1 June 2015

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News summary

COLOMBIA - Suspected militant attack in Tibu area
AFGHANISTAN - Bomb attacks reported in Lashkar Gah and Kabul
AUSTRALIA - Countrywide public sector strike to cause disruptions
EAST TIMOR - Heightened security in Dili
INDIA - Increased security in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of Amarnath Yatra
INDONESIA - Plane crash in Medan
JAPAN - Disruptions to rail services between Tokyo and Osaka
JAPAN - Alert issued following volcanic activity at Mount Hakone, Tokyo
PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Civil unrest reported in Madang
SOLOMON ISLANDS - Tropical Storm Raquel to bring inclement weather
BELGIUM / FRANCE / UNITED KINGDOM - Eurostar services resume
FRANCE - Union-led strike set to cause countrywide flight disruptions
EGYPT - (Update) Elevated security in response to protest risk and recent acts of terrorism
No significant incidents



COLOMBIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; Suspected militant attack in Tibu area

At least two police officials were killed by unidentified assailants in the Tibu area of Norte de Santander department in Colombia on 30 June. The police were reportedly assisting a group of civilians when the gunmen opened fire; at least one civilian was injured. Militant attacks targeting state personnel and interests have escalated since FARC lifted its unilateral ceasefire with the government in May. The majority of incidents have occurred in rural and remote areas of departments in the south west, such as Cauca, Choco and Narino, and in the north east, such as Arauca and Norte de Santander. The government has responded with a number of air strikes and ground operations against suspected rebel positions across the country. Nonetheless, negotiations to end the decades-long armed conflict are expected to continue. Clients should note that future incidents are likely to remain concentrated in rural and remote areas of the country. Due to high levels of insecurity, partly as a result of the presence of non-state armed groups and the associated risks of kidnapping, conflict and terrorism, clients are advised against all non-essential travel to rural and remote areas of Colombia. Persons travelling outside of the country's main and relatively secure urban and tourist centres (Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Medellin and Santiago de Cali), including in secondary cities and towns and on road routes between major destinations, are advised to consider enhanced security measures, including the provision of a security escort.

Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 June; Bomb attacks reported in Lashkar Gah and Kabul

At least two people were killed and 51 injured as a result of a suicide bombing near police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, located in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, on 30 June. Three unknown assailants reportedly attempted to enter the building after the bomb detonated. Police subsequently killed one of the gunmen; his accomplices fled the scene. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Additionally, a suicide bombing was reported in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on the same day. Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least nine people were killed and 19 wounded after a NATO convoy was targeted by a suicide bomber on the main airport road. The incident occurred in the vicinity of the US Embassy at approximately 13:20 local time. The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack. An elevated security presence should be expected in the affected areas in the near-term. There is an extreme threat of terrorism in Afghanistan stemming from several Islamist organisations, such as the Taleban; other groups, including the Haqqani network, have also claimed responsibility for blasts in the past. Further such incursions cannot be discounted. Due to a number of security concerns, all travel to Afghanistan is advised against. Maximum travel, personal and residential security protocols should be implemented at all times. All movement should be conducted during daylight hours only and in the presence of a security escort.

AUSTRALIA (Country risk rating: Low); 30 June; Countrywide public sector strike to cause disruptions

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called for countrywide strike action in Australia on 1 July. Customs and immigration workers affiliated with the public sector trade union are scheduled to conduct a two-hour work stoppage beginning at 09:00 local time. The protest action is expected to disrupt services at government agencies, seaports and international airports, including facilities in the capital, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin. CPSU has called for civil action in response to what it deems as harsh labour measures being implemented by the Abbot Government; labour-related policies effected by the government have resulted in the loss of more than 17,000 public sector jobs. The government plans to introduce additional policy measures that will impact on the wages and rights of public sector workers. Clients travelling to or from Australia on 1 July are advised to contact their travel provider to confirm the status of their flight(s). Furthermore, service delays should be expected at the affected government agencies.

EAST TIMOR (Country risk rating: High); 29 June; Heightened security in Dili

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement advising travellers to exercise a high degree of caution amid increased security in a number of sub districts of East Timor's capital, Dili, on 29 June. The local authorities in Dili advised against travel to the Lautem, Laga, Baguia and Loru sub districts. Checkpoints and increased security measures have been implemented in these locations. The heightened security measures have been implemented in response to a number of ongoing security concerns in the capital. There is a persistent risk of criminal militancy in parts of East Timor, particularly in the aforementioned sub districts which have a history of violent incidents. Additionally, anti-government demonstrations have been called by ex-revolutionary leaders such as Cornelio Gama (also known as L-7), leader of the National Democratic Union of Timorese Resistance (UNDERTIM), on numerous occasions. Low-level violence and unrest have been reported at unsanctioned gatherings; as such, the threat of violent confrontations and civil unrest at all politically motivated protests is elevated and, considering that gatherings are likely to be unsanctioned, police may forcibly disperse protesters. Clients in Dili are advised to monitor local media for updates on possible protest action and security incidents. Clients should also avoid all large street gatherings as a precaution against civil unrest and exercise heightened caution.

INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 2 July to 29 August; Increased security in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of Amarnath Yatra

The annual Hindu pilgrimage, Amarnath Yatra, will take place in the Anantnag district of
India's Jammu and Kashmir state from 2 July to 29 August. Security has been heightened along the two most commonly used routes to travel to the worship site, the Amarnath cave, which is located approximately 140km from Kashmir's summer capital of Srinagar. The routes transit through Pahalgam and Baltal, both located in the Anantnag district. Additional security precautions have been implemented in Jammu. Amarnath Yatra sees thousands of worshipers make their way to the Amarnath cave to pay their respects to the god Shiva. Security in the region has been considerably heightened amid concerns that Islamist extremists or Kashmiri separatist groups may seek to target pilgrims; security is expected to remain heightened for the duration of the pilgrimage. Localised disruptions should be anticipated in all the affected areas, particularly Anantnag district. Due to a number of ongoing security concerns, all non-essential travel to Jammu and Kashmir (except the eastern Ladakh region) is advised against. Persons already in the region are advised to avoid all large gatherings of pilgrims and concentrations of security personnel; heightened security measures and subsequent travel disruptions should also be anticipated.

INDONESIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; Plane crash in Medan

A military aircraft crashed in a residential area of Medan, located in Indonesia's North Sumatra province, on 30 June. The aircraft, the C-130 Hercules, which departed Suwondo Air Base in Medan and was due to arrive in Tanjung Pinang in the Riau Islands province, reported technical concerns shortly after takeoff before crash-landing in an unspecified location. Unconfirmed reports suggest as many as 141 deaths. Emergency services were deployed to the area where traffic was diverted; traffic disruptions are expected to persist while clean-up and repatriation operations continue. Associated travel disruptions, including road closures near the affected area should be expected. Clients in Medan are advised to monitor local media regarding updates on the situation and should avoid the affected areas.

JAPAN (Country risk rating: Low); 30 June; Disruptions to rail services between Tokyo and Osaka

Disruptions to scheduled rail services between Japan's capital, Tokyo, and Osaka, located on Honshu Island, were reported on 30 June after two passengers committed self-immolation. At least nine passengers were injured as a result of smoke that filled many of the carriages. The train remained stationary between Yokohama and Odawara stations for at least three hours. Although disruptions to rail services and residual disruptions were experienced, regular schedules have since resumed.

JAPAN (Country risk rating: Low); 30 June; Alert issued following volcanic activity at Mount Hakone, Tokyo

Authorities issued a volcano alert for Japan's Mount Hakone, located south west of Tokyo, on 30 June. The valley, including the touristic Owakudani hot springs resort, was subsequently evacuated. The alert and evacuation followed a minor eruption that resulted in a haze of volcanic ash. Although the eruption measured an estimated magnitude 3.3 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, further eruptions are likely. The Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed that the area has been venting unusual amounts of steam in recent months and further volcanic activity is expected. Japan is prone to a number of natural hazards due to its location along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'. The country is believed to have over 100 active volcanoes spread throughout its islands, including near populated areas. In the event of volcanic activity, travel disruptions and evacuations are possible. Clients in the affected area are advised to avoid travel to exclusion zones implemented by the local authorities. Clients are further advised to monitor media broadcasts or the Japan Meteorological Agency website for changes or updates to advisories.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA (Country risk rating: High); 30 June; Civil unrest reported in Madang

Civil unrest, including acts of vandalism, rioting and looting, was reported amid a protest in Madang, the capital of Papua New Guinea's Madang province, on 30 June. Asian-owned shops and businesses were reportedly targeted during an anti-capitalism demonstration at Bates oval. Police attempted to disperse the protesters by firing warning shots; at least one person was killed and four injured. Security has been heightened across the affected area and business operations suspended. It should be noted that all protest action in Papua New Guinea carries a high threat of violence, and although not necessarily directed at foreign nationals, the incidental threat remains credible. Anti-Asian or, more specifically, anti-Chinese riots and protests have been reported in parts of Papua New Guinea in the past, most notably the capital, Port Moresby, Lae and areas in the eastern Highlands. Moreover, looting is frequently reported during civil disturbances. During such, police may block roads and establish checkpoints in the affected area as a security precaution; these are likely to result in localised travel disruptions. Heightened security measures are likely to remain in place for the near-term and the implementation of travel restrictions or curfews remains possible, should unrest persist. Given the antagonistic relationship between police and the protesters, as well as the prevailing anti-Asian sentiment, tensions are likely to remain elevated. Further protests as well as business and travel disruptions are possible in the near-term. Clients currently in Madang are advised to maintain a low profile at this time, monitor local developments closely and avoid all protest action and concentrations of security forces.

SOLOMON ISLANDS (Country risk rating: Low); 2 July; Tropical Storm Raquel to bring inclement weather

Tropical Storm Raquel is forecast to bring inclement weather to the Solomon Islands on 2 July. The storm is expected to track close to or make landfall near the Choiseul province and bring severe weather to the area. The Solomon Islands Meteorological Services have issues storm warnings; strong winds and heavy rain are expected to affect the Malaita, Isabel, Western, Central and Guadalcanal provinces in the immediate-term. The storm system will likely bring heavy rains conducive to flooding and gale force winds to the affected area. Tropical Storm Raquel is currently reported to be approximately 355km north of the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara, and is moving in a south-westerly direction. The adverse weather is likely to cause disruptions to air, road and maritime travel. Disruptions to public utilities, particularly electricity and water provision, should also be anticipated. Persons currently in or intending to travel to the Solomon Islands are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the authorities. Clients are advised to anticipate travel disruptions and contact their travel provider for further information regarding their travel plans. Furthermore, caution is advised in low-lying and coastal areas due to the threat of flooding.

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Europe and Russia

BELGIUM / FRANCE / UNITED KINGDOM; 30 June; Eurostar services resume

Operations resumed on the high-speed Eurostar rail service on 1 July. Services were suspended on 30 June when protesting ferry workers occupied and blockaded the Eurotunnel in Calais, France, resulting in a disruption of services between France, the UK and Belgium. It should be noted that delays are expected on 1 July due to the backlog of scheduled trains. The protest was organised in opposition to plans for MyFerryLink to sell a number of operational ferries to competitor DFDS without assuring unions that employees would be protected. As the workers' demands have not been met, further protest action in the near-term remains a possibility. Persons intending to utilise Eurostar services in the near-term are advised to contact their travel provider or rail operator to confirm service schedules.

FRANCE (Country risk rating: Medium); 2 to 3 July; Union-led strike set to cause countrywide flight disruptions

Unionised air traffic controllers represented by the National Union of Air Traffic Controllers (SNCTA) and Force Ouvriere (FO) are set to launch a countrywide strike across France on 2 and 3 July. Disruptions and possible flight cancellations should be anticipated during the industrial action called in response to several grievances, including disputes over working conditions and wages. The strike is set to affect both international and domestic flights at airports across the country. It should be noted that, as negotiations are still ongoing between the unions and the government, the upcoming strike may be cancelled or postponed with little to no notice. An earlier strike action organised by the Unsa and CGT unions was cancelled following successful negotiations. Persons intending to make use of air transport services in France on 2 and 3 July are advised to contact their travel provider or airline for further information on the status of their flight(s).

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Middle East and North Africa

EGYPT (Country risk rating: High); 29 June to 3 July; (Update) Elevated security in response to protest risk and recent acts of terrorism

There is an elevated risk of an increase in opposition political protests across Egypt between 30 June and 3 July, coinciding with the anniversary of 2013 political events that led to the military takeover of the Islamist-dominated government. The risk is particularly significant on Friday 3 July, a traditional protest day in Egypt. Security has already been increased in places; recent reports suggest that additional security personnel were deployed to public squares countrywide on 30 June. The measures are in response to the protest threat and are also believed to be a reaction to recent bomb attacks. On 29 June, a car bomb in the Heliopoils area of the capital, Cairo, killed state prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. On 30 June, a bomb detonated in the vicinity of the Nakheel shopping centre in 6 October City, killing three and wounding three others. Elsewhere, a police official was shot and killed near the Wax Museum in Cairo's Helwan area, while in Beni Suef, gunmen fatally shot another officer and wounded four others when they opened fire on a police vehicle. An escalation in acts of violence against state officials and facilities is likely to coincide with an increase in anti-government protests over the near-term. Clients in Egypt are advised to monitor local developments closely, avoid all street protests and limit time spent in the vicinity of state personnel and facilities.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

No significant incidents

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