1 June 2015


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News summary

 
BOLIVIA - Commemorative events take place in La Paz
BRAZIL - Strike and associated protests in several states
COLOMBIA - Clashes between military and FARC rebels in Arauca department
MEXICO - CNTE teachers' union calls for strike in several states
MEXICO - Danish national killed in Mexico City
UNITED STATES - (Update) Weather warnings for Southern and Midwest states
VENEZUELA - US Embassy warns of express kidnappings in Caracas
 
AFGHANISTAN - Fatalities amid security operations in multiple provinces
INDIA - Further fatalities due to heat wave
INDIA - Protest action possible for anniversary of Andhra Pradesh's bifurcation
INDIA - Separatists embark on agitation campaign in Jammu and Kashmir
JAPAN - Evacuation orders following volcanic eruption
PAKISTAN - Gunmen shoot and kill 19 commuters in Balochistan province
PAKISTAN - Civil unrest reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
PHILIPPINES - Bombing on Jolo island results in injuries
REGIONAL - Vesak underway across the region
SINGAPORE - Shooting incident reported near summit in Orchard Road area
THAILAND - Casualties due to bomb explosions in Pattani province
THAILAND - Security increased amid concerns over protests
 
GREECE - Civil aviation union strike averted
LITHUANIA - Flight disruptions to Air Lituanica flights
SPAIN - Disruptions reported amid strike action at Madrid's airport
TURKEY - Gezi Park anniversary demonstrations in Istanbul
UNITED KINGDOM - Countrywide anti-austerity protests
 
IRAQ - Terrorism threat during commemorative Shiite period
LIBYA - Casualties reported in bomb attack in Dafniya
LIBYA - Rocket strike in Benghazi results in casualties
SAUDI ARABIA - Bombing in Dammam results in casualties
 
BURUNDI - Political violence continues in Bujumbura
CHAD - Dozens killed in clashes between army and militants in Choua
ETHIOPIA - Clashes result in casualties in Somali region
GHANA - Taxi drivers' strike to affect Accra
NIGERIA - Sri Lankan national kidnapped in Kogi state released
NIGERIA - Boko Haram attacks result in fatalities in Maiduguri
SOUTH SUDAN - Attacks targeting aid operations increase in northern conflict zones
 

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Americas

BOLIVIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 May; Commemorative events take place in La Paz

Commemorative events celebrating Bolivia's annual Gran Poder festival were held in La Paz on 30 May. Increased security deployments accompanied a parade which began on Baptista avenue and proceeded through Garita de Lima, Vicente Ochoa, Antonio Gallardo, Sagarnaga, Illampu, Pando, Montes, Mariscal Santa Cruz, Camacho and Simon Bolivar streets. The parade concluded at the Hernando Siles stadium, located in the Miraflores area. The Feast of the Lord Jesus, locally known as Gran Poder, is an annual event which encompasses folk dances and parades. During events such as these, there is an increased threat of petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching, as petty criminals are known to operate in crowded areas. Localised travel disruptions were reported in the vicinity of related events.


BRAZIL (Country risk rating: High); 29 May; Strike and associated protests in several states

A general strike and associated protest action caused significant disruptions to public transportation services in several states in Brazil on 29 May. In Sao Paulo state, disruptions to public bus services were reported in the state capital, Sao Paulo, in addition to the urban centres of Maua, Diadema and Guarulhos as of the evening of 28 May. A protest led by the University of Sao Paulo's labour unions led to clashes between demonstrators and security forces on 29 May. Additionally, a major protest took place in the city of Santos where protests were scheduled along sections of the city's Canon Domenico Rangoni and Avenida de Praia highways. In Minas Gerais, a strike was observed by metro workers in the city of Belo Horizonte on 29 May. In Rio Grande do Sul, both bus and passenger rail services were suspended in the city of Porto Alegre on 29 May. A protest also took place at the Federal University of Espirito Santo in the city of Vitoria. The strike and protest action were called by various unions in protest to government legislation which union leaders claim will impinge on the rights of workers. The planned agitation was well attended and caused significant travel and business disruptions in the affected areas. Clients planning to use transport services in the country in the near-term are advised to contact their travel provider directly to enquire about the status of services. All future related protests and demonstrations should be avoided as a precaution.


COLOMBIA (Country risk rating: High); 28 May; Clashes between military and FARC rebels in Arauca department

According to reports on 28 May, recent clashes between the military and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in Arauca department's Las Tropicales area in Colombia left six combatants dead. The clashes occurred just before FARC rebels were purportedly planning to attack a local oil facility. The incident is the latest in a spate of security incidents involving the two sides across Colombia. The violence has been triggered by FARC's withdrawal from a ceasefire agreement on 22 May in response to Colombian anti-FARC military action. Further violence is anticipated over the near-term, as there are currently no clear indications to suggest that the ceasefire will be reinstated. Most incidents are likely to continue to occur in rural and remote areas; however, incidents in major cities are also possible. FARC actions generally impact on state facilities and personnel. The risk to foreigner nationals is largely incidental. 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.


MEXICO (Country risk rating: High); 1 June; CNTE teachers' union calls for strike in several states

The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union has called for a 24-hour strike to take place in Mexico's Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan and Chiapas states on 1 June. The strike has been called in response to issues relating to education reforms, as well as in protest against the upcoming 7 June legislative elections. The union has also called for protests in Mexico's capital, Mexico City, on the day. Participants in Mexico City are set to meet at El Angel de la Independencia at 11:00 local time, from where they will march in the direction of the Secretariat of the Interior buildings and finally end at the Zocalo plaza, where a sit-in of indefinite duration will be held. Associated protests are also possible in other strike-affected states; these are likely to centre on education-related facilities and government buildings. In addition to the disruption in education sector activities, all associated demonstrations are likely to result in localised road travel disruptions. The risk of violence at strike-related protests is considered low; however, confrontations between demonstrators and the police remain a possibility. Clients in Mexico on 1 June are advised to avoid all street protests as a standard precaution. Itineraries should be kept flexible to accommodate possible travel disruptions.


MEXICO (Country risk rating: High); 28 and 29 May; Danish national killed in Mexico City

A Danish national was recently shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in the Polanco area of Mexico's capital, Mexico City. The incident was reported by the Mexican authorities on 28 May and was confirmed by the Danish government on 29 May. Reports indicate that the shooting occurred during a robbery at the victim's residence. The shooting is indicative of the elevated crime levels in Mexico City. The overall crime risk rating in the country is high and includes both petty and violent crimes. Criminals are usually armed and confronting robbers increases one's risk of being affected. Persons operating in Mexico City are advised to maintain a generally low public profile and should exercise a heightened level of personal security awareness. If confronted by an armed criminal, clients should comply with demands and surrender property rather than resisting. Finally, travel at night should be avoided and clients should ensure that residences have adequate security in place.


UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 29 May; (Update) Weather warnings for Southern and Midwest states

The US National Weather Service (NSW) issued several Flood Warning and Flash Flood Watch alerts for Southern and Midwest states on 29 May (as of 13:30 GMT). These alerts remain in place for Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri on 1 June. The NSW website (http://www.weather.gov/) can be accessed for more specific details on these advisories. Southern states, particularly Texas and Oklahoma, have been affected by severe flooding and adverse weather conditions since 23 and 24 May. At least 24 people have died in flood-related incidents while localised road travel disruptions have been reported widely. Flooded rivers are receding in places; however, given the additional weather warnings, further heavy rainfall is possible, which could further exacerbate the situation. In addition, water run-off from sources upstream continue to threaten to burst river banks further downstream, specifically in Texas communities near the Gulf of Mexico. Clients in the affected areas are advised to monitor local media closely for updates and advisories. Caution is advised in low-lying areas due to the risk of further flooding. Travellers in the region should contact their travel provider for an update on the status of their scheduled travel service(s).


VENEZUELA (Country risk rating: High); 22 to 28 May; US Embassy warns of express kidnappings in Caracas

The US Embassy in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, issued a security message on 28 May indicating that there has been a spike in express kidnappings in and around El Hatillo, located in the south eastern region of the capital, since 22 May. At least seven incidents have been recorded by the embassy. The incidents have reportedly been perpetrated by a criminal group comprising six armed individuals who travel in sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Express kidnapping is a significant concern for foreign nationals in Venezuela. This form of kidnapping involves victims being held for a short period while they are forced to withdraw money from ATMs. On occasion, as in the current case, a ransom is sought. Express kidnapping gangs tend to operate in groups. Criminals often choose victims almost at random, although they are certainly attracted to any individuals displaying an indication of wealth. Clients operating in Venezuela should consider travel with a local escort, maintain a low public profile and exercise a heightened level of caution when travelling in low-income neighbourhoods (barrios or ranchitos) of major cities and towns. Overt displays of wealth should be avoided.


Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 28 to 29 May; Fatalities amid security operations in multiple provinces

At least 79 insurgents were killed amid Afghan National Army (ANA) offensives conducted in various provinces in Afghanistan from 28 to 29 May. The offensives were conducted in the Kunduz, Badakhshan, Sar-e-Pul, Ghazni, Kandahar, Paktia, Urozgan, Paktika, Herat and Nangarhar provinces, and are part of an ongoing joint ANA and National Directorate of Security (NDS) initiative. The latest ANA offensives underscore the extreme threat of terrorism in the country. Despite reports of the deaths or capture of insurgents, conflict levels in Afghanistan are expected to remain elevated in the short- to medium-term, as NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops have completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving ANA troops responsible for security. Further armed assaults, bombings and clashes between militants and security forces are likely. Due to a number of ongoing security concerns, all travel to Afghanistan is advised against. Clients currently in the country are advised to implement maximum personal, travel and residential security protocols. Travel outside of 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.


INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 May; Further fatalities due to heat wave

As of 30 May, at least 2,000 people have died in southern India due to an ongoing heat wave. According to the International Disaster Database, this has been the second-deadliest heat wave in India's history. The south eastern Andhra Pradesh state remains one of the worst affected areas, accounting for the majority of heat wave-related fatalities. Southern India has experienced a daily average temperature of between 43C and 48C since the heat wave began in mid-April. The prolonged extreme temperatures have caused widespread water shortages in thousands of villages across the region, exacerbating the severe weather conditions; authorities have set up water distribution points to address the shortages. A heat wave is characterised by intense sunlight and hot blowing winds, and has been known to lead to conditions such as heat stroke and dehydration, which can result in death if persons are exposed for long periods of time. Authorities in India have therefore warned people to stay hydrated and remain indoors as a preventative measure. Although thunderstorms and rainfall on 30 May have provided some relief to several areas affected by the heat wave, the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are expected to continue to experience severe temperatures for the near-term, at least. India's primary monsoon season is expected to begin in the first week of June; this weather system is likely to bring further cooling rainfall across all affected states. Persons operating in affected states are advised to monitor weather developments closely and follow any advisories issued by the local authorities. Furthermore, clients are advised to exercise caution when going outdoors during the day and to remain hydrated.


INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 2 June; Protest action possible for anniversary of Andhra Pradesh's bifurcation

The anniversary of the bifurcation of India's Andhra Pradesh state will take place on 2 June. Large-scale festivities and celebratory events are scheduled to take place in Hyderabad, the shared capital of Andhra Pradesh and the more recently created Telangana state. In addition, strikes and associated protest action in the two states, and especially in Hyderabad are possible on the day. The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and subsequent creation of Telangana has been a controversial issue in Andhra Pradesh, and India as a whole, for several years. Since the initial announcement of the formation of a separate Telangana state in July 2013, there have been numerous protests and strikes called by both pro- and anti-Telangana groups; many of these have resulted in violent civil unrest and in some areas, authorities have needed to enforce curfews. Although the situation has stabilised considerably, the role of Hyderabad as a jointly-administered capital remains a divisive and emotive issue; as such protests over this issue cannot be discounted even though there have been no formal calls for such action. It should also be noted that the celebratory events in Hyderabad are likely to result in localised travel disruptions on the day. Clients in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on 2 June are advised to monitor developments closely and avoid any possible protest action due to the risk of violent civil unrest, while clients in Hyderabad should make allowances for increased travel times. In addition, due to an ongoing Maoist insurgency, all non-essential travel to the remote and rural areas of both the aforementioned states is advised against.


INDIA (Country risk rating: High); 29 to 7 June; Separatists embark on agitation campaign in Jammu and Kashmir

The separatist group, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), embarked upon a ten-day state-wide anti-government agitation campaign in India's Jammu and Kashmir on 29 May. The campaign is expected to encompass protests, rallies, prayers and strikes. The first scheduled march hosted by the JKLF proceeded from Maisuma to Budshah Chowk in Srinagar on 29 May. An increased police force deployment was reported in addition to the arrest of JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik, along with ten other party leaders. The campaign, locally known as 'jail bharo', has been called in response to allegations made by the JKLF that the central government has not granted sufficient political freedom to separatist political organisations operating in Jammu and Kashmir. Following the arrest of the JKLF chairman on 29 May, the threat of violent unrest at all related events is considered elevated. The impact of the campaign could increase over the coming days in the event that other opposition parties or activist groups join the JKLF-led agitation. Although no scheduled events have been confirmed, agitation-related gathering points include major government buildings, city or town centres and political party offices. It should be noted that there is a risk of civil unrest at all protests in India; the possibility of violence between security forces and protesters cannot be ruled out. Disruptions to businesses and public transport services should be anticipated. Due to ongoing security concerns, all non-essential travel to Jammu and Kashmir state (except the eastern Ladakh region) is advised against. Clients in the region are advised to monitor local media closely for updates on the planned protests and additional directives from the local authorities. All street protests should be avoided as a precaution.


JAPAN (Country risk rating: Low); 29 May; Evacuation orders following volcanic eruption

Localised evacuation orders were issued on the island of Kuchinoerabu-jima, located in Japan's south western Kagoshima prefecture, early on 29 May following the eruption of Mount Shindake. Emergency personnel were mobilised in affected areas; there have been no reports of infrastructural damage. As of early 1 June, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) maintains a level 5 volcanic alert level on the island, the highest category on a five-tired scale. It should be noted that ash emissions from the volcano could lead to air travel disruptions. Further evacuations and possible disruptions to travel and utility services cannot be ruled out at this time, due to the possibility of further eruptions in the near-term. Persons in affected areas are advised to monitor local media and follow any advisory issued by local authorities. Clients intending to travel in the area in the coming days are advised to contact their travel provider for further information regarding the status of services.


PAKISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 May; Gunmen shoot and kill 19 commuters in Balochistan province

According to media reports, unknown gunmen killed at least 19 people and abducted several others travelling on a passenger bus near the town of Mastung, located in Pakistan's western Balochistan province, on 29 May. The bus is said to have been travelling from the city of Quetta to Karachi, the administrative capital of Sindh province. Although no immediate claims of responsibility have been made, suspicion is likely to fall on separatist insurgents active in the region. Security forces have since been deployed to the area, and a security operation has been launched to apprehend the assailants. There is an extreme threat of terrorism in Pakistan; attacks are frequently reported in Balochistan province. The region has also experienced high levels of militant violence in recent years. The violence is largely attributed to Baloch separatist and militant groupings based in the region. Due to the chronic and extreme levels of insecurity in Pakistan, further gun and bomb attacks should be anticipated in the short- to medium-term. Clients are advised against all travel to Pakistan. Persons near Mastung are advised to avoid the affected area at this time and should monitor local developments closely. Due to the extreme threat of terrorism, robust residential, travel and personal security protocols should be implemented.


PAKISTAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 30 May; Civil unrest reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

At least six people were killed and 47 others injured as a result of election-related violence in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 30 May. Numerous injuries were reported after unknown assailants opened fire on two polling stations in the Naspa and Regai areas. Additionally, clashes that resulted in at least six fatalities were reported in the Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Madran, Swat and Nowshera districts during local government elections. There is a high risk of violent civil unrest at all politically motivated gatherings in Pakistan. The possibility of clashes between party members and the police or opposing political party supporters, exists. It should be noted that further politically motivated violence or civil unrest cannot be discounted. Due to a number of security concerns, including the threat of civil unrest, clients are advised against all travel to Pakistan. Persons in or planning to travel to the country are advised to implement robust personal, travel and residential security measures at all times.


PHILIPPINES (Country risk rating: High); 30 May; Bombing on Jolo island results in injuries

At least 18 people were injured in a bomb attack on the island of Jolo, in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, on 30 May. The attack occurred outside a mosque at a police camp, Camp Kasim, and was initiated by a grenade attack. When security forces responded to the grenade attack, a previously planted bomb was detonated, resulting in the injuries. Further details remain unavailable. Although there have been no immediate claims of responsibility, suspicion has fallen on the Abu Sayyaf group, which is known to have a strong operational presence in the Sulu Archipelago, where Jolo is located. Once a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Abu Sayyaf is considered the most militant of the rebel groups in the southern Philippines. This latest attack underscores the high threat of terrorism in the country, particularly in Mindanao; the group has conducted numerous bombings against military and secular targets in the past. As the current security environment in Mindanao is unlikely to improve in the short-term, further attacks of this nature are anticipated in the future. Areas assessed to be at an elevated risk of attack include government and military personnel and installations, popular tourist spots such as clubs and restaurants, and transport hubs. Due to ongoing operations by rebels and terrorists, as well as regular clashes between these groups and the Philippine military, all travel to the southern Mindanao region and the Sulu Archipelago, including Jolo, is advised against. This advisory does not extend to the eastern Caraga and Davao regions of Mindanao, to which non-essential travel is advised against. Persons currently on Jolo are advised to avoid the affected area and implement robust security protocols. Travel after dark or without a security escort is ill-advised.


REGIONAL; 1 June; Vesak underway across the region

Vesak Day (also known as Buddha Purnima and Buddha Jayanti, among others), which is celebrated by Buddhists, is underway on 1 June across much of Asia. Vesak is commemorated to various degrees in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in China. The day is marked by religious ceremonies and festivals. It should be noted that the date of Vesak may vary by country; Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia will celebrate on 1 June, while in Indonesia, celebrations will be on 2 June. Vesak Day commemorates the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, and is considered the most significant day on the Buddhist calendar. Vesak is also commemorated in Hinduism, as Hindus believe Buddha was the incarnation of the god Vishnu. In Buddhist-majority population countries, the day is often observed as a national public holiday. Throughout Asia, thousands of Buddhist pilgrims are expected to travel to holy Buddhist sites for Vesak Day; a popular site is the birthplace of Buddha, which is located in Lumbini, in Rupandehi district, Nepal. Festivals and large public gatherings in the affected locations will likely see increased security due to the elevated risk of petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, bag-snatching and the theft of unattended items. In addition, due to the anticipated crowds, localised travel disruptions should be expected in the vicinity of significant Buddhist holy sites. Clients in affected areas are advised to exercise heightened caution, particularly in crowded public places and on public transportation. Travel disruptions should be anticipated, due to increased security measures and widespread participation in commemorations.


SINGAPORE (Country risk rating: Low); 31 May; Shooting incident reported near summit in Orchard Road area

At least one person was killed as a result of a shooting incident which took place at a police checkpoint in the vicinity of the Orchard Road area, Singapore, on 31 May. The checkpoint was set up as a precautionary measure in the vicinity of the International Institute for Security Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), which took place at the Shangri-La Hotel. According to reports, a vehicle proceeded to drive through the checkpoint without stopping and police consequently fired shots. Orange Grove Road, Anderson Road and Admore Park experienced temporary closures, although these have since been re-opened by authorities. Heightened security measures were implemented and are expected to remain in place beyond the end of the conference which concluded on 31 May, as the high-profile attendees at the summit depart. Clients in Singapore are advised to monitor local media for updates and follow the directives of the authorities and security personnel.


THAILAND (Country risk rating: Medium); 30 May; Casualties due to bomb explosions in Pattani province

At least one person was killed and 11 others wounded after two bombs were detonated in the Khok Pho district of Thailand's southern Pattani province on 30 May. The first bomb was reported at approximately 22:00 local time after a truck transporting the Pattani Task Force drove over it on Highway 409 near Ban Chomphu, which is located in the Tambon Paklo area of the Khok Pho district. The second bomb was detonated shortly thereafter when a bomb disposal team attempted to examine the scene of the incident. It is likely that this incident is related to the ongoing violent separatist campaign in the provinces of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. The violence stems from allegations of isolation and discrimination against Malay Muslims by Thailand's predominantly Buddhist government. The resulting Islamist insurgency in the region has been accompanied by regular bombings, shootings and skirmishes with Thai security forces, leaving over 5,000 people dead in recent years. Militants primarily target personnel and infrastructure linked to the Thai security forces, and incidents mainly occur in rural areas; however, attacks targeting civilian interests have taken place in the past. Given the ongoing nature of the conflict, further similar incidents cannot be discounted. Due to the ongoing Islamist insurgency and the high risks of conflict and terrorism, clients are advised against all travel to Pattani as well as to the provinces of Songkhla, Narathiwat and Yala. Persons currently in the area should exercise heightened security awareness and implement robust security measures at all times.


THAILAND (Country risk rating: Medium); 29 May; Security increased amid concerns over protests

Following several recent developments and a directive from the head of the country's police on 29 May, security has been tightened at key locations in Thailand, particularly the capital, Bangkok, while the police have been placed on alert. This has been done amid concerns that supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra may seek to hold protest action in the coming days. Although the exact measures enacted by the directive are not exactly clear, they include an increase in security checkpoints in Bangkok and surrounds, and an increase in security measures at popular tourist sites, key transport hubs and at government buildings. The concerns over possible protests by the anti-government United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) civic grouping (also known as the 'red shirts') has come about due to several recent developments; these include the military-led government revoking Thaksin's passport, and the start of the corruption trial of his sister Yingluck, also a former prime minister, which the UDD asserts is politically motivated. However, most significantly, the government also stated on 20 May that elections which it had originally stated would be held in early 2016, will now not be held until at least September 2016. Although there have not been any formal calls for protests, the military-led government, which came into power in a coup in May 2014, has put in place strict controls limiting the ability of groups such as the UDD to hold demonstrations. Given this dynamic, any such protests that do occur are likely to be met with a forceful response by security forces. Clients in or planning to travel to Thailand, especially Bangkok, in the coming days are advised to monitor local developments closely and avoid any possible protest action as a precaution against violent civil unrest.


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Europe and Russia

GREECE (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 June; Civil aviation union strike averted

A strike, called by the Federation of Associations of Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (OSYPA), in Greece initially scheduled to commence on 1 June has been averted. The strike, set to begin at 00:01 local time on 31 May, was anticipated in protest against the effect of government-initiated austerity policies on members' pay and working conditions. Air traffic controllers who are not part of OSYPA did not signal a clear intention to partake in the industrial action. Clients intending to make use of air travel in Greece during the near-term are advised to contact their travel provider or relevant authority to check the status of services prior to departure.


LITHUANIA (Country risk rating: Low); 28 May; Flight disruptions to Air Lituanica flights

Air Lituanica, a private airline based in Lithuania, declared bankruptcy on 28 May and will cease all operations from 5 June, although several flight cancellations have taken place already. Clients booked on the airline until then have been transferred to airBaltic, although those with bookings after 5 June have been advised by Air Lituanica to seek a refund and seek alternative arrangements. Clients who have booked flights with Air Lituanica are advised to contact the airline or their travel provider to ascertain an appropriate course of action.


SPAIN (Country risk rating: Medium); 30 May; Disruptions reported amid strike action at Madrid's airport

Flight disruptions were reported at Spain's Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport since 30 May. Low-cost airline, Ryanair, commenced a strike of indefinite duration on 30 May. The strike has been observed by ground handling staff and is in protest against working conditions and proposed pay cuts. Although disruptions to Ryanair flight services have been minimal, residual delays on other airlines at the facility have been reported. Clients scheduled to transit Madrid-Barajas Airport form 30 May should anticipate possible delays and are advised to contact their airline or travel provider to enquire about the status of their flight(s).


TURKEY (Country risk rating: High); 31 May; Gezi Park anniversary demonstrations in Istanbul

A rally, hosted by Taksim Solidarity, a civil society grouping, took place in Istanbul, Turkey, on 31 May to mark the anniversary of the 2013 Gezi Park anti-government demonstrations. The gathering was held at Gezi Park near Taksim Square from 13:00 local time, where the area and streets in the vicinity of Taksim Square were cordoned off. Associated gatherings were also reported at two parks in Istanbul's Besiktas (Abbasaga Park) and Kadikoy (Ozgurluk Park) areas on 31 May. All main roads in the Beyoglu and Sisli districts were restricted from 09:00 local time on 31 May. The planned events came amid preparations for the 7 June general election and an increased number of election-related rallies in Istanbul and in cities across the country. Heightened security, including an increased police presence was reported at sites across Istanbul on 31 May. Clients in Istanbul in the coming days are advised to exercise a heightened level of personal security awareness and should monitor local security developments closely. All street protests and large public gatherings should be avoided as a standard precaution.


UNITED KINGDOM (Country risk rating: Medium); 30 May; Countrywide anti-austerity protests

Thousands of activists participated in anti-austerity protests across the UK on 30 May. Demonstrations were held in various urban centres in the country, including in Suffolk, Newcastle, Cambridge, Manchester, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Hull, Swindon, Coventry, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff and the capital, London. Localised travel disruptions were reported in the vicinity of the protests on the day; the events concluded without major incident. These protests were the latest in a series of anti-austerity demonstrations held in the UK since early May. The 30 May agitations had been organised by the People's Assembly Against Austerity group as part of a build-up for a larger demonstration scheduled to take place outside the Bank of England on 20 June.


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Middle East and North Africa

IRAQ (Country risk rating: High); 2 June; Terrorism threat during commemorative Shiite period

Shiite Muslims in Iraq will commemorate the birth of Muhammad al-Mahdi, a revered religious figure, on 2 June or 15 Shaban on the Islamic calendar. Shiite religious gatherings in or pilgrimages towards Karbala, and possibly Samarra, are anticipated in the run up to and on the day. There is an elevated risk of Sunni extremist attacks against religious gatherings during the current period. Sunni militants regularly conduct attacks against large Shiite pilgrimages or religious sites during symbolic commemorative periods. In response to the risk, security is typically increased. Large police, military and militia force deployments are likely, particularly in the vicinity of Karbala and in its immediate surrounds, in the coming days. Clients are advised against all travel to a number of central Iraqi governorates, including Karbala and Salah ad-Din governorate. Clients in Iraq are advised to travel with a security escort and reside in secure compounds. Persons travelling in or near Karbala in the coming days should seek to avoid time spent near pilgrim convoys or Shiite religious sites and gatherings.


LIBYA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 31 May; Casualties reported in bomb attack in Dafniya

A suicide bombing in Libya's north eastern town of Dafniya earlier on 31 May left five people dead and eight wounded. The attacker reportedly drove his explosive-laden vehicle into the primary security checkpoint on the main road leading from the town to the city of Misrata. The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group. Elsewhere in the country, IS-aligned fighters reportedly captured the airport in the northern city of Sirte on 29 May, after forces loyal to the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) legislature, which is not recognised by the international community, fled the facility following several days of fighting. Libya is currently divided between rival armed groupings, Operation Dawn and Operation Dignity, which are in turn, loyal to two rival legislatures, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and Tripoli-based GNC. Operation Dawn forces maintain control of Tripoli, while Operation Dignity forces have made increasing gains in eastern Libya around Benghazi. The security environment has been further complicated and undermined by increased IS activity in recent months. IS is opposed to both the HoR and GNC, and has carried out attacks countrywide. The instability and insecurity are expected to persist in the short- to medium-term, at least. Clients are advised against all travel to Libya. Persons operating in Libya are advised to adopt stringent security measures, obtain regular risk assessments from their security provider and ensure that contingency plans are regularly reviewed and updated.


LIBYA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 May; Rocket strike in Benghazi results in casualties

At least six civilians were killed and eight others wounded when a rocket strike hit a residential district in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi late on 29 May. Although there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack as yet, suspicion is likely to fall on Islamist militants. There is a high threat of terrorism in Libya and a number of bombing and shooting attacks have been reported in recent months. This latest incident follows bomb attacks in Benghazi on 12 and 14 May which resulted in several civilian casualties. It should be noted that fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and Islamist militants in Benghazi is currently ongoing and has left hundreds of people dead in recent months. Additionally, Islamic State (IS) activity has recently spiked; the group has conducted attacks against all major political players. This has served to further complicate and undermine the local security environment. The conflict and associated acts of terrorism are expected to persist for the medium-term at least. Clients are advised against all travel to Libya. Persons operating in Libya are advised to adopt stringent security measures, obtain regular risk assessments from their security provider and ensure that contingency plans are regularly reviewed and updated.


SAUDI ARABIA (Country risk rating: High); 29 May; Bombing in Dammam results in casualties

An explosion at the Shiite al-Anoud Mosque in Dammam, administrative capital of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, left at least four people dead and several injured on 29 May. Those killed are thought to be the assailant, two mosque attendants who stopped the attacker from entering the mosque and one unidentified civilian. The attack has subsequently been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. This is the second suicide bomb attack targeting Shiite interests in Saudi Arabia, after a similar incident at the Imam Ali Mosque in Al Qudaih, located in the eastern Qatif governorate, left at least 21 people dead on 22 May. The incidents highlight the high threat from terrorism in the country, which stems from Sunni Islamist extremists, including members of the Syria and Iraq-based IS and the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Despite a recent statement by the government that it has disrupted multiple planned bombing attempts and the fact that as a major urban centre, heightened security measures are already in place in Dammam, this latest incident is of concern. Given the elevated terrorism threat in the country, further such incidents remain possible. Clients in Saudi Arabia are advised to implement robust personal, residential and security measures. These measures are particularly relevant if travelling outside of major cities, such as the capital, Riyadh, or secure compounds. Caution is advised in the vicinity of state facilities and personnel, areas frequented by foreign nationals, businesses or sites linked to Western interests and in Shiite Muslim areas, generally.


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Sub-Saharan Africa

BURUNDI (Country risk rating: High); 28 to 29 May; Political violence continues in Bujumbura

Several people were wounded amid ongoing acts of political violence in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura. On 28 and 29 May, security forces forcibly dispersed anti-government protests in the city's Buterere, Musaga, Bwize, Nyakabiga and Cibitoke areas; at least one person was killed in the violence. Also on 29 May, at least three people were wounded when two explosive devices detonated near a bank and on an vacant bus. The political situation in Burundi remains tenuous, uncertain and subject to rapid deterioration with little to no warning. The current political instability stems from Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial decision in late April to contest the Burundian presidency for a third successive term, and violent anti-government protests in response to this decision. In recent days, the extensive security force deployment in the capital has stifled anti-government protests somewhat; however, given the highly polarised nature of Burundian politics, opponents of the regime are likely to continue with their agitation in the lead-up to the 26 June presidential elections. Other forms of opposition, including low-level bombings, may also increasingly be utilised. Persons operating in Burundi should anticipate checkpoints and associated road closures and delays, as well as further temporary closures of land border and airports and possible shortages of basic commodities at times. Due to the uncertain political situation in Burundi, clients are advised to defer travel to the country at this time. Furthermore, given limited options to depart the country in the event of a further deterioration in the security environment, persons in Burundi should consider departing if safe and possible to do so.


CHAD (Country risk rating: High); 29 May; Dozens killed in clashes between army and militants in Choua

At least 37 people, including four members of the army, were killed in clashes in Chad between security forces and suspected Boko Haram militants in Choua, an island settlement located in Lake Chad. According to reports released on 29 May, confrontations between the two groups occurred on 27 May, when militant forces launched an attack on army positions on the island. The incident is indicative of the extreme-risk travel environment which exists in Lake Chad, where the Boko Haram Islamist extremist sect continues to maintain a strong operational presence. With military operations against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region anticipated to continue in the short-term, retaliatory attacks by the sect are likely to continue. Due to various security concerns, all non-essential travel to Chad is advised against. However, this advisory excludes travel to the capital, N'Djamena, where the security environment is more stable and predictable. Clients in or intending to travel to Chad are advised to implement maximum security measures at all times.


ETHIOPIA (Country risk rating: Extreme); 31 May; Clashes result in casualties in Somali region

According to local reports, a week of clashes between local herdsmen and the Liyu Police Unit resulted in casualties in the Somali region, an area near Ethiopia's border with Somalia on 31 May. The Liyu Police Unit, an Ethiopian paramilitary unit operating in Ethiopia's ethnic Somali region reportedly attacked local villages in the region, killing at least 35 civilians and wounding at least 29 others. The cause of the clashes is not clear; however, the Somali government has called upon the Ethiopian government and African Union troops to intervene in the seemingly tense situation. Clients are advised against all travel to Ethiopia's eastern Somali region. Insecurity in the region remains a concern and stems largely from instability in Somalia. Instability is also furthered by sporadic clashes between the Ethiopian military and the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front that is known to operate predominantly in the Somali region.


GHANA (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 June; Taxi drivers' strike to affect Accra

Members of the Ghana Committed Drivers Association are expected to embark upon a taxi drivers' strike in Ghana's capital, Accra, on 1 June. Taxi drivers are expected to embark upon the strike action in response to new directives issued by the Driver and Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA); these state that only commercial vehicles with safety belts are eligible to be registered and granted roadworthy statuses. The strike is likely to result in increased congestion and an increased demand for alternative forms of transport. Furthermore, protest-related gatherings may accompany the strike action. Should demonstrations take place, the possibility of confrontations between police and protesters cannot be discounted. Persons in Accra are advised to monitor local media for updates regarding the strike. Clients are advised to avoid all street protests as a standard precaution. Localised travel disruptions should be anticipated.


NIGERIA (Country risk rating: High); 28 May; Sri Lankan national kidnapped in Kogi state released

Authorities confirmed on 28 May the release of a Sri Lankan national who was kidnapped by a group of heavily armed assailants in the Yari area of Nigeria's Kogi state on 18 May. The victim, who was confirmed as an employee of the Burni Coli Construction Company, was seized near the settlement of Yari while travelling between Okene, in the aforementioned state, to the neighbouring state of Ondo. The victim's security escort was fatally wounded and the driver was left injured. The exact circumstances surrounding his release remain unclear at this stage. In a separate development, authorities also confirmed the 20 May abduction of two foreign nationals, Syrian and Lebanese, in the Patani area of Delta state. The pair has been confirmed as employees of the Okmas Nigeria Limited construction company. There is a high threat of kidnapping across Nigeria. This threat is particularly elevated in the states of Kogi and Delta, where a spate of abductions involving foreign nationals has been reported in recent weeks. The majority of incidents are linked to organised criminal gangs operating in the region, and abductions are relatively short in duration. Due to various security concerns, all non-essential travel to Nigeria, including Kogi state, is advised against. Furthermore, all travel to the southern state of Delta should be avoided. Persons in or planning to travel to Nigeria regardless of area of travel are advised to implement comprehensive travel, residential and personal security measures and consider the use of a security escort, particularly if travelling outside of major urban centres. Clients are further advised to avoid travel after dark as far as practically possible.


NIGERIA (Country risk rating: High); 28 to 30 May; Boko Haram attacks result in fatalities in Maiduguri

Dozens of people were killed, and several others wounded, following a spate of suspected Boko Haram attacks in the city of Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria's Borno State, in recent days. In the deadliest attack, at least 28 people were killed on 29 May when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque located near the city's Monday Market. The bomb attack came less than 24 hours after militants fired volleys of rocket-propelled grenades targeting the city's western Dala-Lawanti suburb; at least 13 people were killed in the artillery fire. In a more recent attack, at least seven people were killed on 30 May when an improvised explosive device detonated in Maiduguri's Gamboru marketplace. Although the Nigerian military and its regional allies have made significant territorial gains against Boko Haram in recent weeks, the sect continues to possess a significant operational presence across north eastern Nigeria, particularly Borno State. Although isolated settlements in close proximity to the Cameroonian and Nigerien borders are most at risk of Boko Haram counteroffensives, sporadic attacks on larger urban centres such as Maiduguri cannot be discounted. Due to various security concerns, all travel to Borno, including Maiduguri, is advised against. Clients in the state should ensure that all movements are coordinated in the presence of a security escort and that all accommodation is sought in secured compounds.


SOUTH SUDAN (Country risk rating: Extreme); 29 May; Attacks targeting aid operations increase in northern conflict zones

Humanitarian organisations operating in South Sudan have noted a marked uptick in attacks targeting aid infrastructure within the country's conflict-embattled northern states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei. According to aid agencies operating in the region, hospital facilities and other treatment centres had been attacked, looted and destroyed by armed assailants across the aforementioned regions. The deterioration in the security environment has also necessitated aid organisations to repatriate foreign staff members from the conflict-affected areas. The developments underscore the extreme-risk travel and operating environment which exists across South Sudan. Attempts at brokering a binding peace between the government of President Salva Kiir and forces loyal to former deputy president, Riek Machar, have largely failed and a resumption of full-scale hostilities remains a credible threat at this time. The ongoing conflict continues to impact on civilian communities across the contested Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states and has also been accompanied by increased levels of lawlessness and criminality. Foreign nationals, particularly aid workers, are at a heightened risk of being directly targeted by all armed groups. Due to the uncertain security situation, all travel to South Sudan is advised against. Clients based in the aforementioned active conflict zones are advised to consider relocating to areas with reduced tensions, such as the urban centres of Juba and Wau. These locations generally have higher levels of security and provision for emergency repatriation, if required.


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