1 July 2014

News summary

CHILE - Unions set to protest in Valdivia
COLOMBIA - Casualties reported following militant attack at oil facility in Arauca
MEXICO - Casualties confirmed in shooting incident in Tlatlaya, Mexico state
INDONESIA - Volcanic eruption prompts evacuations in North Sumatra
TURKEY - Increased security in Sivas ahead of commemorative events
UNITED KINGDOM - Increased security for parade in Belfast
EGYPT - Series of bombings in Heliopolis results in casualties
ISRAEL - (Update) Abducted Israeli nationals found dead in West Bank
GHANA - Protest coincides with Republic Day commemorations
SOUTH AFRICA - Labour union protest marches to affect major cities



CHILE (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 July; Unions set to protest in Valdivia

The CUT workers' union has planned a protest in Chile's southern city of Valdivia on 1 July. The gathering will take place from 19:00 local time at Plaza de la Republica, located in the centre of the city. The demonstration will reportedly involve cacerolazo, which involves the banging of pots, pans and other objects in order to draw attention to the gathering. In addition, several other labour and student unions, as well as civic organisations, have stated their intention to support the protest. The event has been called to denounce the government's adjustment of the minimum wage in the province of Valdivia. The CUT union claims that the recent wage increase is insufficient. Protests related to socio-economic policies take place regularly in Valdivia. Previous demonstrations involving multiple organisations over similar grievances in the city have been marked by incidents of civil disorder and isolated clashes between participants and police. Furthermore, in light of the number of groups intending to support the event, localised transport disruptions are likely in the vicinity. Clients in Valdivia on 1 July should avoid the vicinity of Plaza de la Republica (or any other protest-affected area) until the gathering has concluded, as a precaution against civil unrest. Allowances should be made for localised travel disruptions in the area.

COLOMBIA (Country risk rating: High); 29 June; Casualties reported following militant attack at oil facility in Arauca

At least 13 people were injured in a militant attack at the Cano Limon oil field in the northern Arauca department in Colombia, on 29 June. Local authorities stated that the attack, which involved explosives, targeted compound facilities. Although no group has claimed responsibility, authorities have attributed the incident to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Further information is currently unknown. The risk of terrorism and extortion-related attacks is high in Colombia; this stems from both militant and criminal groups. Armed groups, such as FARC, frequently target businesses in the country. Attacks are generally limited to the bombing of oil pipelines; however, this latest incident demonstrates that such incursions pose an incidental risk to persons with business interests in the country, particularly in isolated parts of Colombia. Although some progress has been made during ongoing negotiations between the government and FARC representatives in Havana, Cuba, attacks against businesses and security force installations have continued. Given the protracted nature of insecurity in the country, a rapid improvement in the security environment is deemed unlikely in the near-term; further violent incidents remain possible. Due to the risks of kidnapping and terrorism, as well as the ongoing low-level conflict against left-wing and organised crime groups, clients are advised against all non-essential travel to numerous departments, including Arauca. Foreign businesspeople, particularly persons with longer-term business interests in the country, should exercise heightened security awareness at all times and consider on-site and residential security services.

MEXICO (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; Casualties confirmed in shooting incident in Tlatlaya, Mexico state

At least 22 people were killed in a shooting incident between security forces and suspected drug cartel members in Mexico's central state of Mexico, on 30 June. According to reports, the shoot-out occurred following a reconnaissance operation by security forces in the town of Tlatlaya. Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least three hostages were rescued during the operation; the hostages are locals. Although the town of Tlatlaya is located in the state of Mexico, the area lies on the shared border with Guerrero state. Drug-cartel related activity, including kidnappings, is rife in Guerrero; the state is deemed to be strategically important to cartels that send and receive drug shipments via coastal ports before transporting their stock northwards to the US. Guerrero in particular has experienced high levels of violence in recent years and this has impacted on the neighbouring state of Mexico on several occasions. Clients in Mexico should note that drug cartel-related violence is, for the most part, confined to those connected in some way to the narcotics trade; these include members of drug cartels themselves, police officers, criminal justice officials or journalists investigating the cartels. Foreign nationals have generally not been targeted or directly affected by the violence; however, the possibility of inadvertently being caught in the crossfire remains a concern. Due to various security concerns, all non-essential travel to Guerrero state is advised against. Clients currently in Mexico state, as well as in other areas of the country affected by drug-related violence, are advised to exercise extreme situational awareness and ensure that robust security measures are in place at all times.

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Asia and Pacific

INDONESIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; Volcanic eruption prompts evacuations in North Sumatra

Local authorities ordered the evacuation of several residential areas within a 5km radius of Mount Sinabung, located in Indonesia's North Sumatra province, following several bursts of volcanic ash since 29 June. Over 20,000 people were evacuated from the area as a precaution. According to reports, the eruption has resulted in an ash column of approximately 4,000 metres above the volcano. No casualties or flight disruptions have been reported thus far. Indonesia is located along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' and volcanic activity on the various islands is common. The Mount Sinabung volcano is one of 129 active volcanoes in the vast archipelago country; most recently, the volcano erupted intermittently between September and February, resulting in at least 15 deaths and significant evacuations in the region. 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. Clients travelling in the North Sumatra province, particularly in close proximity to Mount Sinabung, are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the authorities. Clients should also be aware that flight disruptions are possible in the region; clients are advised to contact their travel provider or airline for further information on the status of their flight(s).

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Europe and Russia

TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 2 July; Increased security in Sivas ahead of commemorative events

As many as 2,500 additional police officers will be deployed to Sivas, located in central Turkey, ahead of commemorative events in the city on 2 July. A number of streets in the city centre will be closed to vehicular traffic from 1 July, including the Mehmet Akif Ersoy and Mevlana streets and Ataturk Boulevard, ahead of a march set to proceed from the Mahallesi neighbourhood on the following day. On 2 July 1993, 37 people were killed when Islamist demonstrators set fire to the Madimak Hotel which was hosting a literary festival. Most of the victims were members of Turkey's Alevi religious minority and the event has become representative of the perceived marginalisation of the community. Recent commemorations of the so-called 'Sivas massacre' have proceeded without incident; nevertheless, the anniversary remains emotive and commemorative events are typically well attended. Clients in Sivas are advised to avoid commemorative gatherings as a precaution and anticipate localised traffic disruptions.

UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 July; Increased security for parade in Belfast

Security has been increased in eastern and central parts of Belfast, in Northern Ireland in the UK, ahead of a parade on 1 July. The parade event is expected to commence at 20:00 local time. Traffic disruptions, due to the passage of the parade and related security measures, are expected on a number of roads, including Newtownards, Castlereagh and Albertbridge roads, as well as Great Victoria, Chichester and May streets in the city centre. Related parades are also expected in Londonderry, Ballyclare, Killowen and other urban centres throughout Northern Ireland. The annual parades, commonly referred to as 'mini Twelfth' parades, commemorate the anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The event precedes the annual Protestant celebration known as 'the Twelfth' on 12 July and has been a flashpoint for violence in the city in the past. Although no violence was reported at the Belfast event in 2013, a heavy security force deployment, including extensive road closures and checkpoints, was reported. It is anticipated that the additional security force deployment will discourage incidents of civil disorder between loyalist Protestant and nationalist Catholic communities. Tensions between these two groups remain elevated throughout Northern Ireland following repeated incidents of unrest during or following parades and commemorative events throughout 2013. Clients in Northern Ireland are advised to avoid the vicinity of the upcoming event and related gatherings, as well as concentrations of security forces, as a precaution.

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Middle East and North Africa

EGYPT (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; Series of bombings in Heliopolis results in casualties

At least two police officers were killed when three bombs detonated in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, located in Egypt's capital, Cairo, on 30 June. Several others were also wounded. Media reports indicate that two other devices were defused in the area. Greater Cairo and surrounding areas have been affected by an increasing number of low-level bombings linked to Islamist militants in recent months. The threat of terrorism is elevated in the country, and bombings are likely to remain a security concern for the medium-term, at least. The suspected bombing has coincided with an escalation in countrywide protest activity by Islamist groups in the run up to the anniversary of the 2013 military takeover of Egypt on 3 July. Further bombings or the discovery of additional devices, including in other areas of the city, are possible in the coming days. Clients are advised to exercise a high degree of caution in Egypt due to ongoing political instability and the threat of civil unrest. State facilities and personnel are the most frequently targeted; however, the threat also extends to foreign, specifically Western, interests.

ISRAEL (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; (Update) Abducted Israeli nationals found dead in West Bank

Security officials in Israel confirmed that three youths, kidnapped earlier in June from Gush Etzion, have been found dead in the West Bank on 30 June. The bodies were discovered in Halhul, roughly 5km north of Hebron. The youths had been unaccounted for since 12 June when they disappeared from Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, while hitchhiking. Israel has blamed Hamas for the abduction and previously indicated that it held Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, responsible for their safe return. Hamas has denied any role in the kidnapping. Since 14 June, Operation Brother's Keeper, launched by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Hebron to find and free the kidnapped individuals, coincided with (or indeed prompted) an increase in disruptions and violence in areas of the West Bank and Gaza. The operation included Israeli-enforced travel restrictions in Hebron that led to regular clashes with Palestinian residents, militant bombings and rocketfire from the Gaza Strip directed towards southern Israel, as well as Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes against suspected militant positions in the Gaza Strip. The latest development is likely to act as a catalyst in exacerbating tensions between the Israeli government and the State of Palestine unity government. Clients are advised against all travel to the Gaza Strip, to within 2km of the shared Gaza Strip-Israel border in Israel and against all non-essential travel to within 45km outside of this 2km zone in Israel, as well as to the West Bank. Persons operating in the area should note the possibility of a further deterioration of the security environment in these regions and ensure all security protocols, including contingency plans, are up to date.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

GHANA (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 July; Protest coincides with Republic Day commemorations

A civil group, Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance (CGRC), is set to hold a protest demonstration coinciding with Ghana's Republic Day commemorations on 1 July. The protest was set to take place outside the presidential palace, Flagstaff House, in the capital, Accra, for the duration of the day. However, following security concerns, police have ordered that the event take place at the Efua Sutherland Children's Park for the duration of the day. Although sanctioned by city authorities, the event is expected to be met with a strong police presence. The civil group has organised the demonstration in protest against what it asserts to be worsening economic conditions in the country due to government mismanagement. Protests over socio-economic and political issues are common in Ghana. The majority of gatherings are peaceful and non-disruptive; however, a pro-government group, One Thousand Man March, was set to hold a counter-demonstration. Despite this latter demonstration being postponed, the potential for associated disruptive elements infiltrating the planned event cannot be ruled out and isolated skirmishes cannot be discounted. Clients in Accra are advised to exercise heightened caution in the affected areas. All street protests should be avoided as a precaution due to possible unrest.

SOUTH AFRICA (Country risk rating: High); 1 July; Labour union protest marches to affect major cities

Several unions affiliated with labour union federation, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), began countrywide strike action of an indefinite duration on 1 July. Several associated protest marches, organised by the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), are scheduled in South Africa's major urban centres of Cape Town, Durban, East London, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth and are currently underway. Workers will convene at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg before marching to the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council offices in Marshall Town. In Cape Town, workers will convene on Keizersgracht Street in the District Six area of the city; further details on the planned march route have not been confirmed at this time. In Durban, workers will march from the King Dinuzulu Park in the Berea area of Durban to the Durban City Hall on Doctor Pixley Kaseme Street in the central part of the city. Significant travel disruptions are expected during these marches. The strike action has been initiated by labour unions representing workers in the metals, engineering and chemical manufacturing sectors. Although anticipated to pass peacefully, precedent suggests that the potential for violence and/or criminality at COSATU demonstrations cannot be discounted. As the duration of the strike action is not known at this time, large public gatherings, related protest action and disruptions should be anticipated in the immediate-term. Furthermore, although the risk is considered low, should clashes ensue between police and protesters during any demonstrations, there is an incidental risk of harm to all bystanders in the vicinity of such incidents. Clients in the aforementioned cities on 1 July are advised to monitor local media for updates and avoid all strike-related activities as a precaution.

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