2 June 2014


News summary

 
COLOMBIA - Casualties reported following grenade explosion in Quibdo, Choco
 
AFGHANISTAN - Roadside bomb in Ghazni province targets civilians
AUSTRALIA / INDONESIA - Volcanic ash cloud leads to ongoing flight disruptions
INDIA - Widespread celebrations in northern Telangana region during bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh
INDONESIA - Security heightened in Jakarta for presidential election-related event
MALAYSIA - (Update) Foreign nationals released following kidnapping in Sabah state
PHILIPPINES - Flooding in southern North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces
THAILAND - Sporadic anti-coup protests continue in Bangkok
 
CYPRUS - Gay pride parade held in Nicosia
MALTA - Suspicious luggage prompts evacuation at Malta airport
RUSSIA - Rally in support of gay rights held in Moscow
SPAIN - (Update) Further protests and unrest reported in Barcelona
TURKEY - Security operation targets Kurdish separatists in Diyarbakir province
TURKEY - Clashes reported during countrywide demonstrations on anniversary of Ghezi Park protests
TURKEY - Local elections held in eastern provinces
UNITED KINGDOM - Low-level blast at hotel in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
UNITED KINGDOM - Bomb scare leads to road closures and evacuations in Bristol
 
EGYPT - Islamists call for countrywide protests against government and recent election
EGYPT - Gunmen kill border guards in New Valley governorate
ISRAEL / WEST BANK - Heightened security and travel disruptions possible during Shavuot
LIBYA - Chadian and Nigerien nationals killed in southern Sabha district
SYRIA - ISIL militants abduct 193 Kurd civilians in Aleppo region
WEST BANK - Foiled bombing in northern West Bank
 
CAMEROON - Foreign nationals released following kidnapping in Far North region
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - Several violent protests reported in Bangui
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Clashes reported in Walikale, North Kivu
ETHIOPIA - Authorities warn of high terrorism threat following attack
KENYA - Ethno-communal violence results in multiple casualties in Wajir
MALAWI - (Update) New president sworn into office
NIGERIA - Casualties reported following attacks in Borno and Adamawa
SOMALIA - Suspected suicide bombing reported in Mogadishu
UGANDA - Increased security ahead of Martyrs' Day commemorations
 

 

Americas

COLOMBIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 May; Casualties reported following grenade explosion in Quibdo, Choco

The persistent, incidental threat of low-level terrorism in Colombia was highlighted when at least 18 people were injured in a grenade explosion in Quibdo, capital of Choco department, on 30 May. According to reports, the blast took place in the Tres Esquinas area of the city and targeted a local shop. Responsibility has not been claimed; however, local authorities have attributed the action to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in an incident related to extortion. The risk of terrorism in Colombia is rated as high; this is due to the presence of a number of groups capable of orchestrating terrorist attacks. These include FARC, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and a number of smaller organised crime groups. FARC represents a particular concern and is indeed the most likely perpetrator of this recent incident. The group has conducted a number of assaults against civilian targets in recent years that serve as a warning to non-compliant businesses (in the case of extortion) or as a show of intimidation to competitors and the local security forces. The incidental threat to bystanders in the vicinity of FARC attacks is significant. Due to the FARC's presence, as well as threats posed by militant and criminal groups, clients in Colombia are advised against all non-essential travel to a number of departments, including Choco. Although this advisory does not extend to Quibdo, a high degree of caution is nevertheless advised in the city. As a general precaution, unnecessary travel in the vicinity of security force personnel and facilities should be limited and all suspicious persons, packages or activities should be reported to the authorities immediately.


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Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 31 May; Roadside bomb in Ghazni province targets civilians

A roadside bomb detonated near a civilian vehicle in the Giro district of Afghanistan's central Ghazni province on 31 May. The blast killed 14 civilians. A local official has blamed the attack on the Taleban. There is an extreme threat of terrorism throughout Afghanistan stemming from a number of Islamist extremist terrorist organisations, including the Taleban. This most recent incident falls within the baseline risks for Afghanistan, including Ghazni province. Further such assaults are anticipated, including ahead of the 14 June presidential run-off election. Due to various security concerns, red24 advises against all travel to Afghanistan. Clients currently in the country are advised to implement maximum personal, residential and travel security protocols. Travel outside of urban centres should only be undertaken following a full security review of the route and in the presence of a security escort familiar with the local conditions.


AUSTRALIA / INDONESIA; 31 May to 2 June; Volcanic ash cloud leads to ongoing flight disruptions

Volcanic activity at Mount Sangeang Api has caused flight disruptions in Indonesia and Australia since 31 May. Flights from Darwin International Airport were grounded on 31 May and for part of 1 June due to one of the ash clouds from the eruption. Additionally, a number of flights from Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport were also affected. Numerous flights from Perth and Darwin to Ngurah Rai International Airport have since been cancelled on 2 June. As volcanic activity at the mountain is ongoing, it is currently unclear when the ash cloud will dissipate. Disruptions and delays are likely to continue at the aforementioned facilities in the coming days as the backlog of disrupted services clears and due to ongoing concerns pertaining to ash in the atmosphere. Persons intending to transit through any airports in Indonesia or Australia are advised to contact their travel provider to confirm the status of their flight(s).


INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 2 June; Widespread celebrations in northern Telangana region during bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh

The official division of India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh occurred earlier on 2 June. The former Andhra Pradesh state now consists of two separate states, including Telangana and a smaller Andhra Pradesh. The bifurcation process has followed a lengthy period of pro-Telangana agitation, which has manifested in regular bouts of civil unrest, general strikes and political instability. The division has been marked by widespread celebratory events across the new Telangana state; these are mainly focused on the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Commemorations should be expected to continue for the remainder of 2 June. Related rallies, road travel disruptions, an increased demand for hotels and public transport and heightened security are likely until 3 June. It remains possible that opponents of the bifurcation may increase protest action over the near-term. Persons in the affected region are advised to monitor local developments and avoid all related protests as a precaution. Furthermore, due to a number of security concerns, clients are advised against all non-essential travel to rural and remote areas of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states.


INDONESIA (Country risk rating: High); 1 June; Security heightened in Jakarta for presidential election-related event

Police in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, deployed thousands of additional personnel to the General Election Commission or Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU) office on Jl. Imam Bonjol Road in the city centre on 1 June. The deployment coincided with a presidential election (scheduled for 9 July), administrative announcement and plans by supporters of the two candidates to gather near the site. The rallies, held by supporters of Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, ended without major incident. The event precedes the official start of the campaigning period, which will run from 4 June to 5 July. An increase in politically motivated rallies should be anticipated in the coming weeks. Security is likely to be bolstered at all related events, particularly those led by the official candidates. Although the threat of violence at the political rallies is not significantly high, minor confrontations between opposing election candidate supporters remain possible. Clients in Indonesia should monitor election-related developments closely, particularly with regard to planned rallies or protests. All street protests should be avoided as a precaution.


MALAYSIA (Country risk rating: Medium); 30 May; (Update) Foreign nationals released following kidnapping in Sabah state

Authorities in Malaysia issued a statement on 30 May indicating that two foreign nationals, a Chinese tourist and Philippine worker, who were abducted from the Singamata Reef Resort in Sabah state (north eastern Borneo island) on 2 April, had been released. Officials had earlier stated that a ransom of US$11.4 million was demanded by the kidnappers; however, they have since denied that a ransom payment was made. The perpetrators are currently unknown; however, the media has speculated that Abu Sayyaf militants based in the southern Philippines were responsible. This hypothesis has been given credence by the fact that the victims were transported to the southern Philippines, an Abu Sayyaf area of operation, following their abduction. There is a high threat of kidnapping in Sabah state. There have been a number of recent incidents attributed to militants based in the southern Philippines, who have raided Sabah coastal towns and resorts in order to abduct persons for ransom. The local authorities have announced heightened security measures to curb the increasing threat; however, given the size of the territory and the ongoing insecurity in parts of the southern Philippines, further incidents should be anticipated. It should be noted that the threat increases if independent land or sea travel is undertaken along the eastern Sabah coastline. The risk for persons residing in resorts without adequate security, such as 24-hour guards, is also heightened. Clients intending to travel or operate in coastal regions of Sabah are advised to reside in secure accommodation, avoid travel at night and consider travel with a local escort familiar with the security environment and sensitive to the current kidnapping risk. Travel at night is ill-advised, particularly outside of secure locations.


PHILIPPINES (Country risk rating: High); 2 June; Flooding in southern North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces

Flooding caused by heavy rainfall has been reported in the southern Philippines provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao in recent days. As of 2 June, the flooding has left a number of people dead, displaced hundreds of local residents, blocked roads and damaged local infrastructure. The worst-affected areas in North Cotabato include Makilala, Mlang, President Roxas, Kabacan and Pigcawayan. In Maguindanao, low-lying areas of Pagalungan and Pagagawan are reportedly flooded. The worst-affected rivers include the Kabacan River and the Rio Grande de Mindanao. The rainfall coincides with the start of the rainy season in the south (May to November). It should be noted that the recent flooding has mainly affected secondary towns and cities and rural areas; however, intercity roads have been blocked in places. Due to a number of security concerns, clients are advised against travel to parts of southern Philippines, including North Cotabato and Maguindanao. Persons operating in these and nearby regions are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the authorities. Air travel between destinations is also recommended over road travel due to the risk of flood-related road blockages and associated security threats. Heightened caution is advised in the vicinity of all major rivers during the rainy season.


THAILAND (Country risk rating: Medium); 2 June; Sporadic anti-coup protests continue in Bangkok

Protests in opposition to Thailand's ruling military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), have continued in the capital, Bangkok, in recent days. However, a significant armed presence and travel restrictions at protest venues in the city (most notably at Victory Monument, where as many as 1,300 troops have been stationed) have resulted in a low turnout at anti-coup demonstrators. Indeed, on 1 June, nearly 100 protesters gathered in the central Rajaprasong shopping district and at the Terminal 21 mall in Watthana district. Both demonstrations, although locally disruptive, passed without any major civil unrest. Given such increased security in Bangkok, it is not expected that any rally in the next few days will attract a significantly higher number of participants. Business operations and transport services continue to operate normally outside of the curfew hours (23:59 to 04:00 local time) and both of the city's airports are open and operational. Elsewhere in Thailand, coup-related restrictions remain limited and demonstrations of any significance have yet to be reported outside the capital. Despite the currently stable situation, there remains the possibility that the security dynamic could deteriorate in the near-term. The potential for major unrest is largely contingent on the ability of anti-coup protest organisers to stage well-supported gatherings. Persons in Thailand, or those with interests in the country, should continue to monitor developments on a daily basis. In Bangkok in particular, all street demonstrations or large concentrations of security forces should be avoided. Clients are advised to follow the conditions of the curfew and any other directives issued by authorities.


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Europe and Russia

CYPRUS (Country risk rating: Low); 31 May; Gay pride parade held in Nicosia

A gay pride parade was held in Nicosia, capital of Cyprus, on 31 May. The event, which was the first of its kind in Cyprus, concluded without major incident; however, some minor counter-protests took place. There are no details on any forthcoming related gatherings, but it is likely that these will also be infiltrated by some anti-gay rights elements.


MALTA (Country risk rating: Low); 31 May; Suspicious luggage prompts evacuation at Malta airport

A suspicious piece of baggage at Malta International Airport in Luqa, Malta, prompted an evacuation at the facility on 31 May. Authorities called for the evacuation following indications that the luggage may have been carrying explosive materials. The airport re-opened two hours later, following the discovery that diving equipment in the luggage was the source of the alert.


RUSSIA (Country risk rating: High); 31 May; Rally in support of gay rights held in Moscow

Two people were arrested at a rally in support of gay rights which took place in Russia's capital, Moscow, on 31 May. The event, which occurred along Tverskoy Boulevard, was dispersed by security forces as authorities had denied permission for the gathering to take place. Violence is commonly reported at gay rights' rallies. This is partly due to opposition among nationalist groups against the advancement of gay rights, but also as gatherings are unsanctioned by local authorities and are readily dispersed. As a general precaution, any street demonstration in Russia should be avoided.


SPAIN (Country risk rating: Medium); 26 to 31 May; (Update) Further protests and unrest reported in Barcelona

A disruptive demonstration was held by activists and local residents in Barcelona, north eastern Spain, on 31 May. This was in response to the recent eviction of squatters from the Can Vies social centre in the Sants area of the city. Clashes between the protesters and police, as well as property damage, were reported in a number of areas during the protest march. The worst violence purportedly occurred in the Las Ramblas area. The unrest has been ongoing since 26 May and is expected to persist for the near-term. The Sants area and surrounding areas remain the most likely protest hotspots; however, related incidents can occur anywhere in the city. Clients in Barcelona are advised to seek itinerary-specific advice from their local contact or security provider prior to road travel in the city. Local media should be closely monitored for information pertaining to planned events and recent violence. Heightened caution is advised in the Sants area, in particular, and other areas recently affected by violence. All street protests should be avoided as a precaution.


TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 30 May; Security operation targets Kurdish separatists in Diyarbakir province

A security operation was launched in Turkey's south eastern Diyarbakir province on 30 May; this is aimed at removing roadblocks erected by Kurdish separatists along the Diyarbakir-Bingol highway. The operation, which is ongoing and reportedly focusing on the Lice district, is believed to involve police and special forces units. Armoured vehicles are believed to be in use during the operation. Members of groups affiliated with the country's main Kurdish separatist group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), have been erecting roadblocks along both the Diyarbakir-Bingol and Diyarbakir-Mus highways since 24 May. This has ostensibly been done in an effort to frustrate military operations in the region, as well as prevent the construction of further security outposts. On 31 May, four members of the national military forces were wounded during their attempts to disperse a demonstration on the highway. Due to the ongoing threat of low-level conflict between Kurdish militants and the Turkish military in the south east of the country, clients are advised against all non-essential travel to several provinces, including Diyarbakir, as well as all travel to within 10km of Turkey's shared borders with Iraq and Syria.


TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 31 May and 1 June; Clashes reported during countrywide demonstrations on anniversary of Ghezi Park protests

Clashes between protesters and police were reported during countrywide demonstrations in Turkey on 31 May and 1 June. Most of the unrest, which commenced at around 19:00 local time on 31 May, centred on the capital, Istanbul. Clashes were reported in the vicinity of Gezi Park, as well as the neighbourhoods of Gazi and Osmanbey, where police reportedly used teargas, water cannons, and rubber bullets to disperse gatherings. On 1 June, approximately 500 protesters were dispersed in Kizilay Square in the capital, Ankara. Reports indicate that at least 100 people were arrested countrywide during the gatherings. These events were staged to coincide with the anniversary of the Gezi Park protests that were initially launched by environmental activists on 28 May 2013; the 2013 protests rapidly escalated into an extended period of countrywide civil unrest after being violently dispersed a day later. It should be noted that in light of the recent clashes on 31 May, further demonstrations cannot be discounted in the coming days; protesters may mobilise over a perceived heavy-handed response of Turkish security forces during the recent gatherings. Clients in Turkey are advised to monitor local media for developments and avoid all protest gatherings and concentrations of security forces as a precaution against civil unrest.


TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 1 June; Local elections held in eastern provinces

Local elections were held in 33 provinces in eastern Turkey on 1 June. The polls were re-run on the order of Turkey's Supreme Election Board (YSK) due to allegations of irregularities in the initial elections, which took place on 30 March. The initial polling period in March concluded with only minor incidents of low-level violence, limited to certain areas; however, disputes from participating political parties over how the elections were staged and the subsequent results prompted the YSK to organise a re-run. Although election-related violence did not take place preceding or during the voting period, politically motivated gatherings are probable during the vote-counting period in the days that follow; as has been noted in Turkey in the past, there is a persistent threat of violent unrest at these events. The potential for unrest is further exacerbated by the ongoing tensions in the south east between Kurdish political parties and other groups, as well as their respective supporters. Protest hotspots include election-related venues, major squares in urban centres, as well as government and political party offices. Clients in the aforementioned provinces are advised to avoid all politically motivated gatherings as a precaution against civil unrest.


UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Medium); 29/30 May; Low-level blast at hotel in Londonderry, Northern Ireland

An unidentified assailant threw an explosive device into the reception area of the Everglades Hotel along Londonderry's Prehen Road, in Northern Ireland, UK, overnight on 29/30 May. The device did not initially explode; however, the hotel was evacuated and security forces deployed to the scene. On inspection of the device, the bomb detonated. The explosion did not cause casualties but did damage the reception area. The scene has since been secured and roads near the hotel have re-opened. The motive for the attack remains unknown. The incident falls in line with the baseline terrorism risk in Northern Ireland. Londonderry, in particular, has been affected by numerous low-level actual and thwarted attacks in the past. The majority of these have been blamed on Irish Republican dissidents opposed to the peace process. The security forces are the most commonly targeted grouping; however, civilian interests are periodically affected. Clients operating in Londonderry are advised to monitor local security developments closely and exercise particular caution in the vicinity of security force facilities and personnel. Suspicious persons, as well as unclaimed packages or devices, should be reported to the police.


UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Medium); 31 May; Bomb scare leads to road closures and evacuations in Bristol

A bomb scare in the vicinity of Bristol's Cassell Road (Fishponds area) in the UK on 31 May resulted in the temporary evacuation of residents and road closures. This was sparked by a suspicious vehicle in the area. The situation has since been resolved and roads have re-opened. The incident is not indicative of any noteworthy security risk in the area.


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Middle East and North Africa

EGYPT (Country risk rating: High); 26 to 30 May; Islamists call for countrywide protests against government and recent election

The Islamist opposition Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led National Coalition in Support of Legitimacy (NCSL) in Egypt has denounced the recently held presidential election (26 to 28 May), won by former military chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and has called on its supporters to continue with countrywide anti-government protests. The call was heeded on 30 May, when thousands of opposition protesters gathered in cities and towns across the country, including the capital, Cairo, as well as in Giza, Alexandria, Fayoum, Assiut and Damietta. Clashes were reported in some areas. Further protests are anticipated over the near-term. For further background on the recent political instability in Egypt, please click here. Clients are advised to exercise a high degree of caution throughout Egypt due to ongoing political instability and the threat of civil unrest. All street protests and likely protester gathering points should be avoided.


EGYPT (Country risk rating: High); 1 June; Gunmen kill border guards in New Valley governorate

An unidentified group of gunmen clashed with a military border patrol in Egypt's south western New Valley governorate during the early morning of 1 June. The incident, which left six soldiers dead, reportedly occurred along the Farafra to Cairo road. Some media sources, citing local officials, have stated that the incident occurred near the Libya-Egypt border after the gunmen illegally entered Egyptian territory. The Farafra to Cairo road is located approximately 400km east of the shared border. The details surrounding the incident remain unclear; however, it serves to highlight the persistent insecurity in desert areas across North Africa, including in western and south western Egypt. Militants and smugglers, both heavily armed, operate extensively in these areas and are frequently involved in confrontations with opposing groups and the local security forces. Given the increasing insecurity and instability in Libya, additional cross-border militant or criminal activity is likely, from Libya into Egypt, and further confrontations with the Egyptian security forces are anticipated. Persons intending to operate in western or south western Egypt are advised to travel with an escort that is familiar with the local security environment.


ISRAEL / WEST BANK; 3 and 4 June; Heightened security and travel disruptions possible during Shavuot

Jews in Israel and the West Bank will commemorate Shavuot from the evening of 3 June and on 4 June. A heightened security presence is expected to be adopted by the Israeli security forces ahead of and during the event, specifically near land border crossings and checkpoints in the West Bank. As with past widely observed religious and national days, full or partial closures of Palestinian areas, including the West Bank, or restrictions on Palestinian travel in the West Bank and Jerusalem are anticipated for parts, or for the entire duration, of Shavuot. The increased security measures and restrictions on travel are typical in response to the threat posed by Palestinian militants. Travel restrictions implemented in the West Bank also generally only impact on Palestinians and dual nationals; however, heightened security and additional checkpoints may disrupt road travel. Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, due to a number of security concerns. Persons in Israel and the West Bank during the forthcoming religious period are advised to monitor developments closely for updates and advisories from the local authorities. Heightened security awareness is advised at border crossings and near security force personnel and facilities.


LIBYA (Country risk rating: High); 28 May; Chadian and Nigerien nationals killed in southern Sabha district

According to media reports on 29 May, the Chadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleged that ten Chadian nationals were killed by unidentified gunmen wearing military uniforms in the Sabha district of southern Libya on 28 May. The ministry stated that the group was travelling from Tripoli to Chad when they were intercepted and killed. Further details are unavailable. The incident is the latest to impact on the area. In mid-May, the Nigerien Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that a group of eight Nigerien migrants had been killed by an armed militia in the Sabha area. The migrants were reportedly travelling along the Qatrun to Sabha road when the truck in which they were being transported collided with a vehicle transporting an armed militia. Following this accident, the militia killed the migrants. The motivations for these attacks are unclear at present. Tensions between rival armed groups, which are in turn based on ethnic and tribal lines, are elevated across the region and could be a factor in explaining the recent violence. In addition, many Arab tribes accuse persons from neighbouring African states (including Chad and Niger) of participating in the 2011 civil war on behalf of the former Muammar al-Gaddafi regime and of continuing to support elements of the former regime. Tensions are also elevated over control of smuggling routes; this has resulted in confrontations in the south in the past. However, the incidents serve to underscore the heightened insecurity in southern Libya. Numerous armed groups, including criminal bands and Islamist militants, operate therein and pose a direct security risk to travellers. Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to Libya. Persons operating outside of major cities in the north are strongly advised to travel with a security escort and to travel by air rather than by road.


SYRIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 May; ISIL militants abduct 193 Kurd civilians in Aleppo region

A Syrian activist group has alleged that fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group abducted 193 Kurd civilians from the village of Qabasin, located in Syria's northern Aleppo governorate, on 29 May. The group also reported that ISIL forces attacked Ras al-Ain in the northern Al-Hasakah governorate on the same day, killing 15 people. ISIL has been battling rival Islamist militant groups and Kurd militia in northern Syria for a number of months. The infighting among these non-state armed groups has weakened the overall rebellion against the Syrian military, which has in turn made increasing gains in northern Syria. This is particularly prevalent in Aleppo city, where heavy fighting is ongoing between rebels and the military. The recent abduction and killings are likely to further strain tensions in the north; retaliatory action by Kurd militia against ISIL positions therefore remains possible. Clients are advised against all travel to Syria. Persons in Syria are advised to depart where safe to do so.


WEST BANK (Country risk rating: High); 30 May; Foiled bombing in northern West Bank

The Israeli security forces thwarted an apparent suicide bombing in the northern West Bank on 30 May. A suspicious person approached an Israeli checkpoint at the Tapuah Junction and was ordered to stop. On inspection, the man was allegedly wearing a suicide vest composed of a number of interconnected pipe bombs. There is a high threat of terrorism in the West Bank. The threat stems from Palestinian militants and Jewish extremists. However, there have been few significant acts of terrorism in the territory in recent years due to the elevated Israeli and Palestinian security force presence and the generally improving political situation since 2007. Despite this, low-level acts of violence are regularly perpetrated by militants against Jewish and Palestinian communities and the security forces. The Israeli security forces also regularly announce the arrest of militants and the thwarting of planned attacks. Clients are advised against non-essential travel to the West Bank due to a number of security concerns. Persons intending to travel to the territory should do so during the day only and keep to major routes, large urban areas and tourist sights. There are a number of closed Israeli military zones. These are usually well signposted and should be avoided. Unnecessary travel near security checkpoints should be avoided.


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Sub-Saharan Africa

CAMEROON (Country risk rating: High); 1 June; Foreign nationals released following kidnapping in Far North region

Two Italian priests and one Canadian nun, all of whom were abducted together from Cameroon's Far North region overnight on 4/5 April, were released early on 1 June. The victims were reportedly abducted by alleged Nigeria-based Boko Haram militants in Tchere, near the city of Maroua, and were released near the border with Nigeria. A Cameroon military source confirmed that negotiations for the release of the kidnapped individuals had taken place, but there has been no confirmation of whether a ransom was paid or other concessions were agreed to. The involvement of Boko Haram is supported by evidence of the operational presence of its militants in the Far North region. In addition, the group has claimed responsibility for the abductions of foreign nationals from northern Cameroon in recent months; in these previous cases, Boko Haram militants asserted that the abductions were perpetrated in retaliation for the arrest of a number of its militants and sympathisers by Cameroonian authorities. Cameroon shares a relatively porous border with the Nigerian states of Adamawa and Borno (which are known Boko Haram strongholds) and Cameroonian security forces do not currently possess the capabilities to adequately deal with the militant threat in all areas. Until these issues, among others, are addressed, further kidnappings are likely in the Far North region in the near-term. Due to a heightened risk of crime, the threat of kidnapping, as well as other security concerns, all non-essential travel within 50km of Cameroon's shared border with Nigeria is advised against. Persons intending to travel to the region despite this advisory should ensure that all movements are coordinated in the presence of a security escort and restricted to populated urban centres.


CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (Country risk rating: Extreme); 1 June; Several violent protests reported in Bangui

Several violent protests and clashes between police and protesters have been reported across the Central African Republic (CAR)'s capital, Bangui, since 30 May. Clashes were reported in close proximity to the city's M'Poko International Airport early on 30 May. On 31 May and 1 June, anti-government protests were reported in central Bangui as protesters demanded the departure of specifically Burundian military forces, deployed with the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), from the country. The protesters also demanded improved security measures in the KM 5 neighbourhood of Bangui, where an armed attack on civilians in a church on 28 May killed 17 people. At least three people have been killed following the protests. Protesters also demanded the resignation of President Catherine Samba-Panza in light of her perceived failure to end the continuing conflict between former members of the Seleka rebel group and local civil self-protection groups (known collectively as anti-Balaka militia). The rival groups are loosely split along religious (Christian and Muslim) and ethnic lines. Attacks such as the latest, specifically targeting religious sites, have previously aggravated existing communal tensions. Indeed, the likelihood of reprisal ethno-religious violence and politically motivated gatherings will be elevated in the short-term. Due to various security concerns, all travel to the CAR is advised against; persons currently in the country should consider departing where safe to do so. If choosing to remain in the CAR despite this advisory, clients are advised to implement robust travel, personal and residential security measures at all times.


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (Country risk rating: High); 29 May; Clashes reported in Walikale, North Kivu

An undisclosed number of casualties were reported following clashes between rebel groups in Walikale territory, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s North Kivu province, since 29 May. These involved members of the Rwanda-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mai-Mai Sheka militia group. The violence occurred in the Oninga, Urumba and Bunesa localities, approximately 20km outside of Walikale town. The latest incident underscores the persistent security risks present in north eastern DRC, particularly in the restive North Kivu province. A number of armed rebel groups, ranging from the FDLR to ethno-communal militia groups such as the Mai-Mai Sheka, are active in the region and are known to sporadically execute acts of violence on local communities. The FDLR, in particular, is known to maintain a strong operational presence in the neighbouring Lubero territory; however, following an ongoing military campaign targeting FDLR strongholds in Lubero, remnants of the group have moved south into Walikale. As these highly mobile factions move through the territory, clashes with rival community-based militias occur regularly. Due to various security concerns, particularly those of conflict and rebel activity, clients are advised against all travel to North Kivu. 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.


ETHIOPIA (Country risk rating: High); 29 May; Authorities warn of high terrorism threat following attack

State security authorities in Ethiopia on 29 May reiterated warnings of a high terrorism threat in the country following a militant attack by gunmen reportedly linked to extremist group, al-Shabaab. The attack took place overnight on 26/27 May in the town of Bakool, along the country's southern border with Somalia; at least 39 people were killed. The US Embassy in the capital, Addis Ababa, issued a similar warning to US citizens, highlighting the persistent threat of terrorism in the country on 29 May. Although neither the Ethiopian government nor the US Embassy have stated that they have intelligence indicating that the country is at risk of an imminent terrorist incursion, authorities have raised concerns that an al-Shabaab-led attack remains possible. There have been persistent concerns that the group may coordinate low-level and large-scale attacks similar to those seen in major urban centres in Kenya and Somalia in recent weeks. These countries, as well as Ethiopia, have been targeted by militants in response to their assistance in ongoing counterinsurgency operations undertaken by the Somali government and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops. Addis Ababa, in particular, has been identified as a potential target, given the city's prominence as the capital and the fact that it hosts the AU headquarters. Al-Shabaab has demonstrated that it possesses both the intent and operational capacity to target areas outside of its traditional strongholds in Somalia. Although a terrorist attack remains difficult to predict, heightened security measures, including an increased security force presence at government buildings and other potential targets, are likely to be implemented in the near-term. Due to the ongoing threat of terrorism, clients in Ethiopia are advised to exercise heightened security awareness at all times.


KENYA (Country risk rating: High); 29 May; Ethno-communal violence results in multiple casualties in Wajir

At least 11 people were killed in ethno-communal violence affecting the north eastern town of Wajir, located in Kenya's restive North Eastern Province, on 29 May. It is believed that the conflict began when members of the Degodia ethnic group, resident in the town of Marsabit, approximately 100km west of Wajir, retaliated following an alleged attack by members of the Garreh ethnic group, resident in Wajir. Furthermore, on 1 June, at least 20 houses were set alight in Wabir village in the Wajir East Constituency of the eponymous district, allegedly by youths protesting the earlier clashes. Authorities have deployed additional security personnel to the area in an attempt to prevent a further escalation of the violence. Local authorities believe that up to 18 people have been killed in associated clashes and reprisals between the rival groups in recent days. Communal tensions related to cattle raids, grazing rights and associated land disputes are a particular security concern in many rural parts of Kenya, including Wajir and Marsabit. Sporadic incidents of communal violence are known to occur and often prompt a series of reprisal attacks. Further retaliations in response to the recent clashes are possible in the short-term. Furthermore, clashes between armed community members and local police forces cannot be discounted. Although foreign nationals are not directly targeted, there is an incidental risk to bystanders during periods of communal conflict. Clients currently in the towns and greater counties of Wajir and Marsabit are advised to monitor developments closely and implement adequate security measures when travelling in the area, specifically when travel is undertaken outside major urban centres.


MALAWI (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 June; (Update) New president sworn into office

On 30 May, Malawi's national Electoral Commission (MEC) announced Peter Mutharika, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the winner of the disputed 20 May national elections. The announcement followed a ruling from the High Court to have election results announced on 30 May, overturning an earlier decision calling for a recount of all votes cast. According to results, Mutharika won approximately 36.4 percent. Incumbent president Joyce Banda conceded defeat on 31 May; Banda had previously sought to nullify the electoral process and order a manual recount and audit of all votes cast due to irregularities and possible vote-rigging. Mutharika was sworn in as president in Blantyre on 1 June, with his inauguration scheduled for 2 June at the Kamuzu Stadium, also in Blantyre. Road closures and other heightened security measures will be implemented in the immediate vicinity of the venue for the duration of the event. Although recent developments have stabilised Malawi's political landscape, the threat of politically motivated gatherings in the short-term following Mutharika's victory cannot be discounted. Clients are advised to monitor local media for developments. Persons in Malawi, particularly in Blantyre on 2 June, should expect increased security measures in the city and plan for potential travel disruptions in the vicinity of the Kamuzu Stadium. Any associated protest gatherings should be avoided as a general precaution.


NIGERIA (Country risk rating: High); 31 May and 1 June; Casualties reported following attacks in Borno and Adamawa

Suspected Boko Haram militants raided villages in the Ngala local government area of Nigeria's north eastern Borno State on 31 May, killing approximately 40 civilians. The villages of Kanari, Wazarde and Gula, located near the border with Cameroon, were targeted. A bomb blast also occurred at a local football field in Mubi, Adamawa state, on 1 June; at least 40 people were killed and several others wounded as a result. These attacks are the latest acts of violence targeting civilians in the north east of the country that have been attributed to Boko Haram. The group has a strong presence in both Borno and Adamawa state. The incidents serve to highlight the insecurity in the north east, where the government has largely failed in its efforts to eliminate or reduce the operational capability of the sect. Further acts of violence targeting civilian interests in the north east should be anticipated. Due to various security concerns, clients are advised against all travel to several north eastern states, including Borno and Adamawa. Persons operating in the states should travel with a security escort and reside and work in secure compounds. Full route risk assessments should be obtained from your travel or security provider prior to travel to or in the state. Travel at night and outside of main cities and towns is ill-advised.


SOMALIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 May; Suspected suicide bombing reported in Mogadishu

One person was killed in a suspected suicide bombing in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on 30 May. The incident took place at the central City Palace Hotel. It is understood that a number of Somali security officials were attending a meeting at the hotel; the security officials were the purported target of the attack. Although there have been no immediate claims of responsibility, the incident comes several hours after security authorities re-issued public warnings of possible al-Shabaab attacks in the city. The group is engaged in an ongoing insurgency against the Somali government. Despite losing control of Mogadishu to government-backed forces in 2011, al-Shabaab continues to maintain a strong operational presence across the capital and regularly engages in acts of terrorism, which generally take the form of suicide and car bombings. These frequently target government interests and security personnel. To highlight the group's capacity to carry out sophisticated assaults in Mogadishu, al-Shabaab militants orchestrated a four-hour siege against the National Assembly building in the city on 24 May. Given the group's ongoing presence in the city, further assaults cannot be discounted. Due to various security concerns, all travel to Somalia, including Mogadishu, is advised against.


UGANDA (Country risk rating: Medium); 3 June; Increased security ahead of Martyrs' Day commemorations

Security has been heightened at the Namugongo shrines, located in Uganda's central town of Namugongo, ahead of the country's Martyr's Day commemorations on 3 June. Up to 4,000 security officials have been deployed to the Namugongo shrines and surroundings. The increased security comes in response to recently released police warnings cautioning of an increased terrorism threat at associated events. Government officials have stated that this relates specifically to the regional threat posed by the Somalia-based Islamist insurgent group, al-Shabaab. The group, which controls large parts of southern Somalia, is currently fighting both the government and peacekeeping forces in Somalia. It has also repeatedly both threatened to and executed attacks in Uganda in retaliation for the country's military involvement as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)'s peacekeeping force. Nevertheless, given the religious orientation of the events, the possibility that these gatherings could be targeted by domestic extremist groups cannot be discounted. Furthermore, given the influx of pilgrims to Namugongo, associated disruptions to travel and business operations in the town should be anticipated. All suspicious persons, packages and/or vehicles should be reported to the local authorities. Persons in Uganda are advised to exercise caution and heightened security awareness, particularly in shrines in Namugongo, as well as other high-risk areas, such as crowded marketplaces, public transport hubs and entertainment establishments. In addition, clients are advised to plan accordingly for travel disruptions due to road closures and route diversions, particularly in Kampala and Namugongo, at this time.


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