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Worldview Security Update – December 11, 2019


United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1230 local time (1730 UTC) on 10 December 2019, police officers responded to two active shooters in Jersey City, located in the northeastern part of the state of New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. Two individuals driving a stolen truck opened fire at individuals on the streets and subsequently barricaded themselves inside a kosher supermarket located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Wilkinson Avenue in Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood. Local and federal law enforcement officers engaged in a gunbattle with the suspects that lasted for several hours. The gunbattle prompted all Jersey City schools to enforce a lockdown that was lifted at approximately 1600 local time; bus and subway lines in the vicinity of the market were also suspended. Six people, including one police officer, were killed; police officers killed both assailants inside the supermarket. The mayor of Jersey City stated that the supermarket was likely the perpetrators’ intended target without offering further clarification; authorities are investigating to determine the motive of the assailants.


Afghanistan (Security threat level – 5): On 11 December 2019, at least one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated at a medical facility under construction near Bagram Airfield, located approximately 60 km (40 mi) north of the capital Kabul. The powerful explosion occurred just outside an entrance to the base and started a fire at an adjacent hospital. Following the explosion, at least seven militants reportedly engaged in clashes with local security forces after attempting to breach the barracks’ perimeter. As of last report, at least three militants remain inside the medical facility. Two civilians were killed and 90 others, including five Georgian soldiers, were wounded in the explosion. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

India (Security threat level – 3): On 11 December 2019, authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in the city of Guwahati and placed restrictions on mobile internet services in the following districts of Assam state beginning at 1900 local time (1330 UTC): Charaideo, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Jorhat, Kamrup, Lakhimpur, Sivasagar and Tinsukia. These security measures followed clashes between protesters and police officers during protests over a controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that would exclude undocumented Muslim immigrants from fast-track citizenship being offered to members of other religious minorities from neighboring countries.

In the town of Dibrugarh, police officers clashed with demonstrators who had gathered to protest the controversial bill. Police officers deployed tear gas and rubber bullets near the Polytechnic Institute in the town after demonstrators threw stones at the officers. At least one reporter at the site suffered injuries. Additionally, police officers in the towns of Moran and Chaulkhowa forcefully dispersed crowds after protesters blocked roads and railroad tracks. Protests against the bill are also occurring in other towns in the northeastern region of the country.


France (Security threat level – 3): As of 11 December 2019, trade unions across France have continued the seventh consecutive day of a strike action against a proposed pension reform. Services continue to be significantly disrupted throughout the country, as workers across most public transportation sectors, including 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 warn of significantly reduced services in the Paris Metro, along with Transport express regional (TER) trains and long-distance TGV trains. Significant transportation disruptions are likely to proceed into next week, as unions continue to extend the strike period.

On 10 December, approximately 339,000 people participated in nationwide protests, during which clashes broke out between police officers and protesters in several cities. Police officers clashed with protesters in Bordeaux and Lille after protesters vandalized buildings along the protest route. In Paris, at least 30,000 people joined the protests, although no notable violence occurred. Union leaders have called for additional protests on 12 and 17 December in addition to the extended strike.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 3): On 11 December 2019, flight operations at Liverpool John Lennon Airport (EGGP/LPL) resumed at approximately 1200 local time/UTC after being halted for more than six hours. A number of outbound flights were canceled and inbound flights were diverted to Manchester Airport (EGCC/MAN) during the closure. Officials had suspended operations after a business aircraft skidded off the runway upon landing at the facility. The Bombardier BD-700-1A11 aircraft had three crew members and one passenger on board; all four safely disembarked the aircraft without any injuries. The cause of the incident is under investigation.


Somalia (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 1900 local time (1600 UTC) on 10 December 2019, at least five al-Shabab militants dressed in Somali military uniforms launched an attack on the Somali Youth League (SYL) Hotel in Mogadishu, located near the Presidential Palace. As security personnel evacuated the hotel and responded to the assault, the militants engaged them in a gunbattle that lasted until 0100 local time on 11 December. The assailants also detonated grenades on the premises of the hotel during the assault. Security forces ultimately shot and killed the militants. At least three civilians and two soldiers were also killed and 11 others were injured during the attack. Military personnel rescued approximately 82 people, including government officials, from the hotel during the episode.

Analyst Comment: The SYL Hotel often hosts government ministers, foreign dignitaries and expatriates, making it a recurring target for militant attacks. In August 2016, the al-Shabab militant group detonated a car bomb on the premises of the hotel, killing 22 people and injuring a number of others, including local politicians. The latest attack also marks a potential tactical shift for al-Shabab in Somalia, as most previous attacks employed car bombs to breach highly fortified targets before launching the assaults. Authorities have implemented new security measures in an effort to make it more difficult for militants to transport explosives-laden vehicles into the city.


Thailand (Security threat level – 3): On 11 December 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Thailand, which reads in part as follows: “On 12 December there will be a royal barge procession along a 4.2km section of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Travel restrictions are likely to be in place, which could include road, bridge, waterway and pier closures, as well as other restrictions related to viewing the procession. You should follow the advice of local security authorities regarding any restrictions.”

Turkey (Security threat level – 4): On 10 December 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Turkey, which reads in part as follows: “On 10 December the Turkish authorities issued a red weather warning for the Antalya area. Central Antalya, Serik, Kemer, Finike and Kumluca may be affected by storms, heavy rain, strong winds and flooding between 6am Wednesday 11 December and 12pm Thursday 12 December. If you’re travelling in the area you should check local weather reports regularly.”