1 May 2017


News summary

 
GUATEMALA - Australian nationals assaulted and robbed near Antigua
HONDURAS - Armed attack resulted in seven deaths in Tegucigalpa
MEXICO - Heightened security reported across Guerrero state
UNITED STATES - Fatalities reported following adverse weather
UNITED STATES - Labour Day rallies and protests expected countrywide
VENEZUELA - Pro-and anti-government rallies expected countrywide
 
AFGHANISTAN - Taleban announces start of spring offensive
ASIA - Disruptions ongoing due to May Day rallies
INDONESIA - Demonstrations in Papua and West Papua provinces
PAKISTAN - Sit- in protests ongoing in Karachi over electricity concerns
PHILIPPINES - Suspected gang-related grenade attack in Manila
SOUTH KOREA - Demonstrations expected in Seoul and other urban centres
 
EUROPE - May Day events expected region-wide
GERMANY - Protests planned in Berlin's Kreuzberg area
GREECE - Passenger ferry strike countrywide on May Day
TURKEY - (Update) Labour Day protests observed in major urban centres
 
ALGERIA / NIGER - Shared border closed indefinitely
IRAQ - Casualties reported following blast in Baghdad
ISRAEL / PALESTINE - Elevated security expected for upcoming events
LEBANON - (Update) Clashes and protests reported in Beddawi refugee camp near Tripoli
PALESTINE - (Update) Clashes reported in West Bank
SAUDI ARABIA - Casualties after mine and rocket attack in Jizan
SYRIA - Rival groups clash near Damascus
 
BURUNDI - US Embassy-issued warning regarding march in Bujumbura
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Fatal clashes reported in Kasai and Nord-Kivu
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Security operation reported in Ituri province
ETHIOPIA - Series of low-level grenade attacks in Gondar
GUINEA - (Update) Further violent unrest in Boke
NIGERIA - Military attack reported in Borno State
 





 

Americas

GUATEMALA (Country risk rating: High); 28 April; Australian nationals assaulted and robbed near Antigua

An Australian couple was assaulted and robbed while on a road trip near Antigua, the capital of Guatemala's Sacatepequez department, according to reports on 28 April. Jayson Peter Kelly and Kirsten Smith, both 25 years old, were on a shuttle bus with other tourists travelling from Antigua to Nicaragua when they were shot at and the bus was hijacked by the three assailants. The assailants then drove the shuttle to a remote area and tied the passengers up while they robbed them of their possessions. According to the couple, the female passengers were sexually assaulted during the ordeal. The robbers then left the scene, after which the passengers managed to free themselves and seek help. This incident highlights the high risk of crime, including banditry, for foreign nationals in Guatemala. A number of factors have contributed to the crime rate in the country, including poverty, unemployment and an inexperienced and under-funded police force, as well as a weak and ineffectual judicial system. Banditry on both major and secondary roads, as this incident indicates, is an ongoing concern in the country and has been increasing in recent years. As such, it is expected to affect both local and foreign travellers in the medium-term.

Advice: Clients in Guatemala are advised to maintain an elevated level of situational awareness at all times, particularly when travelling on major and secondary roads in the country. Foreign visitors should avoid travel at night and should consider being escorted, particularly in cities and rural areas, by a trusted local contact.


HONDURAS (Country risk rating: High); 29 April; Armed attack resulted in seven deaths in Tegucigalpa

At least seven people were killed, including an infant, and three people wounded in a shooting incident in Honduras's capital, Tegucigalpa, on 29 April. The attack was carried out by six unidentified gunmen who opened fire from a black van near a soccer field in sector 8 of the Colonia Villanueva neighbourhood. The assailants are still at large. The motive for the incident is unknown and investigations are underway. This is the third major armed attack to be reported in Colonia Villanueva in recent months. The incident underscores the high threat of crime, including violent crime, in Honduras. Most incidents of violent crime are attributed to organised crime groups and are related to scams, extortion and drug-related activities. The risk is assessed to be elevated at night and in low-income areas such as Colonia Villanueva. The threat is compounded by the police force's lack of resources, manpower and training in dealing with gang activities. It should be noted that while the majority of gang-related violence affects locals, the underlying threat to foreign travellers remains.

Advice: Clients in Honduras should exercise heightened personal security awareness when travelling in the country. Transport should be provided by a local escort and all movement should be restricted to the day only.


MEXICO (Country risk rating: High); 24 April; Heightened security reported across Guerrero state

Security has been heightened across Mexico's Guerrero state since 24 April, due to multiple incidents of drug cartel-related violence in recent weeks. The authorities deployed additional security personnel to affected areas, particularly to the city of San Miguel de Totolapan, to curb the violence, which has reportedly killed at least 35 people in the past two weeks in the state. The violence has also prompted the closure of hospitals and schools in several cities in the state. Drug cartel-related violence is an ongoing concern in Mexico. Despite the deployment of additional military personnel to various cities in Mexico's states, drug cartel-related violence remains elevated, including in Guerrero state. Further incidents of violent crime are likely in the near-term. It should be noted that the majority of victims of more violent crimes are locals; however, foreign nationals have also been affected in the past.

Advice: Heightened caution is advised across Mexico, including in Guerrero state, due to the threats of crime and kidnapping and the incidental risk of organised crime-related conflict. This is particularly relevant outside all major cities and primary resort areas in the country. Persons travelling in the country should consider doing so with a local escort or trained security driver.


UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 29 April; Fatalities reported following adverse weather

At least five people were killed and approximately 50 more injured following tornados that struck the Henderson and Van Zandt counties in the US state of Texas, late on 29 April. In addition, at least six people were killed due to floods in neighbouring states, including Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi. Authorities have stated that death tolls may rise as some persons are still unaccounted for. Flood watches and flash flood warnings issued by the US National Weather Service (NWS) remain in place for parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. The tornados and flooding have caused infrastructural damage in the affected areas. Uprooted trees, overturned cars and other debris are disrupting road travel in east Texas. Power outages have also been reported. Damage to homes and other buildings has also been observed in the affected states. Although the tornados have passed, residual disruptions in the affected areas should be expected in the short-term, and the potential of further flooding cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients in the affected areas are advised to monitor local media, including the NWS website, for updates, and to follow the directives of local authorities. Caution should be exercised near damaged buildings. Allowances should be made for road travel disruptions.


UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 May; Labour Day rallies and protests expected countrywide

Labour Day demonstrations are expected across the US on 1 May. Various activist groups, including pro-immigration groups, Women's March and Black Lives Matter, are expected to stage large rallies in major cities, including New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Protests for and against President Donald Trump are also possible, following the completion of Trump's first 100 days in office on 29 April. The upcoming protests are expected to conclude peacefully; however, the possibility of low-level clashes cannot be discounted. Events on 29 April and 1 May are likely to draw large crowds. As such, localised disruptions should be anticipated near all protest sites.

Advice: Clients in the US on 1 May are advised to monitor local media for updates on protests and rallies, and avoid all street protests as a standard precaution. Allowances should be made for potential disruptions.


VENEZUELA (Country risk rating: High); 1 May; Pro-and anti-government rallies expected countrywide

Rival demonstrations by pro- and anti-government groups are expected in cities and towns across Venezuela on 1 May. Supporters of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are expected to hold rallies marking Labour Day, while supporters of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) will stage protests against alleged government efforts to repress political dissent. The rallies are expected to centre on the capital, Caracas. Venezuela has experienced a spike in opposition protests following the controversial decision to withdraw powers from the MUD-led National Assembly to be conferred upon the judiciary; the decision was later revoked by the Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) on 1 April. The TSJ ruling has been described by opposition members as a 'coup' and raises concerns relating to President Nicolas Maduro's continued efforts to undermine the MUD-led National Assembly. An escalation in the opposition protest campaign remains possible across the country over the coming weeks, especially as the opposition continues to pressure the government into holding early elections before 2018. There is an elevated risk of violence and looting at all politically motivated protests in Venezuela; several people have died and hundreds have been arrested amid violent unrest since 1 April. Some of the violence has been attributed to the heavy-handed tactics of security forces, and the presence of pro-government armed groups, called colectivos.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to Venezuela due to ongoing political instability and related insecurity. Persons in the country, including in Caracas, should consider travel with a trusted local contact or trained security driver, limit travel at night, and avoid all street protests and concentrations of security forces. Furthermore, clients should ensure that security and political developments in the country are closely monitored, and crisis management plans are regularly reviewed and updated in conjunction with a security provider.


Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 28 April; Taleban announces start of spring offensive

The Sunni extremist Taleban militant group announced the start of its spring offensive, dubbed 'Operation Mansouri', against the Afghan government and its Western-backed allies in Afghanistan, on 28 April. The group stated that the 2017 offensive will focus on large-scale attacks targeting strategic positions in the country. The commencement of the spring offensive comes after the large-scale Taleban-initiated attack on 21 April in Balkh province, which resulted in the deaths of at least 135 Afghan soldiers at a military base in Mazar-e-Sharif. Taleban attacks in Afghanistan generally increase during the spring and summer months (usually from May until September), when warmer weather allows militants greater access through usually snowed-in mountain passes from their traditional strongholds along the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. However, Taleban attacks continued largely unabated during the winter and early spring of 2016/17, as the insurgent group continues to be emboldened by the departure of the majority of foreign troops in the country at the end of 2014. Indeed, during 2015, the Taleban expanded its operations out of its traditional strongholds in the south and east of the country, and successfully captured numerous districts across the north of the country. According to the recent reports, the Telaban made significant territorial gains in the past year. Further incidents should therefore be anticipated, especially in light of the sharply reduced foreign troop presence, as well as the territorial gains the group made in the previous year.

Advice: Due to various security concerns, all travel to Afghanistan is advised against. Clients currently in the country are advised to implement maximum personal, residential and travel security protocols. Travel outside urban centres should only be undertaken following a full security review of the route, and ideally in the presence of a security escort familiar with the local conditions.


ASIA; 1 May; Disruptions ongoing due to May Day rallies

Rallies and demonstrations led by activist and civic groups, as well as trade unions, are set to continue in major urban centred across Asia, for the remainder of 1 May. The events are being held to mark International Workers' Day, more commonly known as May Day or Labour Day, or to mark labour-related issues. Although urban centres across the region are being affected, the largest events have thus far been observed in capital cities. An elevated security presence and related traffic disruptions are accompanying associated rallies and events, which is being attended by thousands of participants. Localised traffic disruptions should be anticipated for the remainder of the day. Although most gatherings are expected to conclude without incident, the risk of confrontations cannot be discounted, particularly in countries experiencing heightened labour-related tensions or increased levels of anti-government sentiment, such as India, Philippines, Malaysia, and Pakistan.

Advice: Clients in the region on 1 May are advised to monitor local media for updates on related protests. All large street gatherings should be avoided as a standard precaution. In addition, allowances should be made for travel disruptions in affected areas.


INDONESIA (Country risk rating: High); 1 and 3 May; Demonstrations in Papua and West Papua provinces

Gatherings and associated disruptions related to the 54th anniversary of the annexation of Indonesia's West Papua and Papua provinces are expected to continue in the aforementioned provinces for the remainder of 1 May. Although details of the gatherings are unconfirmed, anniversary events are usually organised by the banned Free West Papua Movement (Organisesi Papua Merdeka - OPM). The OPM is made up of ethnic Papuans who are culturally and religiously distinct from ethnic Indonesians. The group seeks a separate state consisting of Indonesia's West Papua and Papua provinces and has engaged in a decades-long conflict with the Indonesian government. In past years, ceremonies in which Papuan activists raise the banned Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, have been reported, and have sparked unrest. Although no violence has been confirmed as yet, the possibility of such agitations occurring cannot be discounted. In addition, protesters are expected to gather across the aforementioned provinces on 3 May, to mark World Press Freedom Day, and to call for more media freedom in Papua and West Papua. The possibility of clashes between police and protesters at the upcoming Freedom Day gatherings cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to Papua and West Papua due to ethnic and separatist tensions resulting in regular incidents of civil unrest. Persons in the area should avoid all demonstrations and concentrations of security forces as a precaution.


PAKISTAN (Country risk rating: High); 1 May; Sit- in protests ongoing in Karachi over electricity concerns

A sit-in protest, led by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), that began late on 29 April, is continuing in Karachi, Pakistan, on 1 May. The agitation is being observed outside the Governor's House, in Saddar Town area. An elevated security force presence has been reported along Aiwan-e-Saddar Road in the vicinity of the Governor's House. Hundreds of participants are attending the gathering. The protest action is the latest against the K-Electric corporation to denounce electricity shortages and high electricity prices. The party has vowed to continue their protest until their demands have been met and have urged the federal and provincial government to return millions of rupees to the Karachi people. Although the protest has been peaceful thus far, the possibility of confrontations cannot be discounted, particularly if police try to disperse the crowd. Such agitations could cause travel disruptions in the affected area.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to Karachi. Clients in Karachi are advised to avoid the demonstration as a precaution. Local media should be monitored for updates on the event. Allowances should be made for potential travel disruptions.


PHILIPPINES (Country risk rating: Medium); 28 April; Suspected gang-related grenade attack in Manila

At least 12 people were wounded in a grenade attack in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, late on 28 April. The incident occurred on Quezon Boulevard near the Quiapo Church, at approximately 22:50 local time. The authorities have indicated that the crime is likely related to gang violence in the area, and was not linked to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting, which concluded in Manila on 29 April.

Advice: Persons operating in the Manila area are advised to maintain a heightened level of personal security awareness at all times.


SOUTH KOREA (Country risk rating: Low); 1 and 2 May; Demonstrations expected in Seoul and other urban centres

Demonstrations are underway across South Korea on 1 May, which marks International Workers' Day (Labour Day), and are expected on 2 May, amid the start of ex-President Park Guen-hye's first court hearing. On 1 May, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) is staging demonstrations in urban centres countrywide. The largest gathering is taking place in the capital, Seoul, at Gwanghwamun Square. On 2 May, pro- and anti-Park supporters are likely to stage protests at the hearing at Seoul Central District Court, following Park's 17 April indictment on multiple charges. Park's lawyers have asked to delay the court hearing; however, currently it is still slated for 2 May. The upcoming demonstrations are likely to be well attended, and are expected to cause travel disruptions. An elevated security presence is anticipated at associated events. Low-level confrontations cannot be discounted; such incidents pose a risk to bystanders.

Advice: Clients in South Korea are advised to avoid all demonstrations as a standard precaution. Local media should be monitored for updates on further protests and protest locations. Allowances should be made for potential travel disruptions.


Europe and Russia

EUROPE; 1 May; May Day events expected region-wide

Activist, civic and trade unions are set to hold marches and demonstrations across Europe on 1 May. The events will be held to mark International Workers' Day, more commonly known as May Day or Labour Day, or to mark labour-related issues. While associated events are anticipated to take place in multiple urban centres, the largest events are expected in capital cities. In the UK, a mass march is expected from London's Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square from 12:00. In Paris, France, protesters will march from Place de la Republique to Place de la Bastille from 14:00. Labour unions in Rome, Italy, will host a demonstration and concert at the Piazza San Giovanni. Similarly, labour unions in Berlin will hold demonstrations at the Lausitzer Platz from 13:00 and the Oranienplatz from 14:00. Major May Day events are also expected in Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Moldova, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. It should be noted that a number of civic and activist groups are also expected to stage counter-demonstrations highlighting various socio-economic concerns. Events are set to be accompanied by an increased police presence. Although events are expected to pass peacefully, the possibility of isolated skirmishes cannot be discounted. Localised traffic disruptions should be anticipated due to the high numbers of attendees and the likely associated security force deployments.

Advice: Clients in the region on 1 May are advised to monitor local media for updates on related protests. All large street gatherings should be avoided as a standard precaution. In addition, allowances should be made for possible travel disruptions on the affected dates.


GERMANY (Country risk rating: Low); 1 May; Protests planned in Berlin's Kreuzberg area

A coalition of left-wing groups, LINKEN, has stated their intention to stage a demonstration in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin, in Germany, on 1 May. The protest is expected to commence at Michaelkirchplatz from 16:00 local time. The protest has been called to denounce an alleged poor education and other socio-economic issues. A separate demonstration has been called to protest the displacement of low-income residents, and is expected to take place from 12:00 to 22:00. Low-level confrontations between protesters and police, which pose an incidental risk to bystanders, are also possible. Travel disruptions at protest-affected sites should be anticipated.

Advice: Clients in Berlin are advised to avoid all demonstrations as a standard precaution. Allowances should be made for potential travel disruptions in Kreuzberg area on the day.


GREECE (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 May; Passenger ferry strike countrywide on May Day

A union-led passenger ferry strike is currently underway across Greece on 1 May. The agitation coincides with International Workers' Day, more commonly known as May Day or Labour Day. The strike action was called for to protect the rights and welfare of workers. Normal operations are expected to resume on 2 May. Union members have been striking against the government's planned reforms to labour laws and the operation of the civil service in recent weeks. The labour agitation is largely in response to ongoing economic difficulties and the government's associated austerity measures, which have widely impacted the public sector. The strike is expected to impact travellers using ferries for the duration of the day.

Advice: Clients who have booked or are intending to book tickets with a ferry operator on 1 May are advised to contact their travel provider for further information.


TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 1 May; (Update) Labour Day protests observed in major urban centres

Marches and rallies by trade unions and other civil society groups are expected to continue throughout the day on 1 May, in Turkey, to mark International Workers' Day, known as Labour Day. Members of the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK) and the Confederation of Public Sector Employees Unions (KESK) have planned protests in the capital, Ankara, and in Kutahya, Erzurum, Eskisehir and Istanbul. The demonstration in Istanbul will take place at Bakirkoy, due to the events not being sanctioned by police to occur at Taksim Square. Despite this, related rallies are likely at Taksim Square in defiance of the ban. A mass rally is expected to start at the same time in Ankara, at Kolej Square. Additional rallies are also anticipated in other urban centres and are likely to take place at public squares and prominent government buildings. Thousands are likely to attend the related events. Localised travel disruptions should be anticipated. Opponents to the 16 April referendum, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won, are also likely to stage protests throughout the day. The threat of violence at all political gatherings in Turkey is considered high. Clashes between agitators and police, and between demonstrators and counter-protesters, cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients in Turkey are advised to avoid all protests and street gatherings as a standard precaution. Local developments should be monitored closely. Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to the provinces of Diyarbakir, Van, Mardin, Sirnak and Hakkari due to the risk of conflict. Heightened caution is advised in Turkey's eastern and south eastern provinces.


Middle East and North Africa

ALGERIA / NIGER; 28 April; Shared border closed indefinitely

Authorities in Algeria announced the closure of the shared southern borders with Niger on 28 April. The border closure is in response to general insecurity in the region, as well as to mitigate the current elevated regional terrorist threat. Affected border areas are those in the Algeria's Tamanrasset province, including in Guezzam and Niger's Agadez region, including Assamakka; an increased security presence is expected in the vicinity of affected border areas. The closure is set to be in effect for an indefinite period. Land border crossings between the countries are periodically closed in response to security incidents and associated regional threats. It should be noted that in both countries, the shared border region is subject to elevated risks of crime, kidnapping and associated terrorist related-incidents. While the overall frequency of terrorist-related incidents in the shared border is generally sporadic, the underlying risk remains. The recent border closure is unlikely to have a considerable impact on the security situation in the shared border region, as the borders themselves remain porous and poorly policed. Security forces in Algeria are expected to remain on alert and associated increased security measures are expected to remain in place for the short- to medium-term, at least.

Advice: Due to the elevated threats of terrorism and kidnapping, all non-essential travel to Algeria's southern province of Tamanrasset is advised against. In addition, all travel to areas located within a 100km radius of Niger's shared borders with Algeria is advised against, due to high levels of kidnapping, crime and associated insecurity. Persons intending to travel via land borders between these two countries during the affected period are advised to contact the relevant authority prior to departure to check the status of the border crossings and alternative routes.


IRAQ (Country risk rating: High); 28 April; Casualties reported following blast in Baghdad

At least four people were killed and six more were wounded in a reported explosion in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, on 28 April. The source of the explosion is said to have been a remotely detonated car bomb. The explosion is said to have occurred along Abu Nawas Street, in the vicinity of a local traffic police compound in the city's Karrada district. The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has since claimed responsibility for the incident. The incident serves to underscore the extreme terrorism risk in the country, including in the capital, where such attacks are commonplace. Such attacks are also typically executed by militants linked to IS. The group is known to conduct low-level attacks, mass-casualty bombings and complex bomb and gun assaults, targeting state, Shiite Muslim and foreign interests. Due to the general insecurity in the capital and the persistent threat posed by the group, further such incidents are expected to persist.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Baghdad governorate. Persons operating in the governorate should do so with a security escort and should coordinate travel with the local authorities. Clients should avoid the recently affected area.


ISRAEL / PALESTINE; 30 April to 2 May; Elevated security expected for upcoming events

Israel is commemorating Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), the national day of public mourning, commemorating those who gave their lives in defence of the State of Israel, from the evening of 30 April to the evening of 1 May. Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) is expected to be observed from the evening of 1 May to the evening of 2 May. Yom Haatzmaut commemorates the declaration of independence of the State of Israel in 1948, making this the 69th anniversary. Various activities, associated rallies and musical performances are anticipated in all major urban centres across Israel. Israeli authorities are expected to heighten security in key areas countrywide ahead of and during the events in response to the threat posed by extremists. The increased levels of security are typically enforced in response to the threat posed by Palestinian or Islamist extremists. Additional police and military deployments are therefore anticipated near international borders, in major cities and near internal border crossing points between Palestinian and Israeli communities in the West Bank (Palestine). Israel may also impose restrictions on the movement of Palestinians or dual nationals from the West Bank into Israel during this period. In addition, pro-Israel demonstrations should be expected in the coming days. Protests against the state of Israel could also occur, including in the Gaza Strip. Should these proceed, Arab/Palestinian areas in Israel, Jerusalem or the West Bank are likely gathering areas. Disruptions to travel are anticipated in all major urban centres.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the Gaza Strip and against all non-essential travel to the West Bank due to poor security situations in these locations. Persons in Israel during the upcoming Memorial Day and Independence Day commemorations are advised to exercise vigilance in or near ports of entry, territorial borders and also at border crossing points. Clients intending to operate in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should monitor local media for updates on possible travel restrictions.


LEBANON (Country risk rating: High); 29 and 30 April; (Update) Clashes and protests reported in Beddawi refugee camp near Tripoli

Clashes and protests were reported in the Beddawi refugee camp near Tripoli, northern Lebanon , on 29 and 30 April. The Palestinian security committee, an armed group from the al-Shaabi family, clashed with wanted fugitives in the camp, when a Palestinian official in the camp was shot at, on 29 April. It is believed that the clashes resulted in the death of a Lebanese man, Ali Shatleh, who was accidentally shot in the ensuing gun battles on the day. Relatives of the deceased blocked roads with burning tyres to protest against Shatleh's death in the morning of 30 April. This caused disruptions to businesses and travel in the area. Security personnel were deployed to the camp to contain further clashes and disruptions. This latest escalation in violence follows clashes that took place between Palestinian security forces and a criminal gang in the Beddawi camp on 24 April. There are several Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. These areas are considered insecure. The presence of armed groups, some affiliated with legitimate Palestinian authorities, has undermined the overall security environment in these areas, which are generally off-limits to Lebanese security forces. Anticipate increased security measures in and around the Beddawi camp in the coming days. Additional patrols and checkpoints are likely, as are further clashes, as the security forces pursue the gang members who remain at large.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the numerous Palestinian refugee camps located across the country due to ongoing insecurity in these areas. Personnel operating in Tripoli should avoid the Beddawi camp area until the situation stabilises. Persons operating in or near Palestinian refugee camps should be accompanied by a local security escort.


PALESTINE; 28 April; (Update) Clashes reported in West Bank

Clashes between Israeli security forces and protesters were reported across the West Bank (Palestine) on 28 April. Israeli forces reportedly used teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition in the confrontations, which erupted following Friday prayers in multiple areas, including Hebron, Qalqilia, Salfit, Qalqilya, Nablus, Ramallah and Al-Bireh districts. Several people were wounded in the clashes. The protests were associated with the so-called 'Day of Rage', organised by Fatah, the dominant political party in the Palestinian Authority (State of Palestine), in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Some reports indicate that at least six people were wounded, while other reports claim the number of casualties to be at least 28.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to the West Bank. Heightened caution is advised in East Jerusalem, including the Old City, due to the threats of civil unrest and terrorism. Persons in the West Bank and Palestinian majority areas in Israel are advised to avoid all street protests and concentrations of security forces as a standard precaution.


SAUDI ARABIA (Country risk rating: High); 27 April; Casualties after mine and rocket attack in Jizan

At least two Saudi soldiers were killed following a simultaneous mine explosion and rocket attack in Jizan province, Saudi Arabia, on 27 April. The soldiers were killed while patrolling a border area in an unspecified part of the province. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it is likely to have been carried out by Yemen-based Houthi rebels. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition, allied to the internationally recognised Yemeni president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, has been involved in Yemen's ongoing civil war targeting Houthi militants aligned with a group of former Yemeni military forces loyal to the former president, Ali Saleh. Saudi Arabia's role in the conflict has increased the risk to persons in the border regions with Yemen, as Houthi elements occasionally fire mortars and Katyusha rockets, as well as scud missiles, into Saudi Arabia's Jiza, Asir and Najran border regions. Missile and rocket attacks are usually intercepted by Saudi forces or explode without causing casualties; however, those countermeasures are largely ineffective against many of the shorter-range mortars and rockets more commonly used by Houthi rebels along the border. Insecurity in these areas is expected to persist in the near-term, as further Houthi assaults into southern Saudi Arabia are anticipated. It should be noted that this conflict generally impacts the immediate border area only and does not directly affect the overall security environment.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to within 10km of the shared border with Yemen and against all non-essential travel to a further 20km beyond the 10km extreme-risk zone, due to the risks of conflict and terrorism. As the recent attack in Jizan province demonstrates, clients should be aware that the missile threat occasionally extends beyond these advisory areas. Persons travelling in this area should do so with a security escort.


SYRIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 28 April; Rival groups clash near Damascus

Media reports indicate that clashes between rival non-state armed groups near Syria's capital, Damascus, left at least 40 people dead and 70 others wounded on 28 April. The fighting, which occurred between the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group against al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) and Faylaq al-Rahman, took place near Qaboun, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. Jaysh al-Islam has claimed that the fighting broke out when the rival groups prevented their convoys from reinforcing Qaboun, which has been subject to heavy bombardments and advances by pro-regime forces in recent days. Fighting between the regime, its allies and several non-state armed groups, as well as infighting between rival armed groups, is ongoing in several areas, including on the outskirts of Damascus city. The Syrian regime maintains control of central Damascus; however, the southern, eastern and north eastern peripheries of the city are under the control of various non-state armed groups. Fighting is expected to continue in the near- to medium-term. Rebels battling the government periodically carry out attacks, including mortar and rocket fire, and occasional bombings into or towards the city centre, in response to ongoing regime bombardment, and the need to force concessions from the regime.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Syria, including Damascus. Persons operating in the Damascus area should ideally be accompanied by a security escort and have significant residential and personal security measures in place. Travel should also be preceded by a full itinerary-specific risk assessment. Consideration should be given to avoiding travel in conflict-ridden areas surrounding the capital, particularly districts and towns north east and east of the city centre.


Sub-Saharan Africa

BURUNDI (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 April; US Embassy-issued warning regarding march in Bujumbura

The US Embassy in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, issued a warning related to a planned activist-led march in the capital on 29 April. Agitators gathered at the Guido Maria Conforti Church, located in the capital's Kamenge area, before proceeding along Boulevard du 28 Novembre to the offices of the Humanitarian Work for the Protection and Development of Children in Difficulty (OPDE), located in the Kigobe area. The action was launched to commemorate the 45th anniversary of a major outbreak of ethnic violence that left tens of thousands of Burundians dead in 1972. The march concluded between des Etats-Unis Avenue and Quincaillerie Avenue. Although the march came to a close without major incident, an elevated security force presence and significant disruptions to travel were reported in the affected areas.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Burundi due to the uncertain political situation. Persons in the country should avoid all large street gatherings and concentrations of security forces as a standard precaution.


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (Country risk rating: High); 19 April; Fatal clashes reported in Kasai and Nord-Kivu

At least 20 people were killed following communal clashes between the Lulua-Luba and Chokwe-Pende communities in Mungamba, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s Kasai region, on 19 April. Although the catalyst for the violence remains unclear, unconfirmed reports indicate that the Chokwe-Pende have accused the Lulua-Luba of supporting Kamwina Nsapu militiamen in the neighbouring Kasai Central province. Since 27 April, clashes between two factions of the Nyatura Mai-Mai were sparked over a disputed piece of land in the village of Bweru, located in the country's Nord-Kivu province, killing at least 29 people. In light of the aforementioned violence, a generally elevated level of communal tension is likely in the affected areas over the near-term. Further hostilities, including retaliatory attacks, remain possible in the coming days. It should be noted that local authorities may implement travel restrictions, including curfews, in order to mitigate the threat of further clashes. Although foreign nationals are not typically targeted during incidents of communal conflict, there remains an incidental risk to all persons in the vicinity of such violence.

Advice: Due to militant activity, clients operating in Kasai are advised against all non-essential travel to within 50km of the neighbouring Kasai Central province's borders. All travel to the eastern Nord-Kivu province is advised against. Persons should avoid areas recently affected by violence, as well as concentrations of security forces, as a standard precaution. Clients are further advised to monitor local developments closely and ensure that robust travel, residential and personal security measures are in place.


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (Country risk rating: High); 30 April; Security operation reported in Ituri province

A security operation was reported in the rural commune of Mahagi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s Ituri Interim Administration province, on 30 April. The security operation was launched in response to disruptions to travel and business operations, following the killing of two shopkeepers by unidentified gunmen dressed in military uniform, late on 29 April. Local media indicated that a number of youths took to the streets and barricaded the main road of the town and burned down public buildings in response to these deaths. The authorities deployed security personnel to contain and quell any further disruptions and violence. Increased security, including the cordoning off of streets and an increased security force presence, is expected in the vicinity of Mahagi for the immediate-term. Associated travel disruptions and road closures should be expected. Due to the nature of the incident, further disruptions, including protests and shutting down of businesses, should be anticipated in the coming days; the possibility of low-level acts of violence and confrontations between protesters and security forces cannot be discounted.

Advice: Due to various security concerns, including the ongoing threat posed by various armed groups, all travel to the Ituri Interim Administration province is advised against. Persons currently in the region despite this advisory should ensure that robust travel, residential and personal security measures are in place.


ETHIOPIA (Country risk rating: High); 24 April to 1 May; Series of low-level grenade attacks in Gondar

A spate of low-level grenade attacks in Gondar in recent weeks serves to underscore the generally elevated insecurity in Ethiopia's Amhara region, wherein the city is located. In the most recent incident, at least five people were wounded when a grenade exploded at the Lodge du Chateau on 24 April. Further reports indicate that a foreign national was among those wounded in the attack; however, the identity of this person has yet to be verified. Details regarding the motivation and perpetrator(s) of these attacks remain unclear and under investigation; there have been no official claims of responsibility as yet. It should be noted that, while sporadic and low-scale grenade attacks have been taking place in the Amhara region since January, there has been a notable uptick in such events in Gondar. In addition to the above-mentioned incident, authorities have recorded at least three other grenade attacks in Gondar since early April, which have seemingly been directed at private residences or hotels popular with tourists. Although the reason for these attacks is currently unknown, local media have indicated that they may be related to underlying political tensions in the country. Gondar served as a notable hotspot for anti-government unrest in 2016, and ongoing antagonism towards the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) may be manifesting in targeted attacks against the city's tourism sector as a means of sabotage. Regardless of the motivation, further grenade attacks are possible in Gondar in the near- to medium-term. These pose an indiscriminate risk to locals and foreign nationals alike.

Advice: Clients are advised against all non-essential travel to the Amhara region, including Gondar, due to general insecurity. Persons currently operating in Gondar should monitor local security developments closely and report all suspicious persons, packages and/or vehicles to the authorities immediately.


GUINEA (Country risk rating: High); 24 April to 1 May; (Update) Further violent unrest in Boke

Further incidents of violent unrest are possible in Boke, located in its eponymous prefecture in Guinea, over the coming days. The unrest broke out on 24 April over various grievances, including high pollution levels and power cuts that are continually impacting the area, prompting the authorities to deploy additional security personnel to the area. Nonetheless, renewed violence and acts of vandalism and destruction of property were reported from 27 April. Protesters also erected roadblocks across various parts of the city. Media reports indicate that several people have been wounded and at least one person has been killed in the violence. Further information is unavailable. Guinea continues to face significant issues related to the distribution of electricity services to most of its population, particularly those in rural areas. Indeed, the urban-rural electricity service disparity in Guinea is considered to be one of the most pronounced when compared to other countries in the region. Due to ongoing challenges, including poor and run-down electrical infrastructure, authorities in the country are unlikely to resolve the power supply issues in the near-term. As such, further related protests cannot be discounted in the short- to medium-term. It should be noted that all protest activity in the country carries an elevated risk of violence, particularly in light of the fact that security personnel have deployed to the area to stabilise the situation. Localised travel disruptions are anticipated in the vicinity of the affected site(s).

Advice: Persons in Boke are advised to avoid all large street gatherings and concentration of security forces as a general precaution. Allowances should be made for potential travel disruptions. Local media should be monitored for updates on protest locations and associated activities.


NIGERIA (Country risk rating: High); 27 April; Military attack reported in Borno State

Casualties were reported following a militant attack in Nigeria's Borno State, on 27 April. Militants said to be aligned with the extremist group, Boko Haram, reportedly targeted a military convoy in the vicinity of a local village, while traveling to a military base in Dambao. Militants are said to have rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a tank and a gun battle ensued. At least five military personnel are said to have been killed and 40 more were wounded in the incident. Additional security forces have since been deployed in the area and associated counterterrorism raids and patrols are expected to persist in response to the recent incident. The incident underscores the elevated threat of terrorism in Nigeria, especially the country's north eastern states, such as Borno State. There are a number of non-state armed groups located in these states, of which Boko Haram is the most prevalent. Despite the ongoing counterterrorism operations by the Nigerian military and its regional partners, Boko Haram continues to maintain a strong operational presence across the country. Due the persistent threat posed by the group, further attacks, which may take the form of armed raids, bombings and kidnappings, targeting both state and civilian interests, are expected to persist.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to a number of north eastern states, including Borno, due to the threat of terrorism stemming from Boko Haram. Persons in the area should implement robust personal and residential security precautions at all times.