4 January 2016


News summary

MULTIPLE COUNTRIES - Further protests in response to executions in Saudi Arabia anticipated
 
COLOMBIA - Red alert warning issued countrywide due to low water levels
HAITI - Foreign peacekeepers killed in Haiti
PARAGUAY - Authorities order evacuation of Alberdi
UNITED STATES - (Update) Adverse weather conditions persist in the South and Midwest
UNITED STATES - Security elevated in several cities ahead of New Year period
UNITED STATES - Shooting at Mall in Colorado Springs
VENEZUELA - PSUV protest to be held in Caracas
 
AFGHANISTAN - Armed attacks in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif
AUSTRALIA - Adverse weather warnings issued in Victoria state
BANGLADESH - Rival rallies to be held countrywide
CHINA - (Update) Severe smog alert issued for multiple provinces
FIJI / TONGA - Tropical Storm Ula affecting islands
INDIA - Casualties reported following earthquake in Manipur state
INDIA - Militant attack on military base in Pathankot continues
JAPAN - Brazilian national killed in Handa
PHILIPPINES - (Update) Military operation results in casualties in Jolo
 
DENMARK / SWEDEN - Identity checks to disrupt international travel
FRANCE - SNCM ferry services to be affected by strike
GERMANY - New Year's terrorism plot foiled
GERMANY - PEGIDA rallies expected in Dresden and Leipzig
TURKEY - Heavy snow prompts flight cancellations in Istanbul
UNITED KINGDOM - (Update) Further adverse weather warnings for multiple regions
UNITED KINGDOM - Train services in Wales to be affected by strike
 
EGYPT - Militant attack results in fatalities in Rafah
IRAQ - Civilians killed by Islamic State militants in Ramadi
IRAQ - Casualties in Tikrit due to suicide bombings
ISRAEL - Shooting in Tel Aviv leaves fatalities
SYRIA - Bombings in Al-Qamishli result in casualties
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Guests evacuated amid fire at Dubai hotel
 
ANGOLA - Ongoing bus strike in Luanda
BURUNDI - Grenade attacks result in casualties in Bujumbura
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Civillians killed by militia in North Kivu
ETHIOPIA - Fatal grenade attack on local university in Gedeo
KENYA - Security heightened in coastal areas over New Year period
SOMALIA - Shooting incident in Mogadishu results in casualties
 






 

Global

MULTIPLE COUNTRIES; 2 to 4 January; Further protests in response to executions in Saudi Arabia anticipated

The execution of 47 detained activists in Saudi Arabia, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric, has sparked protests in various countries since 2 January. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was arrested following protests calling for political reform in 2011; his detention and subsequent conviction triggered significant anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia. In addition to recent protests in Saudi Arabia's predominantly Shiite Eastern Province, protests took place between 2 and 3 January in the Shiite-majority areas of Bahrain (Jidhafs, Malkiya and Al-Daih), Iraq (Karbala), Iran (Tehran and Mashhad), Turkey (Istanbul), Pakistan (Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Islambad), India (Srinagar) and various others. These were largely peaceful; however, protests in Iran turned violent when protesters stormed the Saudi consulate in Mashhad and the embassy in Tehran. Authorities in Saudi Arabia demanded on 3 January that Iranian diplomats leave the country within 48 hours. Further protests in response to the executions are anticipated globally, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, India and Pakistan. These are likely to centre on Shiite-majority areas or near Saudi interests. The risk of violence at all upcoming protests cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients travelling or operating in the above-mentioned locations should contact their security provider for area-specific risk assessments. All street protests and concentrations of security forces should be avoided as a standard precaution.


Americas

COLOMBIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 December 2015; Red alert warning issued countrywide due to low water levels

Authorities in Colombia issued a red alert warning for low water levels in the country's Magdalena and Cauca rivers on 30 December 2015. The two rivers serve as a water source for 23 of the country's provinces. Stringent water restriction measures are expected to be implemented in the short-term. A fifth of the country's municipalities have already implemented measures to ration the use of water. The low water levels are also anticipated to prompt the implementation of measures to ration the use of energy in the near-term, as a large percentage of Colombia's energy supply is produced hydro-electrically. The low water levels have been attributed to overall dry conditions, as well as the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has resulted in higher than normal temperatures.

Advice: Clients in Colombia are advised to monitor local media for updates on the situation and any advisories. Furthermore, clients are advised against all non-essential travel to rural and remote areas of Colombia, specifically to areas outside of secure urban and tourist centres (Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Medellin and Santiago de Cali) due to high levels of insecurity.


HAITI (Country risk rating: High); 29 December 2015; Foreign peacekeepers killed in Haiti

Authorities have confirmed that two Rwandan police force personnel serving in the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were killed in Cap Haitien, Haiti, on 29 December. The victims were reportedly shot dead in their homes by unidentified assailants. The incident underscores the high risk of crime, including violent crime, in Haiti. While the motive for the incident is unknown, it should be noted that housebreaking is common in major urban centres, and is usually accompanied by violence and kidnapping; the risk is less significant in rural areas. The crime situation is exacerbated by the general lawlessness and the inability of the local authorities to respond to emergency situations.

Advice: Clients in Haiti are advised to ensure that personal, travel and residential security measures are in place at all times. These include being alert to suspicious behaviour, ensuring accommodation is secure and being prepared to let belongings go in the event of attempted theft.


PARAGUAY (Country risk rating: Medium); 31 December 2015 to 4 January; Authorities order evacuation of Alberdi

Authorities in Paraguay issued an evacuation order for the town of Alberdi, in the south western Neembecu department, on 31 December 2015. The evacuation order, which has affected over 7,000 people, comes ahead of the anticipated flooding of the Paraguay River due to the passage of a major storm surge. Although Alberdi has a flood levee, the levee is poorly maintained and recent inspections revealed significant weaknesses. Authorities expect the levee to burst as the storm surge, which has pushed the Paraguay River 9.65 metres higher than its normal level, passes the town. The flooding is believed to be influenced by the El Nino weather phenomenon that has increased the frequency and intensity of rains since early December. Unseasonably heavy rains in mountainous regions of Paraguay have increased the water levels of the Paraguay River, causing the river to burst its banks in numerous places, resulting in significant flooding. Indeed, at least 65,000 people were displaced in the capital, Asuncion, when the river overcame the city's flood defences. The phenomenon is expected to persist in the coming days; as such, disruptions to road and rail travel, as well as amenities including power and water supply, are expected to persist.

Advice: Persons in the affected areas are advised to follow the directives of the local authorities and monitor local media for any updates. Allowances should be made for disruptions to travel, as well as utilities such as electricity and water; travellers should confirm the status of roads with the local authorities prior to departure. Persons in the affected areas should keep clear of fallen or damaged power lines and infrastructure.


UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: High); 26 December 2015 to 10 January; (Update) Adverse weather conditions persist in the South and Midwest

Flooding continues to affect parts of states in the United States' South and Midwest regions. At least 27 people have been killed across the regions in vehicle-related accidents as a result of the flooding since 26 December 2015. In addition to destroying hundreds of structures, the flooding has resulted in significant disruptions to rail and road travel, including on major highways. Significant flooding is still expected for the lower Mississippi River until mid-January. Evacuation orders have been issued for residents along parts of the Mississippi River. Areas at risk of being affected by flooding along the river include parts of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. The adverse conditions are expected to persist until 10 January, at least. There are also concerns that conditions may worsen as floodwaters spill over federal levees. Weather conditions may prompt further road closures in the affected areas. In addition to disruptions to road and rail travel, disruptions to air traffic as well as to amenities (power) should be anticipated.

Advice: Clients travelling in the affected areas are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories. Scheduled transport services should be reconfirmed prior to departure with a travel or transport provider.


UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 31 December 2015; Security elevated in several cities ahead of New Year period

Authorities in the US implemented increased security measures in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington DC over the New Year period amid an elevated terrorism threat in these cities. Additional security forces were deployed to key sites in these cities, including Times Square in New York City and the Rose Bowl stadium outside of Los Angeles. The increased security was viewed as largely precautionary; however, one person was arrested following an alleged attempt to launch a terror attack in New York City on 31 December 2015. It should be noted that there is a medium threat of terrorism in the US stemming from both domestic and foreign terrorist organisations as well as self-radicalised individuals.

Advice: Persons operating in the US are advised to exercise heightened situational awareness in crowded venues as a standard precaution. Any suspicious packages and/or persons should immediately be reported to the police.


UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 2 January; Shooting at Mall in Colorado Springs

A shooting at a shopping mall in Colorado Springs, in the US, left two people wounded on 2 January. The incident took place at the Citadel Mall at approximately 19:30 local time. The motive for the shooting is unknown; authorities are investigating the incident.

Advice: Clients in the US are advised to immediately report all suspicious persons, packages and vehicles to the local authorities.


VENEZUELA (Country risk rating: High); 5 January; PSUV protest to be held in Caracas

The ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) has called for a demonstration in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, on 5 January. Participants will gather at Plaza Venezuela from 09:00 local time. The protest will coincide with the installation of the new National Assembly. Legislative elections held in December 2015 saw opposition party Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) take the majority of seats in the country's National Assembly. The demonstration is expected to be well attended; as such, localised disruptions should be anticipated in the vicinity of Plaza Venezuela. MUD counter-protests are also possible on the day. The possibility of low-level skirmishes between opposing groups, as well as between protesters and police forces, cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients in Caracas on 5 January are advised to avoid all street protests as a standard precaution and make allowances for localised disruptions.


Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 1 and 3 January; Armed attacks in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif

At least two people were killed and 15 others wounded when a car bomb detonated at a restaurant in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on 1 January. The incident took place outside the Le Jardin restaurant, which is known to be popular with government officials and foreign nationals. In addition, the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, located in the country's northern Balkh province, was attacked late on 3 January. Unconfirmed reports suggest that four heavily armed gunmen attempted to storm the building from a nearby house. At least two of the gunmen were killed by security forces; all Indian consular staff members were reportedly left unharmed. Further details regarding the incident are currently unavailable; however, authorities are said to be searching for possible accomplices in the area. While there have been no immediate claims of responsibility for the 3 January attack, the attack on 1 January was orchestrated by militants aligned with the Taleban. There is an extreme threat of terrorism throughout Afghanistan, stemming from a number of Islamist extremist organisations, of which the Taleban is the most prevalent. The group has carried out numerous small-scale and mass-casualty attacks targeting both state and civilian interests in the country. Further such incidents are likely to persist.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Afghanistan due to numerous security concerns. Persons in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif are advised to remain in a secure location, minimise movement as far as practically possible and avoid recently affected areas.


AUSTRALIA (Country risk rating: Low); 3 to 6 January; Adverse weather warnings issued in Victoria state

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued a severe thunderstorm warning for parts of Victoria state, in south east Australia, on 3 January; the warning is set to expire on 6 January. A severe storm system is expected to impact on the Mallee, Northern Country, North Central and Wimmera districts, as well as parts of the Central, South West and North East districts of the state. The adverse weather is expected to bring heavy rain, strong winds and flooding to the affected areas. Australia is prone to inclement weather, particularly from October to April. Storm systems generally bring heavy rainfall to the country's eastern regions and have caused major flooding in the past. Adverse weather conditions in the affected areas may result in travel delays and disruptions to electricity supply due to possible infrastructural damage. Utility disruptions to water and telecommunications are also possible.

Advice: Persons in the affected areas are advised to follow the directives of the local authorities, and monitor local media or the BOM website for updates. Allowances should be made for potential disruptions to travel, as well as to utilities such as electricity and water. Persons in the affected areas should keep clear of fallen or damaged power lines and infrastructure.


BANGLADESH (Country risk rating: High); 5 January; Rival rallies to be held countrywide

Bangladesh's ruling Awami League (AL), as well as the largest opposition group, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have organised numerous rallies across the country on 5 January to mark the anniversary of the January 2014 election. Both groups have called for rallies at the Suhrawardy Udyan memorial in the capital, Dhaka. The BNP announced that should they be prevented from gathering in the area, the rally will be moved to the party's office on Bangabandhu Avenue. Other AL rallies are set to begin at 14:30 local time and will be held in front of Purabi Cinema Hall at Mirpur 12, Shyampur-Jurain rail gate, Jatrabari grounds, Rampura petrol pump, Dhanmondi 32 bus stop, Mirpur 1 intersection, Lalbagh, Gulshan, Sutrapur, Tejgaon, Sabujbagh, Khilgaon, Uttara, Kamrangirchar, Kafrul, Bangabandhu Avenue in Gulistan as well as at the Mohammadpur Town Hall in Dhaka. Protests are also likely to be held elsewhere in the country. The January 2014 election was boycotted by the BNP, resulting in a landslide victory for the AL. Since its boycott, the BNP has been excluded from the national legislative process, causing political tensions in the country to remain high. The possibility of violence at the upcoming events cannot be discounted; there is a risk of sporadic clashes or incidents of violence between supporters of these two parties, as well as clashes between members of these two groups and security forces.

Advice: Clients are advised to avoid all street protests and concentrations of security forces as a standard precaution. It should be noted that persons operating in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and near the border with India are advised to exercise heightened caution due to various security concerns.


CHINA (Country risk rating: Medium); 3 to 4 January; (Update) Severe smog alert issued for multiple provinces

The authorities in China issued warnings for severe smog levels across parts of the north eastern region of the country on 3 January. A yellow alert is currently in place for the provinces of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi and Liaoning. The alert, which is the second highest level on a four-tiered system, is set to expire late on 4 January. Air pollution is a major concern in China. The poor quality of air in the northern region can be attributed to high levels of pollution originating from increased industrialisation and coal burning. This is further exacerbated by the winter season, in which sustained wind speeds and rainfall levels are considerably lower than in other seasons, and coal burning for heat increases. Heavy smog frequently results in air travel disruptions when visibility becomes limited. There are also a number of associated health concerns related to the pollution. Those at the highest risk include the elderly, children and persons suffering from respiratory ailments.

Advice: Clients in or planning to travel to China in the coming days are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the authorities. Furthermore, persons intending to use air travel should contact their airline or travel provider prior to departure to check the status of their flight(s). Persons in smog-affected areas who are experiencing respiratory issues are advised to consult with a medical practitioner immediately.


FIJI / TONGA; 1 to 5 January; Tropical Storm Ula affecting islands

Tropical storm Ula caused widespread damage in Tonga on 1 and 2 January. No casualties were reported. The Vava'u and Ha'apai islands were placed under a state of emergency to allow evacuation procedures to take place. In Fiji, a gale warning remains in place for Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa. A strong wind warning is also in place for the rest of the Lau Group, Yasawa and Mamanuca Group, Northern and Southern Viti Levu, Lomaiviti Group, Kadavu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and the nearby smaller islands. Tropical storm Ula is currently a category 2 storm; however, the system is expected to weaken over the next 24 hours as it moves in a westerly direction. Disruptions to maritime, road and rail transport, as well as to utilities such as water and electricity, should be expected until 5 January, at least.

Advice: Clients are advised to monitor local media for updates and follow the advisories of the local authorities. Itineraries should be kept flexible to accommodate for any possible travel delays.


INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 3/4January; Casualties reported following earthquake in Manipur state

At least eight people have been killed and 100 more injured following a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck 29km west of Imphal, capital of India's Manipur state, overnight on 3/4 January. The worst-affected areas in Manipur are those located in the Tamenglong district, to the west of Imphal, where significant infrastructure damage and a power outage has been reported. Damage to buildings has also been reported in Imphal. In addition, associated tremors, aftershocks and an unconfirmed number of injuries were also reported in neighbouring Assam and West Bengal states. Any further aftershocks may result in further damage and the collapse of already destabilised buildings. Associated disruptions to amenities such as water, electricity and telecommunications, and the suspension of transport services, are anticipated.

Advice: Persons in the affected areas of India are advised to monitor local media and emergency broadcast channels for updates and advisories from the authorities. Clients are advised to avoid or evacuate all damaged structures and to follow the directives of local emergency crews. In addition, due to a number of ongoing security concerns, all travel to Manipur is advised against.


INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 2 to 4 January; Militant attack on military base in Pathankot continues

An assault launched by unknown militants on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, located in India's northern Punjab state, has reportedly continued for a third day on 4 January. The attack initially began early on 2 January when two groups of gunmen, who were reportedly wearing army fatigues, entered the base using a stolen police vehicle before opening fire indiscriminately. At least seven Indian soldiers and five attackers have been killed in the violence thus far. It is believed that at least one militant remains active on the base. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion has fallen on Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group that demands independence for Indian-administered Kashmir in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. As a result of the attack, Punjab state has been placed on high alert, which is likely to result in elevated security measures, possibly including road checkpoints and additional patrols. Due to the ongoing nature of the separatist conflict in the region, further such incidents and associated confrontations between the military and militants are expected to persist.

Advice: Persons operating in Pathankot should avoid the air base until the situation stabilises. Furthermore, all concentrations of security force personnel should be avoided in the immediate-term. Travellers should prepare for possible road travel disruptions in the area, due to elevated security measures.


JAPAN (Country risk rating: Low); 31 December 2015; Brazilian national killed in Handa

The bodies of one Brazilian and one Japanese national were found in an apartment in Handa, located in Japan's central Aichi prefecture, on 31 December 2015. According to reports, both victims had been strangled. Their attacker then allegedly set fire to the apartment, leading the authorities to discover the bodies. The motive behind the attack is currently unknown as the perpetrator remains at large. An official investigation into the homicides has been launched. Crime levels in Japan are generally low. Petty street crimes, such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching, are occasionally reported while violent crimes remain rare. Although the majority of victims of the more serious crimes, such as murder and sexual assault, are local residents, this latest incident underscores the risk posed to foreign nationals.

Advice: Persons in Japan should exercise commonsense precautions at all times in order to protect their person and property. Clients are advised to report any suspicious persons and/or behaviour to the police immediately.


PHILIPPINES (Country risk rating: Medium); 30 December 2015; (Update) Military operation results in casualties in Jolo

Security forces conducted a military operation in the Philippines' southern Jolo island, which is located on the Sulu Archipelago, on 30 December 2015. At least eight militants and one soldier were killed during the failed offensive. The operation was an attempt to free two Canadians as well as Dutch, Norwegian and Japanese nationals kidnapped by the Islamist insurgent group Abu Sayyaf from a seaside resort in Samal, located in Mindanao's south eastern Davao del Norte province, late on 21 September 2015. Kidnapping is an ongoing concern in the Philippines. Criminal gangs and militant groups, including Abu Sayyaf, conduct kidnappings for ransom and generally target local businesspeople and foreign nationals due to their perceived wealth and capacity to raise a ransom. In some cases, criminal groups will sell victims to militant groups, with the latter having the capacity to hold victims for lengthier periods of time. The county's weak law enforcement capabilities, corruption and the presence of numerous insurgent and criminal groups suggest that kidnapping incidents such as the aforementioned are likely to continue.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the southern Mindanao region and the Sulu Archipelago due to ongoing operations by rebels and terrorists, as well as regular clashes between these groups and the Philippine military. Kidnapping incidents are also common. Clients are also advised against all non-essential travel to Mindanao's eastern Davao and Caraga regions.


Europe and Russia

DENMARK / SWEDEN; 4 January; Identity checks to disrupt international travel

Authorities in Sweden are set to introduce stringent identity checks on all ferries, busses and trains entering the country from Denmark, from 4 January; moderate delays to the aforementioned international services are expected. The temporary measures have been introduced in an effort to control the flow of refugees and migrants into Sweden. The new regulation holds transport companies responsible for checking that every passenger travelling to Sweden carries valid photo identification. In response, SJ, Sweden's largest rail operator, has cancelled all rail services between the two countries, stating that identity checks are not feasible. Meanwhile, Skanetrafiken, another major rail operator, announced that they would reduce the number of daily services between the two countries in order to allow for the extra time needed to check commuters' identification. The movement of asylum seekers has resulted in severe travel disruptions in several European countries in recent months. Local authorities across the region have struggled to cope with the unprecedented immigration, and several states have taken or are taking steps to secure their borders. Due to the ongoing refugee and migration crisis, further disruptions to international rail services should be anticipated.

Advice: Clients planning travel, especially by rail, between the aforementioned countries should confirm the status of scheduled transport services with their travel provider prior to travel.


FRANCE (Country risk rating: Medium); 5 January; SNCM ferry services to be affected by strike

Unionised employees of French ferry operator, SNCM, are set to stage a strike in France on 5 January. All SNCM ferry workers in Marseille have been called on to participate in the strike, which is expected to affect services between Marseille and the island of Corsica. The industrial action has been called in response to the possible opening of a Marseille-Corsica line by the Corsica Marittima company as well as the failure to ratify an agreement in December over SNCM's takeover by the Rocca Group. Previous SNCM strikes have been well observed and significant disruptions to ferry services are expected. The possibility of the strike extending beyond 5 January cannot be discounted.

Advice: Persons intending to use SNCM ferry services on 5 January are advised to contact the company or their travel provider to enquire about the status of services.


GERMANY (Country risk rating: Low); 31 December 2015 to 1 January; New Year's terrorism plot foiled

Militants affiliated to the Islamist extremist group, Islamic State (IS), allegedly planned to orchestrate several attacks in Germany's southern city of Munich amid New Year's Eve celebrations on 31 December 2015. According to reports issued by authorities on 1 January, a tip-off was received from an undisclosed intelligence service informing them that roughly seven militants were expected to carry out suicide attacks in the city around midnight. As a result of the imminent threat, security forces evacuated the Pasing and central railway stations in Munich and warned the public to avoid large crowds amid ongoing New Year celebrations.

Advice: Persons in Munich are advised to exercise heightened situational awareness, comply with all directives issued by the local authorities and limit travel in crowded public venues. All suspicious persons, packages and/or vehicles should be reported to the local authorities.


GERMANY (Country risk rating: Low); 4 January; PEGIDA rallies expected in Dresden and Leipzig

The far-right Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) is expected to stage rallies in Dresden and Leipzig, in Germany, on 4 January. Although the demonstrations have not been confirmed, precedent suggests that these will take place in Theaterplatz, in Dresden, and in Richard-Wagner-Platz, in Leipzig. Far-right groups periodically hold protests and demonstrations in Germany, often prompting counter-demonstrations by rival groups. Although the upcoming gatherings will take place amid an increased police presence, the risk of violent civil unrest remains. Localised travel disruptions are anticipated in the vicinity of the demonstrations.

Advice: Persons in Dresden or Leipzig on 4 January are advised to avoid the upcoming demonstrations and any counter-demonstrations as a standard precaution. Itineraries should be kept flexible to allow for localised travel disruptions.


TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 30 to 31 December 2015; Heavy snow prompts flight cancellations in Istanbul

Adverse weather conditions in Turkey prompted a number of airlines to cancel over 160 flights to and from Istanbul's Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen international airports on 30 and 31 December 2015. The flight cancellations were due to low visibility as a result of a snowstorm; both domestic and international flights were affected.

Advice: Clients scheduled to transit the Ataturk or Sabiha Gokcen international airports in the near-term are advised to contact their travel provider or airline directly to confirm the status of their flight(s).


UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Low); 2 to 5 January; (Update) Further adverse weather warnings for multiple regions

On 2 January, the Met Office issued further adverse weather warnings for parts of the UK for the coming days. An amber warning was issued for eastern Scotland and is expected to remain in place until late 4 January. In addition, yellow warnings for parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland remain valid until 5 January. Significant rainfall and an associated risk of flooding have been forecast in the aforementioned areas, which have experienced significant flooding in recent days. Accordingly, the risk of flooding is significantly heightened in areas already saturated by rainfall. Further disruptions to road, rail and possibly air travel should be anticipated. Road conditions, particularly along causeways and coastal roads, are expected to be hazardous in heavily affected areas. Additional disruptions to utilities such as electricity and telecommunications are also possible.

Advice: Persons in the UK in the coming days are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the local authorities. Clients planning travel to the affected areas in the near-term are advised to anticipate weather-related disruptions to transport services and should confirm the status of their travel arrangements with their respective service providers.


UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Low); 4 January; Train services in Wales to be affected by strike

A 24-hour strike organised by train drivers affiliated with the ASLEF and RMT unions is underway across Wales, in the UK, on 4 January. All Arriva Trains Wales services have been cancelled as a result of the strike, which has been called over a dispute relating to employee terms and conditions. An associated demonstration is also expected in London, with participants expected to gather outside Kings Cross Station from 07:30 to 09:30 local time. An increased demand for alternative modes of transport should be anticipated for the remainder of 4 January; residual disruptions are also anticipated on 5 January.

Advice: Clients intending to make use of Arriva Trains Wales rail services on 4 January are advised to contact their travel provider or the rail operator directly for an update on the status of travel arrangements.


Middle East and North Africa

EGYPT (Country risk rating: High); 31 December 2015; Militant attack results in fatalities in Rafah

At least five civilians were killed and one other wounded when militants shelled a residential area in Egypt's northern Sinai governorate city, Rafah, on 31 December 2015. No group has taken responsibility for the attack. Islamist extremist groups operate extensively in the North Sinai governorate, although they are reported to have cells operating across the Sinai Peninsula and in northern Egypt. The most noteworthy groups include the Islamic State (IS)-aligned Sinai Province, the al-Qaeda-aligned Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM), and Ajnad Misr. These groups have conducted attacks with increasing frequency across the country since 2013. The most significant militant assaults have occurred in the North Sinai governorate; however, occasional larger-scale attacks have taken place outside this area, including a mass-casualty bombing involving a Russian commercial airliner on 31 October 2015.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the North Sinai governorate due to the threats of crime, kidnapping and terrorism. The risk is particularly high in the vicinity of the shared borders with the Gaza Strip and Israel.


IRAQ (Country risk rating: High); 30 December 2015; Civilians killed by Islamic State militants in Ramadi

At least 40 civilians were killed by Islamic State (IS) militants in Ramadi, Iraq, on 30 December 2015. The incident is said to have taken place in the eastern area of the city and coincided with clashes between IS militants and Iraqi security force personnel in the Husayba al-Sharqiya and Jweba areas of Ramadi. Furthermore, reports on 2 January indicated that at least 11 government troops were killed in IS attacks on the outskirts of the city. The violence follows the recent recapture of Ramadi by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on 27 December 2015, and is indicative of the continued operational presence of militants in the region despite the ISF victory. In light of this, further violence is possible in Ramadi and surrounding areas. It should be noted that IS possesses a significant operational capability to conduct retaliatory attacks across the country. These could include suicide bombings, kidnappings and targeted assassinations.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Iraq's Anbar governorate, including Ramadi. Persons operating in the governorate should do so after a full security risk assessment from their security provider. Extensive personal, residential and travel security measures are advised.


IRAQ (Country risk rating: High); 3 January; Casualties in Tikrit due to suicide bombings

A series of suicide bomb attacks killed at least 15 soldiers at a military base outside Tikrit, in Iraq's Salah ad-Din governorate, on 3 January, while a further 22 security forces personnel were wounded. Two assailants detonated car bombs at the entrance to Camp Speicher, before three other bombers detonated explosives inside the base. The incident highlights the elevated risk of terrorism in Iraq. Sunni militants are a primary driver of the insecurity, frequently targeting Shiite communities, sites and gatherings. State and foreign interests are also among their targets.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Iraq's Salah ad-Din governorate, including Tikrit. Persons operating in the governorate should do so after a full security risk assessment from their security provider. Extensive personal, residential and travel security measures are advised.


ISRAEL (Country risk rating: High); 1 to 4 January; Shooting in Tel Aviv leaves fatalities

At least two people were killed and a further seven wounded in a shooting attack on a bar in central Tel Aviv, in Israel, on 1 January. Although initial media reports indicated that there were two perpetrators, authorities have focused their city-wide search operations on a single individual, having been identified as Nashat Melhem. Security operations are said to be ongoing. Security forces have reportedly focused their efforts on the northern areas of Tel Aviv, where the suspect is believed to be in hiding. Significant deployments of security forces remain at key locations elsewhere in the city, including at educational institutions. Although the motivation for the attack remains unclear, Israel has experienced a spate of low-level knife, gun and vehicular attacks since early October 2015. These attacks are thought to be motivated by and coincide with ongoing anti-Israel agitation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and associated Israeli security force clampdowns on protesters. Following the latest attack, travellers should anticipate increased security in the affected area; additional security measures could include patrols and checkpoints.

Advice: Clients in Israel are advised to exercise vigilance and a heightened level of personal security awareness while travelling. In addition, persons in Tel Aviv are advised to exercise caution in the vicinity of Dizengoff Street, as well as in other northern areas of the city, over the near-term.


SYRIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 December 2015; Bombings in Al-Qamishli result in casualties

At least 16 people were killed and 35 others wounded in three bomb attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) in the city of Al-Qamishli, located in Syria's northern Al-Hasakah governorate, on 30 December 2015. The explosions took place at the Miami, Gabriel and Simoni restaurants in the city. Al-Qamishli is a predominantly Kurdish area located north of territory controlled by the IS. The incident underlines the extreme risk of terrorism in Syria.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Syria. Persons operating in the country should obtain regular route and itinerary-specific risk assessments from their security provider, preferably prior to travel. Clients should travel with a security escort and seek to avoid conflict-affected areas.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (Country risk rating: Low); 31 December 2015; Guests evacuated amid fire at Dubai hotel

A fire broke out at The Address Downtown Dubai hotel in Dubai, in the UAE, on 31 December 2015. The fire is said to have started on the 20th floor of the 63-floor building at approximately 21:30 local time. All guests at the hotel were safely evacuated; however, at least 16 people sustained minor injuries. Despite the incident, planned New Year's Eve festivities at the nearby Burj Khalifa were allowed to proceed. It should be noted that the area in the immediate vicinity of the hotel was cordoned off, it remains unconfirmed if the area has since re-opened. Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing.

Advice: Clients in Dubai over the immediate-term are advised to abide by the directives of the authorities.


Sub-Saharan Africa

ANGOLA (Country risk rating: Medium); 18 December 2015 to 4 January; Ongoing bus strike in Luanda

An ongoing strike by employees of the public bus service has caused significant disruptions in Angola's capital, Luanda, in recent days. Since 18 December 2015, several bus drivers have participated in an open-ended strike as part of a protest linked to various labour grievances, including delays in salary payments. Related protests have also been held, although these have generally concluded peacefully. The strike action has not only had an adverse impact on Luanda's bus system but has also heightened the demand for alternative means of transportation, in addition to increasing traffic on the city's roads.

Advice: Clients in Luanda are generally advised to avoid using public transportation in the city due to security concerns associated with crime and high accident rates. Visitors should ensure that itineraries are kept flexible to accommodate associated travel disruptions, as well as pre-booking all private transportation in advance.


BURUNDI (Country risk rating: Extreme); 1 January; Grenade attacks result in casualties in Bujumbura

At least one person was killed while ten others were wounded when unknown assailants threw a grenade into a bar in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, late on 1 January. Elsewhere in the city, unconfirmed reports indicated that at least three police officers were also wounded in two other separate attacks on the day. The violence has been attributed to the political instability resulting from President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial re-election for a third successive term. Anti-government unrest and associated violence continue to be reported in the post-election period. The incumbent has taken an aggressive stance towards those perceived as anti-government agitators. Nkurunziza issued an ultimatum on 10 December 2015 demanding that non-state armed elements hand in illegal firearms by midnight on 12 December 2015 or 'face being dealt with as enemies of the nation'. Burundi's security environment remains fluid and may be subject to rapid deterioration. In light of ongoing tensions in the country, further incidents of unrest and violence remain possible in the short- to medium-term.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Burundi due to the uncertain political situation. Clients in the country should consider departing where safe and possible to do so. It should be noted that Bujumbura International Airport remains subject to sporadic closures. Clients are advised to confirm the status of the facility and their flights before departing for the airport.


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (Country risk rating: High); 30 December 2015; Civillians killed by militia in North Kivu

At least 16 civilians were killed by armed groups in Buleusa, in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on 30 December 2015. Those killed were part of a group of 46 people kidnapped from the village on 26 December. Local officials blame the killings on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group from neighbouring Rwanda who use killings as a tactic to pressure a local defensive Congolese militia, the Union of Patriots for the Defence of Innocents (UPDI), into retreat. Reports indicate the Congolese army will be sent to the area. The FDLR has been implicated in numerous attacks in North Kivu in recent months, culminating in hundreds of fatalities. Despite an ongoing military offensive by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), the group continues to conduct sporadic attacks against local communities. Further assaults of this nature are likely.

Advice: Due to various security concerns, particularly the high threat of conflict, all travel to North Kivu is advised against. Persons currently in or planning to travel to the region despite this advisory should ensure that robust travel, residential and personal security measures are in place.


ETHIOPIA (Country risk rating: High); 31 December 2015; Fatal grenade attack on local university in Gedeo

According to recent reports, at least two people were killed and a further six wounded in a grenade attack on Dilla University, located in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR), late on 31 December 2015. Although the motive behind the attack is currently unknown, unconfirmed reports suggest that a number of suspects have been taken into custody. Further details regarding the incident and subsequent investigation have not been disclosed. There is a high terrorism threat in Ethiopia, with both local and regional groups threatening violence. The country has experienced a number of terrorist attacks in recent years. However, it should be noted that this latest incident cannot be separated entirely from criminal activity given that the motive behind the attack has not yet been identified.

Advice: Clients in Ethiopia are advised to remain vigilant at all times and should report any suspicious activity to the authorities.


KENYA (Country risk rating: High); 31 December 2015 to 1 January; Security heightened in coastal areas over New Year period

Heightened security measures were implemented in the coastal regions of Kenya ahead of New Year celebrations on 31 December 2015. The increased security measures included the implementation of roadblocks and the deployment of additional security personnel as a precaution against possible acts of terrorism targeting festivities. The threat of terrorism in Kenya, which is considered to be high, stems primarily from Islamist extremists, specifically militants belonging to the al-Shabaab Islamist sect. In December 2012, Kenyan intelligence uncovered a plot by al-Shabaab to target Christmas and New Year celebrations in both Nairobi and Mombasa. Despite the risk, no terrorism-related attacks were reported over the New Year period in Kenya.

Advice: Clients in Kenya are advised to report all suspicious persons, packages or vehicles to the local authorities.


SOMALIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 1 January; Shooting incident in Mogadishu results in casualties

Unknown gunmen launched an armed attack outside a mosque in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on 1 January. One person was killed and three others wounded, including a Turkish aid worker. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, suspicion has fallen on the Islamist extremist sect, al-Shabaab. The attack underscores the protracted insecurity and extreme threats of terrorism and conflict in Somalia. The threat stems from several Islamist organisations and militia groups, including al-Shabaab. The group is currently engaged in an ongoing conflict with the Somali government and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) forces, and frequently carries out attacks against government installations, security forces and civilian interests. Despite counterinsurgency operations by the federal authorities in conjunction with AMISOM and Ethiopian troops, al-Shabaab has maintained several strategic strongholds in several regions in the country. Further militant attacks are expected to persist.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to Somalia, except Puntland and Somaliland, due the extreme threats posed by conflict, terrorism and kidnapping. All non-essential travel to the autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland is advised against due to the high threats of crime and terrorism, as well as medium threats of kidnapping and civil unrest.