November
27

Worldview Security Update - November 27, 2019

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AMERICAS

Chile (Security threat level - 2) : As of 27 November 2019, small-scale demonstrations are ongoing in Chile. At least two caravans of commercial trucks and private vehicles are currently engaged in a "go-slow" protest on highways in the capital Santiago, resulting in traffic disruptions. Both caravans started the demonstrationon Ruta 5, as one traveled southward from the Quilicura commune and the other traveled north from the commune of San Bernardo. The caravans are expected to meet at the La Dehesa neighborhood, where demonstrations have taken place in recent days. 

On 26 November isolated clashes between police officers and protesters, as well as incidents of looting, occurred in several cities. In Santiago, police officers used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters gathered along Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins and near Plaza Italia. Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least one police officer was shot during the clashes; however, the perpetrator is unknown. Clashes between protesters and police officers also occurred in the cities of Antofagasta and Temuco, as well as the Tarapacá region. Additionally, protesters looted and set fire to several businesses in Valparaiso and Concepción. According to government officials, at least 99 protest-related violent incidents have taken place across Chile over the past 24 hours, during which 109 police officers and at least 30 others were injured.

Colombia (Security threat level - 4): On 27 November 2019, anti-government demonstrations are ongoing for a seventh consecutive day in Colombia, as unions and student groups launched a national strike. Protesters are blocking roads in the capital Bogotá, including Autopista Sur highway. Roadblocks have also been reported in the southwestern city of Cali. Further demonstrations are expected to occur across the country throughout the day. The National Strike Committee has demanded that the government address the excessive use of force by police officers after a protester who was hit by a projectile in clashes that occurred during a previous protest in Bogotá died on 25 November. The committee has demanded that the government meet with its members separately from a “national dialogue” with business leaders and other groups in order to facilitate negotiations.

Additionally, on the evening of 26 November clashes broke out between protesters and police officers near the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. Students had peacefully gathered outside of the university before tensions escalated. Police officers fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters; there were no reported injuries.

Dominican Republic (Security threat level - 3): On 26 November 2019, a tourist bus carrying 41 passengers, including 39 Russian nationals, collided with a truck while en route to La Romana International Airport (MDLR/LRM), located near the eastern town of Higuey. At least 22 Russian tourists suffered significant injuries; some remained trapped in the wreckage for several hours following the crash before emergency responders managed to free them. The accident occurred along a major highway that connects Dominican Republic’s international airports with popular tourist destinations, such as Punta Cana and Bavaro.

United States (Security threat level - 2): As of early on 27 November 2019, a severe winter storm is affecting parts of Northern California and Southern Oregon in the northwestern region of the United States. In Northern California, a number of highways, including Interstate 5, were closed due to heavy snow, while Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials imposed a ground delay at San Francisco International Airport (KSFO/SFO), reducing the number of inbound flights to roughly 50% late on 26 November. Operations at the neighboring Oakland International Airport (KOAK/OAK) were disrupted due to a power outage that lasted for approximately 90 minutes. Additional heavy snowfall of up to 24 inches (610 mm) is in the forecast for parts of the region, which will likely cause hazardous road conditions ahead of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, another winter storm is currently affecting the upper Midwestern states, including Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In Southern Minnesota, 12 inches of snow is expected and will likely cause disruptions to ground and air travel. At least 20 flights have been delayed or canceled at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (KMSP/MSP) thus far on the morning of 27 November, and further flight cancellations and delays are highly likely. Icy conditions on a number of roadways in the region, particularly in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, are causing disruptions to ground transportation; many schools in these states have suspended classes for the day due to the inclement weather. The winter storm also caused severe disruptions in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming the previous day. In Denver, Colorado’s state capital, as much as 24 inches of snow was recorded, with maximums of up to 33 inches elsewhere in the state, from 25-26 November. Significant flight disruptions occurred at Denver International Airport (KDEL/DEL), where nearly 500 scheduled flights were canceled and an additional 600 flights were delayed on 26 November.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level - 5): At approximately 2000 local time (1700 UTC) on 26 November 2019, unidentified militants detonated three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in separate neighborhoods of Baghdad. The attacks occurred in the southwestern Baiyaa neighborhood; the northeastern Shaab City neighborhood; and the southeastern Baladiyat neighborhood. A total of six people were killed and 13 others were injured in the attacks. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Analyst Comment: The coordinated nature of the bombings is similar to that of prior attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS). The bombings occurred while large numbers of Iraqi civilians were out on the streets celebrating the country’s victory in a soccer match, and it is likely the attack was timed with the intent to cause a high number of fatalities.

Lebanon (Security threat level - 4): Throughout the night of 26-27 November 2019, clashes broke out between supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Kataeb Party in the town of Bikfaya, located approximately 15 km (10 mi) from the capital Beirut. Clashes occurred after Kataeb Party supporters surrounded a convoy of FPM supporters and police officers intervened in an effort to prevent the violence. At least 10 people were injured in the clashes.

In addition to the clashes in Bikfaya, clashes also occurred in the Beirut suburbs of Chiyah and Ein Rummaneh, where Hizballah supporters and supporters of the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces threw stones at each other before the military separated the two groups; there were no reports of casualties in the incident.

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, supporters and opponents of President Michel Aoun threw stones and fought each other, as well as threw Molotov cocktails at security forces responding to the clashes. Reports indicate that 24 civilians and 33 Lebanese soldiers were injured in that incident; Lebanese authorities also arrested 16 people involved in the fighting.

Earlier in the day on 26 November, Hizballah supporters attacked anti-government protesters gathered in Baalbek, destroyed tents and chanted religious slogans at the protesters. Hizballah supporters aboard a convoy of cars also fired shots into the air. At least 15 people were injured in Baalbek.

Analyst Comment: The clashes between FPM and Kataeb supporters are the first such instances during the current episode of unrest in Lebanon and are indicative of increasing political tensions in the country. Organizations operating in Lebanon should monitor related developments in the country closely.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Burkina Faso (Security threat level - 4): On 26 November 2019, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Burkina Faso, in which it raised its level of advice to “Level 4: Do Not Travel" from “Level 3: Reconsider Travel.” The updated Travel Advisory reads in part as follows:

"Do not travel to Burkina Faso due to terrorism, crime, and kidnapping.

“Country Summary: Terrorist groups continue plotting attacks in Burkina Faso. Terrorists may conduct attacks anywhere with little or no warning. Targets could include hotels, restaurants, police stations, customs offices, areas at or near mining sites, places of worship, military posts, and schools.

“Kidnapping and hostage taking is a threat throughout the country. On May 10, 2019 a hostage rescue operation freed four international hostages that had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso and in neighboring Benin.

“The Government of Burkina Faso has maintained a state of emergency in the entire East and Sahel regions, the provinces of Kossi and Sourou in the Boucle de Mouhoun region, the province of Kenedougou in the Hauts Bassins region, the province of Loroum in the North region, and the province of Koulpelogo in the Center-East region.

“The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens throughout most of the country, as U.S. government personnel are restricted from travelling to regions outside the capitol due to security concerns. The U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. government personnel from personal travel to the Karpala, Balkiui and Rayongo (also known as Dayongo) neighborhoods of Ouagadougou’s Arrondissement 11 due to the potential for security operations.

“On November 26, 2019, the Department ordered the departure of all minor family members of U.S. government employees, and the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members.”

The full text of the Travel Advisory is available here

Analyst Comment: The upgraded advisory reflects increased insecurity and an expansion in the overall terrorism threat, including terror-related kidnapping, across Burkina Faso in 2019. Individuals with travel plans to the country should only do so after undertaking a thorough threat assessment; if travel is deemed absolutely essential, travelers should make extensive security arrangements.

Burundi (Security threat level - 4): On 27 November 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Bubanza and Cibitoke Provinces, and Kibira National Park

“Event: Due to reports of violence in and around the Kibira National Park, U.S. embassy personnel are no longer permitted to travel to or through the provinces of Bubanza and Cibitoke, or within the Kibira National Park, including the park’s southernmost part in Muramvya province. Embassy personnel are also prohibited from transiting through Kibira National Park to reach Kayanza via the RN-10. The U.S. Embassy has not received any information regarding specific threats to U.S. citizens in these regions. Please note that U.S. embassy personnel are subject to additional travel restrictions; for more information, please see the current Burundi Travel Advisory . ”

France (Security threat level - 3): On 27 November 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Paris issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Paris

“Event: French farming unions are currently staging a demonstration on major highways leading into Paris which will end near Avenue Foche in the 16th Arrondissement. Over 1000 tractors are reported to be blocking the roadways as they make their way into the city. French authorities have placed additional security forces on the streets and erected barriers at various locations near government buildings and monuments.

“This demonstration is not directed at the U.S. Embassy; however, access to the streets surrounding the Embassy may be blocked by police or demonstrators.”

Togo (Security threat level - 4): On 26 November 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Togo, which reads in part as follows: “There have been sporadic marches and protests in Lomé and around the country since August 2017, over demands to restore the 1992 constitution. Tensions remain heightened and further marches and protests, by supporters of the government and opposition are possible, particularly ahead of presidential elections in February 2020. You should remain vigilant, avoid crowds and demonstrations, monitor local media and follow advice of local authorities.”