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Daily Intelligence Briefing

Friday, March 22, 2019
AFGHANISTAN (Security threat level - 5 Very High)

ELECTION COMMISSION DELAYS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FOR SECOND TIME

On 20 March 2019, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan announced that the presidential election would be delayed once again, now scheduling it for 28 September. The election was originally set to take place in April, but was rescheduled for July due to allegations of mismanagement and fraud during parliamentary elections in October 2018. (20 Mar 2019)

ALBANIA (Security threat level - 3 Medium)

ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTEST ENDS IN SCUFFLES OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT IN TIRANA

On 21 March 2019, opposition supporters gathered outside the Albanian parliament to protest against three opposition lawmakers' decision to take oaths of office despite an opposition boycott of parliament. Protesters threw fireworks and smoke bombs at police officers as they attempted to break into the parliament building. Police officers used water cannons to push the protesters back. There were no reports of arrests or injuries at the protest. (21 Mar 2019)

BRAZIL (Security threat level - 3 Medium)

FORMER PRESIDENT ARRESTED IN CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION

On 21 March 2019, authorities arrested former Brazilian President Michel Temer in São Paulo as part of the Operation Car Wash corruption investigation. In addition to Temer, authorities arrested a former mining and energy minister under Temer’s government, who was a close ally. Authorities have not specified what charges led to the arrests. Temer faced several corruption charges while in office, but Congress blocked them from moving forward. (21 Mar 2019)

CHINA (Security threat level 3 Medium)

HIGH NUMBER OF CASUALTIES REPORTED FOLLOWING CHEMICAL PLANT EXPLOSION IN JIANGSU

On 22 March 2019, state media released the latest casualty figures from the explosion that occurred at a pesticide plant at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng in Jiangsu province the previous day. Reports now indicate that 47 people were killed and 640 people were injured. The explosion that occurred at Tianjiayi Chemical Company was reportedly so strong that it registered on earthquake sensors and shattered windows in a village located approximately 2 km (1.2 mi) away. The cause of the blast remains under investigation.  (22 Mar 2019)

VEHICLE ATTACK TARGETS PEDESTRIANS IN ZAOYANG CITY

At approximately 0600 local time on 22 March 2019 (2200 UTC on 21 March UTC), a vehicle drove into a group of pedestrians in the city of Zaoyang, located in Hubei Province. Local media sources reported that six people were killed and seven wounded in the incident. Police officers shot and killed the driver. The motive for the incident remains unclear; police officers stated that the man intended to cause "serious damage.” (22 Mar 2019)

CHEMICAL PLANT EXPLOSION OCCURS IN JIANGSU PROVINCE

At approximately 1450 local time (0650 UTC) on 21 March 2019, an explosion occurred at a chemical plant in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, which is located approximately 265 km (165 mi) northwest of Shanghai. At least six people were killed and 30 more were injured. Local officials claimed that a fire caused the explosion. Authorities also evacuated nearby residents as a precaution. (21 Mar 2019)

COMOROS (Security threat level - 3 Medium)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ISSUES UPDATED TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR COMOROS AHEAD OF 24 MARCH ELECTION

On 21 March 2019, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Comoros, which reads in part as follows:

“Exercise increased caution in The Union of the Comoros due to the upcoming presidential election.

“Comoros will hold elections on March 24, 2019, and April 21, 2019, if a run-off election is warranted. Travel within Comoros may be disrupted during these times by roadblocks and political demonstrations. From March 21-March 26, U.S. government personnel will be permitted to travel to the islands of Anjouan and Moheli for pre-approved official purposes only.”

The full text of the Travel Advisory is available here . (21 Mar 2019)

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OBSERVERS BEGIN MISSION IN COMOROS

On 20 March 2019, the East African Standby Force (EASF) began its observer mission for Comoros' upcoming 24 March presidential election. The mission comprises 27 members, who will monitor operations at approximately 25 percent of polling stations across the country on Election Day. The EASF also observed and contested voter turnout numbers reported in Comoros' July 2018 constitutional referendum. (20 Mar 2019)

CZECH REPUBLIC (Security threat level - 2 Low)

AUTHORITIES BUST RUSSIAN ESPIONAGE GROUP IN PRAGUE

Reports on 21 March 2019 revealed that Czech authorities recently busted a Russian espionage ring operating under the cover of two IT firms in Prague. The group carried out hacker attacks against both Czech and foreign targets from the companies’ computers. Czech officials also allege that vehicles with Russian diplomatic plates delivered the computers to the companies. (21 Mar 2019)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (Security threat level - 5 Very High)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ISSUES UPDATED TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR DRC

On 21 March 2019, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated travel advisory for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which reads in part as follows: "Reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do Not Travel To:
  • North Kivu and Ituri provinces due to Ebola.
  • Eastern DRC and the three Kasai provinces due to armed conflict.

"Violent crime, such as armed robbery, armed home invasion, and assault, while rare compared to petty crime, is not uncommon, and local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious crime. Be aware that assailants may pose as police or security agents.

"Many cities throughout the country experience demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. Police authorities have at times responded with heavy-handed tactics that have resulted in civilian casualties and arrests.

"The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Kinshasa due to extremely limited infrastructure and poor security conditions."

The travel advisory can be viewed in full here. (21 Mar 2019)

EGYPT (Security threat level - 4 High)

INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT OCCURS IN AIN SUKHNA

On 21 March 2019, an explosion occurred at a petrochemical factory in Ain Sukhna, located approximately 130 km (80 mi) southeast of Cairo. Reports indicate the explosion killed 10 workers and injured seven others. Authorities are still investigating the incident. (21 Mar 2019)

FRANCE (Security threat level - 3 Medium)

FRANCE - U.S. EMBASSY IN PARIS ISSUES SECURITY ALERT REGARDING 23-24 MARCH “YELLOW VEST” PROTESTS

On 21 March 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Paris issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • Location: France, countrywide.
  • Event: Weekend demonstrations by the “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vests) are expected to continue March 23-24, and could turn violent. The U.S. Embassy is advising official U.S. government travelers to avoid travel to Paris and other major cities in France over the weekend.

“During previous demonstrations, damage to property, including looting and arson, in populated tourist areas has occurred with reckless disregard for public safety. Police response has included water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas.

“In addition to the demonstrations in major cities, travelers should expect traffic interruptions and blockades throughout France. At highway toll stations, protesters have previously set up barricades and set fire to pallets.

Actions to Take:
  • Review your travel plans for March 23-24
  • Exercise extreme caution
  • Keep a low profile and avoid areas of the demonstrations
  • Shelter in place if in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests
  • Close windows and shutters to avoid possible smoke and tear gas exposure
  • Consider relocating in advance to another area
  • Do not try to force your way through a barricade with your vehicle
  • Ensure you have access to your passport and other documents, prescription medicine, infant formula, and your phone and charger
  • Notify friends and family of your safety and travel plans”

(21 Mar 2019)

GREECE (Security threat level - 3 Medium)

ASSAILANTS THROW GRENADE INTO RUSSIAN CONSULATE COMPOUND IN ATHENS

Early on 22 March 2019, two assailants on a motorcycle threw a grenade onto the grounds of the Russian Consulate, located in Athens’ Psychico neighborhood. The device caused minor damage, but no injuries. Authorities cordoned off the area surrounding the consulate as they investigated the incident. Police sources claimed that the Popular Fighters Group (OLA), a leftist militant group, was responsible for the attack. (22 Mar 2019)

THREAT LEVEL DEFINITIONS

1 Very Low - Crime Rate Risk Level 1: Visitors are exposed to a minimum degree of risk due to crime. This does not mean that crime does not occur, but rather that visitors are rarely affected by criminal acts. It is still wise to observe basic security precautions.

2 Low - Crime Rate Risk Level 2: Visitors are exposed to a low degree of risk due to crime. Criminal acts occur, but are uncommon in most areas of the city. Petty crime occasionally affects visitors to these cities; incidents of violent crime rarely affect visitors to these cities. Basic security precautions are advisable.

3 Medium - Crime Rate Risk Level 3: Visitors are exposed to a medium degree of risk due to crime. Petty crime is typically the primary security threat for visitors to these cities, although incidents of violent crime occasionally affect visitors. Visitors should practice standard security precautions.

4 High - Crime Rate Risk Level 4: Visitors are exposed to a high degree of risk due to crime. Criminal acts occur frequently and are often random occurrences. Visitors are likely to be affected by both incidents of violent crime – such as carjacking, armed robbery and physical/sexual assault – and petty crime – such as pickpocketing and purse-snatching – although they may mitigate some of the risk by avoiding the more crime-ridden areas of the city. Visitors should take extra security precautions while in the city.

5 Very High - Crime Rate Risk Level 5: Visitors are exposed to a very high degree of risk due to crime. Cities with a 5 rating are affected by rampant, largely uncontrolled crime. Both violent crime – such as carjacking, armed robbery and physical/sexual assault – and petty crime – such as pickpocketing and purse-snatching – regularly affect visitors to these cities. Criminally motivated attacks such as low-level bombings and shootouts are not uncommon. Police forces in such cities are generally not effective in controlling crime. Vigilant security precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of becoming a victim of crime.

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