December
17

Worldview Security Update - December 17, 2019

ASIA

India (Security threat level - 3) : On 17 December 2019, riot police officers clashed with demonstrators gathered in the capital New Delhi to protest a recently ratified Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Police officers deployed tear gas and conducted baton charges to disperse thousands of protesters in the New Seelampur and Jafrabad areas, as protesters threw bricks and other projectiles at the officers. In New Seelampur, protesters set a police station on fire and vandalized several buses. A number of protesters and police officers were injured in the clashes. At least five of the seven metro stations resumed operations by the evening hours after temporarily shutting down due to the protest. Anti-CAB protest actions in the capital have intensified following clashes between police officers and students of Jamia Millia Islamia university on 15 December, during which at least 50 protesters were injured.

Meanwhile, in the southern Kerala state, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and other allied groups called for a general strike on 17 December to protest the legislation’s clause that excludes Muslim immigrants from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan from applying for the citizenship. Sporadic incidents of violence occurred throughout the state; there were reports of low-level violence in the districts of Alappuzha, Kannur, Kasargod, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad. Police officers arrested at least 223 protesters ahead of a statewide closure of businesses, shops and schools.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, police officers arrested at least 28 people in connection with violence that occurred in Mau district on the night of 16 December. Authorities suspended mobile internet services in the area following clashes between police officers and protesters, during which protesters set ablaze a police station and several vehicles. Police officers deployed tear gas against protesters and fired shots into the air in an effort to disperse the crowd. Schools in Mau and the neighboring districts of Bareilly and Saharanpur have suspended classes until 19 December due to the unrest.

Additionally, in the northeastern state of Assam -- where violence initially broke out on 12 December -- mobile internet services are set to remain suspended through 20 December. That being said, state officials have annulled the curfew in the city of Guwahati beginning at 0600 local time (0030 UTC) on 17 December following a relative calm over the past 72 hours. Residents of Assam and the neighboring states of Meghalaya and Tripura staged protests in opposition to the CAB, as the bill grants fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from the aforementioned neighboring countries; most of the migrants who might benefit from the law reside in the northeastern region.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level - 3): On 17 December 2019, trade unions across France have continued the 13th consecutive day of their strike action against a proposed pension reform. Services continue to be significantly disrupted throughout the country as workers across most public transportation sectors, including aviation, bus, rail and trams, continue their strike. National rail operator Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) and Paris public transport provider Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) continue to operate significantly reduced services across the country. SNCF warned that long distance TGV trains were operating at 25% of normal capacity and Transport express regional (TER) trains were at 30% capacity. Eurostar also warned of significantly reduced services through 19 December. An air traffic controller (ATC) strike is also ongoing and is scheduled to last until 0630 local time (0530 UTC) on 18 December. While disruptions are not expected to be as significant as previous ATC strikes on 5 and 10 December, the French aviation authority Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) has asked airlines to reduce flights to and from Paris Orly Airport (LFPO/ORY) by 20% on 17 December and has implemented minimum services procedures nationwide. British Airways canceled more than 30 flights in response to the strike, affecting approximately 5,000 customers. No further significant cancellations are expected, but travelers should contact their respective airlines to check the status of their flights.

Additionally, union leaders have organized demonstrations to take place across the country on 17 December. Thousands of people are expected to participate in the demonstrations, although turnout is expected to be low in comparison with demonstrations that occurred on 5 and 10 December. The largest demonstration is occurring in Paris, where protesters will march from the Place de la République through Place de la Bastille to reach Place de la Nation. Authorities have heightened security measures in the city due to an increased risk of violence from protesters, including closing down shops along protest routes until the evening hours, conducting precautionary checks on people and increasing police officer presence along protest routes. Additional protests are occurring in the cities of Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Privas, Toulon and Toulouse. Travelers in France should avoid all areas where large gatherings are taking place due to the probability of violence breaking out during ongoing protests.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Lebanon (Security threat level - 4): On the night of 16 December 2019, riot police officers used tear gas to disperse protesters gathered near Charles Helou Bridge, Martyr’s Square and Riad El Solh Square in downtown Beirut. At one point during the evening, protesters reportedly overturned a car that attempted to drive through a crowd of demonstrators in Martyr’s Square. Meanwhile, supporters of Hizballah and al-Amal movement threw stones at reporters covering the clashes between protesters and security forces. Hizballah and al-Amal supporters also clashed with security forces during the unrest, after a video surfaced of a man insulting Shiite religious and political leaders. Hizballah supporters set fire to at least three vehicles and threw firecrackers at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Police officers arrested at least four people during the event.

Elsewhere in Lebanon on the same night, Hizballah and al-Amal supporters destroyed protest tents in the city of Nabatieh, located approximately 75 km (45 mi) south of Beirut. The militants attacked protest encampments and burned down their tents; there were no reports of casualties resulting from the incident. Similar incidents occurred in Sidon, located south of Beirut and Hermel near the border with Syria, where Hizballah and al-Amal supporters attacked protest camps and set tents on fire; there were no reports of casualties.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Kuwait (Security threat level - 2): On 16 December 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

"Location: Kuwait City, Fahaheel and Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh areas

"Event: The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait advises U.S. citizens to take care when approached by persons claiming to be police officers. Two recent incidents have been reported to the Embassy’s Regional Security Office. In one incident, an individual walking was stopped and robbed by an assailant who showed a wallet as though it were a police identification and badge. The assailant was not in police uniform. In the second incident, two individuals in a vehicle attempted to stop the driver of another automobile by showing something appearing to be police identification. The individuals were not driving police cars, nor wearing police uniforms. These two incidents apparently occurred in the Fahaheel and Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh areas and targeted third country nationals.

"Kuwaiti Police will be in police uniform, with a marked police car or an unmarked police vehicle with the police emergency lights on the dashboard. Do not stop and/or give civil identification cards to anyone claiming to be a police officer if there is any uncertainty. If unsure of the authenticity of a police officer, call 112 with your location and drive to an inhabited area, restaurant, gas station, police station, etc. It is advisable to stay on the line with 112 while driving to a safer location and explain the circumstances to the emergency telephone operator."