to contact their travel provider for further information regarding the status of services.

SAMOA (Country risk rating: Low); 31 August to 5 September; High-profile event to take place in Apia

Heightened security and associated travel disruptions are ongoing in Samoa's capital, Apia, due to the hosting of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, which is scheduled to be held from 1 to 4 September. However, the security measures were introduced on 31 August and are expected to be in effect until 5 September. In addition, Apia's Faleolo International Airport is expected to be affected due to the heightened security in place for the arriving dignitaries. Given the size of the event, the travel disruptions are likely to impact on much of the capital. The most significant delays are expected on 31 August and 5 September, along Main West Coast Road, which connects Apia to Faleolo International Airport, as well as at the airport itself, due to the arrival and departure of the dignitaries. It should be noted that traffic restrictions and short-notice road closures may be implemented to facilitate the passage of official motorcades to and from the airport, as well as between the various event venues in Apia. Clients in Apia on the aforementioned days are advised to anticipate travel disruptions and confirm whether their intended travel routes will be affected. If planning to utilise the aforementioned airport during this time, extended travel and processing times should be expected.

UZBEKISTAN (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 September; Independence Day commemorations to take place

Uzbekistan will commemorate its independence from the former USSR on 1 September. Major public events, including processions, concerts and parades, are expected to take place across all of the country's major urban centres. In the capital, Tashkent, activities are likely to focus on Independence Square. Security has been significantly heightened on this date. Security forces have been placed on high alert for the day, and checkpoints have been erected on all roads leading into Tashkent. Although there are no overt security concerns associated with the commemorations, Uzbekistan shares a terrorism threat from regional Islamist groups, the most prominent of which is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The IMU aims to establish a caliphate across the Central Asia region. Although there is no significant evidence to suggest that the IMU, or any of its affiliates, will seek to execute an attack during Independence Day, the symbolic nature of the event does place it at an elevated threat of being targeted in a possible terrorist assault. There is also a possibility that Uzbekistan will temporarily close its shared borders with neighbouring Tajikistan. The two nations have long-standing tensions and the borders are frequently closed during times of heightened tensions or days of political significance, such as the upcoming commemoration. Clients in Uzbekistan on 1 September are advised to exercise heightened security awareness, avoid all commemorative public events, and make allowances for possible travel disruptions.

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Europe and Russia

TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 31 August and 1 September; Possibility of further rallies to mark International Peace Day

A number of unions and political parties called for a rally in Istanbul on 31 August, to mark International Peace Day, traditionally observed in Turkey on 1 September. The event, held in Istanbul's Kadikoy Square on 31 August, passed without major incident. International Peace Day is celebrated annually in Turkey, and the countrywide demonstrations are generally well attended. According to local media sources, it should be noted that the day will coincide with an announcement by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)'s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The announcement is expected to pertain to the ongoing 'resolution process' between representatives of the state and Kurdish and other stakeholders. Accordingly, pro-Kurdish events associated with International Peace Day are possible elsewhere in the country, especially in Kurd-majority areas in the south east. Finally, it should be noted that violent confrontations involving demonstrators and security forces have occurred at International Peace Day events in the past; a heightened security force presence is likely in the vicinity of all events. Persons in Turkey are advised to avoid the vicinity of all large public gatherings and concentrations of security forces as a precaution on 1 September. Increased security measures and traffic restrictions should also be expected.

TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 28 and 29 August; Heightened tensions and unrest in Mardin province

Tensions were elevated in Turkey's south eastern Mardin province, following several days of protests related to utility disruptions between 28 and 29 August. Protesters blockaded the D950 highway between Mardin and Kiziltepe and were dispersed by police using teargas and water cannons on 28 August. An associated gathering outside the local administration building in Kiziltepe on the same date degenerated into clashes with local police. Local farmers and residents had been protesting against the suspension of electricity and water supplies in the Derik and Kiziltepe districts since 25 August. Demonstrators specifically targeted the offices and infrastructure of private utility companies, the Turkish Electricity Transmission Company (TEIAS) and the Dicle Electricity Distribution Corporation (DEDAS), as well as local highways, bringing them into frequent confrontation with local law enforcement personnel. Electricity supply to the towns of Derik and Kiziltepe was reportedly restored late on 28 August, in accordance with a court order; however, utilities to some rural locations remain suspended. As such, further targeted protests and attempts to block roads are possible. These are deemed highly susceptible to violence. Persons currently in Mardin are advised to avoid all associated protest gatherings and concentrations of security forces as a precaution. Clients should also anticipate localised travel disruptions.

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Middle East and North Africa

EGYPT (Country risk rating: High); 30 August; Anti-military protests fail to materialise despite countrywide calls

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led National Coalition in Support of Legitimacy (NCSL) called for anti-government and anti-military demonstrations across Egypt on 30 August. In addition, it called for a 'partial labour strike' on 30 August, to protest against poor socio-economic conditions in Egypt and in preparation for a full-day strike on 9 September. Activists from the 'Third Way', which is also opposed to the MB and the military, also called for rallies on 30 August against military rule. There were no major reported demonstrations on the day, apart from a number of minor events in Giza. Despite the apparent low turnout, further NCSL demonstrations are likely to be called and held across the country over the short-term. The NCSL has led numerous anti-government protests in recent months. These have been in reaction to the military ousting of the Islamist-dominated government in July 2013, a constitutional referendum in January 2014, and the June 2014 appointment of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (the former military chief) as president following disputed elections in May. The gatherings have decreased in frequency in response to repeated police and military crackdowns and following the widespread killings of protesters in mid-August 2013. The arrests of thousands of Islamist supporters and MB members, including former president, Mohammed Mursi, who was ousted in July 2013, have also undermined the general protest movement. Clients in Egypt are advised to monitor local media closely and maintain open lines of communication with trusted local contacts and their respective security providers for further information on likely protest venues. All street protests should be avoided as a precaution.

IRAQ (Country risk rating: High); 31 August; Security forces end Amerli siege amid ongoing bombings elsewhere

Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces broke a two-month long siege, enforced by Islamic State (IS) militants, on the town of Amerli, located in Iraq's Salah ad-Din governorate, on 31 August. Peshmerga and IS gunmen also clashed in a number of areas in the Ninewa governorate on 30 August, including the Zammar, Rabia and Ain Zala areas. Elsewhere, bombings have left dozens dead and wounded since 30 August, including in Yusifiya, located in Babil governorate, and Ramadi in Anbar governorate. Both attacks targeted security forces. The IS and other Sunni militant groups continue to battle the government and its allies for control of territory, strategic sites and urban centres in a number of northern governorates, including Ninewa and Salah ad-Din. Fighting in these areas is anticipated to persist. Additionally, the group continues to carry out attacks, targeting minority and state interests, in areas of the country not directly affected by the ongoing conflict in northern governorates. As such, further incidents are anticipated. Clients are advised against all travel to a number of governorates, including the Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Babil and Anbar governorates. Persons in the country are advised to travel with a security escort, reside in secure compounds and avoid travel into areas recently affected by violence. In light of the recent conflict, clients are further advised to ensure that contingency plans are fully up to date.

LEBANON (Country risk rating: High); 30 August; Kuwaiti national kidnapped in Baalbek

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Kuwaiti national from a hotel in Baalbek, eastern Lebanon, on 30 August. The abductors have reportedly demanded a ransom of US$1 million for the victim's release. Kidnapping has been an increasing concern in Lebanon since 2011. Dozens of foreign nationals have been kidnapped for ransom over this period. The majority of the victims have been nationals from the region, and many have also been longer-term residents. The kidnapping risk is considered particularly acute in eastern Lebanon, where a number of armed groups (militant and criminal) operate and possess the operational capability to conduct kidnappings. For red24's advisory for Lebanon, please click here. In addition, persons operating in Lebanon, particularly in the east of the country, should consider travelling with a security escort and reside in secure residences or compounds. Furthermore, clients should maintain a generally low public profile.

LIBYA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 August; Conflict continues in Benghazi and Tripoli

At least ten people were killed and a further 25 wounded during clashes between Islamist militants and security forces aligned with retired Libyan army general, Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, in Benghazi, located in eastern Libya, on 30 August. The fighting occurred in the Benina area of the city. In addition, rocketfire struck Benina International Airport during the confrontations. The airport, a base of operations for Haftar-aligned forces, has been closed for a number of months. Elsewhere, in the capital, Tripoli, Islamist militants took over parts of the former US Embassy compound, which had been evacuated earlier in July, amid ongoing conflict in the city. The militants responsible form part of the Misrata-led Islamist alliance operating under the code name Libya Dawn Operation. Benghazi and Tripoli have been affected by fighting between rival armed groups in recent months. This has involved a loose alliance of Islamist militia groups against an alliance of anti-Islamist groups that includes a large contingent of regular Libyan army personnel. The fighting in the country is expected to persist and may continue to impact on multiple urban centres over the short-term. For red24's full Libya advisory, please click here.

MOROCCO (Country risk rating: Medium); 29/30 August; Illegal immigrants and locals clash in Tangier

A violent confrontation between Sub-Saharan immigrants and local nationals was reported in the Hay Al Irfane area of Morocco's northern city of Tangier overnight on 29/30 August. The clashes, which left one person dead (a Senegalese national) and 14 wounded, were sparked by an altercation between an immigrant and a local. The fighting was stopped after the intervention of the police. Morocco is a major gateway for Sub-Saharan nationals seeking to enter southern Europe. Thousands of illegal immigrants are based in the north of the country and are seeking onward passage. Many attempt to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, located on the northern Moroccan coastline. The presence of illegal immigrants in Morocco has raised tensions with locals, who accuse them of petty criminal activity. In addition to the clashes on 29/30 August, these tensions have also spilled over into violence in the capital, Rabat, and elsewhere in Tangier in the past. In Tangier, clashes were reported on 15 and 16 August in the Boukhalef area, leaving five people wounded. In July, conflict was reported in the Maadeed area of Rabat. Following the recent violence, further clashes are possible between locals and illegal immigrants in Tangier, specifically in the Hay Al Irfane area. Clients in or intending to travel to Tangier are advised to exercise heightened caution in areas recently affected by violence. All large crowds in these areas should be avoided. Particular caution is advised in outlying areas of the city during the evening.

TUNISIA (Country risk rating: Medium); 31 August; Power cut affects numerous areas across the country

Large parts of Tunisia were without power from approximately 18:00 local time on 31 August, following a technical fault at one of the major output facilities. The power cuts affected multiple areas, including Hammamet in the Nabeul governorate, Monastir, located in the eponymous governorate, Zarzis in the Medenine governorate, as well as the capital, Tunis. Although power has been partially restored in a number of areas, intermittent power outages remain possible in the coming days due to associated maintenance. Clients are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the authorities pertaining to further possible power outages.

YEMEN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 August; Militants target army base in Al-Qatn

Suspected Islamist militants attacked a military base in Al-Qatn, in Yemen's eastern Hadramawt governorate, on 30 August. The incursion began with a suicide car bombing. This was followed by a gun battle, which left at least 13 militants and four soldiers dead. Hadramawt governorate is regularly affected by militant-related conflict. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Sunni extremist group, maintains a significant presence in the governorate and surrounding regions. It regularly conducts low-level and mass-casualty attacks against the Yemeni military and government. The fighting in south eastern and eastern Yemen has been ongoing since 2011 and is expected to persist for the medium-term at least. red24 advises against all travel to Yemen, excluding the Socotra archipelago. Clients operating in Yemen are advised to travel with a security escort and reside in secure compounds. Persons travelling in the country should consider air over road travel due to insecurity across much of the territory. Furthermore, clients operating in Yemen should request regular risk assessments from their security provider.

YEMEN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 31 August; Several soldiers killed in car bombings in Shabwah governorate

At least 13 soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in two separate car bombings targeting military positions in Yemen's Shabwah governorate on 31 August. At least three people were killed due to a car bombing in Maifaa town. In addition, an explosive-laden vehicle was detonated near a military outpost in the nearby town of Azzan; a gun battle between militants and soldiers ensued. Although no direct claims of responsibility have been made, these attacks coincide with a claim by al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia (AS) that the militia would launch a large-scale offensive in Shabwah; the group's involvement cannot be fully discounted. However, local authorities have blamed the attacks on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Sunni Islamist extremist grouping opposed to the state of Yemen; AQAP maintains known strongholds in the Abyan and Shabwah governorates. Nevertheless, the bombings highlight the extreme risks associated with operating in the country; further insecurity is anticipated. Clients are advised against all travel to Yemen, excluding the Socotra archipelago. Persons in the country are advised to travel with a security escort and reside in secure compounds and hotels. Heightened personal security vigilance is advised. Clients should maintain a low profile, ensure that vehicles, clothing and luggage are free of company or agency logos, and that itineraries are kept to a 'need to know' basis.

YEMEN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 August to 1 September; Renewed calls for protests in Sanaa amid clashes in Marib and al-Jawf governorates

Approximately 21 people were killed and an unconfirmed number of others have been left injured in clashes between Houthi rebels and Sunni tribal militias in Yemen's north eastern Marib and al-Jawf governorates since 29 August. The clashes ensued when Houthi militants attacked sites held by tribesmen aligned with the Yemeni military. These coincided with a call by Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, leader of the Houthi group, for an anti-government protest in Change Square, located near Sanaa University in the capital, Sanaa, early on 1 September. Parts of northern Yemen, including al-Jawf and Marib, are regularly affected by fighting between the Houthis and tribal groupings, as well as other state and non-state armed actors. The most recent fighting has coincided with Houthi-led protest activity in Sanaa since 18 August calling for the resignation of the government and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The risk of a further deterioration in the security environment in the capital will increase as protests in the city continue, as well as if there is a further escalation in fighting in the north. In addition, pro- and anti-government demonstrations should also be expected in other cities and towns over the near-term, including on 1 September. Clients are advised against all travel to Yemen, excluding the Socotra archipelago. Persons in Yemen are advised to travel with a security escort and reside in secure compounds. Travel outside of Sanaa should be conducted following consultation with the local authorities. Recent conflict developments should be closely monitored and affected areas should be avoided. Travel at night, near street demonstrations and protest sites is ill-advised. Air travel should be considered as an alternative to overland road travel.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (Country risk rating: High); 30 August; (Update) Local hostages released in Ituri

According to reports on 30 August, at least 21 civilians abducted during a rebel attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s Ituri Interim Administration in July 2013 have been released unharmed. The civilians were taken hostage when rebels aligned with the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) attacked a public bus travelling near the town of Komanda towards Beni in the neighbourng North Kivu province. Among those abducted was a local employee of the international aid organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Their release was reportedly secured as part of the ongoing security operation, known as Operation Sokola, which was launched in January. The operation is aimed at eradicating strongholds belonging to ADF-NALU and other rebel groups in the region. An emerging trend of these rebel groups has been the abduction of locals during attacks. Although foreign nationals operating in the region have not been targeted to date, given the increasing levels of kidnapping employed by the group, the possibility of this trend developing to include attacks on these individuals cannot be discounted. Due to various security concerns, particularly the threat of conflict, clients are advised against all travel to the Ituri Interim Administration. Persons currently in or intending to travel to the region are advised to register their presence with their respective diplomatic representations, restrict movements to major urban centres, and ensure that robust travel, residential and personal security measures are in place at all times.

LESOTHO (Country risk rating: Low); 30 August; Possible coup following security incidents in Maseru

On 30 August, military forces surrounded police stations and government buildings in Lesotho's capital, Maseru. However, as of 1 September, there remain conflicting statements regarding the nature of these developments. Government members, including Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, claim that the action was a military coup; Thabane has since fled the country to neighbouring South Africa. Despite this, the military denies that it committed a coup and rather claims that it was pre-emptively disarming factions of the police that were intending to arm protesters attending a demonstration on 1 September. This gathering was called by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to protest against Thabane suspending Parliament before the party could oust him, by leaving the ruling coalition with Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) and forming another government with opposition parties. The suspension of Parliament has led to a political crisis and increasingly elevated political tensions. The event on 1 September has since been cancelled as the leader of the LCD, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, has taken control of the government in Thabane's absence. Several foreign ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc member states met in Pretoria, South Africa, late on 31 August, to discuss a resolution to the crisis; however, no announcements have been made in regard to the gathering at this time. Given the uncertainty of the political situation in Lesotho, further military deployment, protests and even violent civil unrest cannot be discounted. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, persons in Lesotho, particularly Maseru, are advised to limit unnecessary travel outside of secure residences and work areas, and to avoid government buildings. If needing to travel outside such areas, it is advisable to carry official identification. Clients should also monitor international and online media for updates and developments.

MALI (Country risk rating: High); 30 August; (Update) Algerian nationals kidnapped in Gao released unharmed

Algerian foreign ministry officials confirmed on 30 August that two Algerian nationals, kidnapped in April 2012 in Gao in northern Mali, have been released unharmed. The victims were employed as diplomats at the time of the kidnapping and abducted by militants aligned with the now defunct Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) Islamist extremist group during widespread unrest and conflict in northern Mali in early 2012. The victims were the last of seven hostages abducted during the seizure of the Algerian consulate in Gao in April 2012. Five other diplomats were released shortly afterwards, following negotiations with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA); however, the remaining victims remained captive. The release of the hostages is seen as a positive development in the last round of talks between rival rebel groups, national military forces and government officials. Peace efforts in northern Mali have been ongoing since a May 2014 ceasefire, which had been signed by the various militant groups; however, clashes involving MNLA and Arab Movement of the Azawad (MAA) militants ensued on 11 July in the town of Anefis in the Kidal region. Despite the signing of the May 2014 ceasefire, the security situation in the insurgent-embattled northern regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu remains tenuous and vulnerable to rapid deterioration with little or no notice. Given the current nature of the conflict in the country, further kidnappings are possible throughout the region in the short-term. Due to various security concerns, including the threat of conflict, clients are advised against all travel to the administrative regions of Kidal and Gao, as well as to Mopti and Timbuktu. Persons in the aforementioned areas are advised to exercise robust security measures at all times.

SOMALIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 to 31 August; Pro-government forces launch offensive in central regions and militant attack in Mogadishu

African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and Somalia government forces launched a major military operation against the al-Shabaab militant group in central and southern Somalia on 29 August. The offensive is titled 'Operation Indian Ocean'. The joint force has reportedly captured the towns of Golweyn, Jerlio and Bulomarer, all located in the Lower Shabelle region, since the initiation of the operation; al-Shabaab has denied that Bulomarer has fallen. The end goal is the capture of Barawe, located further south. The town is used by al-Shabaab as a coal export terminal. In addition, the pro-government forces also reportedly launched an operation into the Middle Shabelle region, located north of the capital, Mogadishu, on 31 August. These operations are the latest by AMISOM and government forces against al-Shabaab in 2014. These forces have made some gains in the country recently; however, the militant group maintains control of territory in the central and southern interior and some southern port towns. As with past offensives, al-Shabaab is likely to seek to withdraw (rather than to confront the military forces directly) and conduct hit-and-run attacks in affected areas. The group may also possibly seek to execute a higher frequency of bombings in the capital against state and foreign interests. At least one major attack has been reported in Mogadishu since the initiation of the new offensives. On 31 August, militants attacked a prison facility in the capital. A number of people were killed during the fighting, which included the detonation of a car bomb and a gun battle. Clients are advised against all travel to Somalia. Persons intending to travel to the country are advised to consult with their security provider prior to travel.

SUDAN (Country risk rating: High); 27 and 28 August; Communal conflict in North Darfur state

Communal violence involving rival tribal groupings was reported in Sudan's North Darfur state on 27 and 28 August. The latest round of fighting occurred in the Hijer Tigeiteeg, Um Madsees and Jebel Dink Dinkat areas, between the Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes. The fighting left 34 people dead and 20 wounded. Media reports at the time stated that there were no further acts of violence on 29 August, but that members of the warring sides were gathering in the affected area in anticipation of further confrontations. Additional information regarding the status of the clashes on 30 and 31 August was unavailable. Communal conflict in the Darfur region is regularly reported. The fighting is typically sparked by competition over access to and control of land and resources. Periods of conflict can persist for a number of days or months and can result in heavy casualties. The ability of the government to end the confrontations is limited, given their generally limited influence in the area. Due to persistent insecurity, clients are advised against all travel to North Darfur state. Persons in or planning to operate in the region should arrange all travel and operations with their security provider. Areas recently affected by violence should be avoided.

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