Security Intelligence Review – Spring 2019
A key component of effective counter terrorism strategy and tactics is good intelligence. Many security professionals receive regular updates from around the world on situations and events that may impact their organisations due to their geographical location, political or economic links or the business they undertake. This article is an example of the kind of security intelligence review that is available: it is correct at time of publication but, of course, this type of information changes daily.
#1 – Southern Border – United States
The government shutdown in the US stretched near to a month; the security and immigration controls that President Trump says he’s fighting to improve came close to fracturing as a result of the impasse. An estimated 800,000 federal employees, many of them from the border and national security agencies, worked without pay. The impasse over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion for a controversial wall at the southern border and the Democrats’ refusal to fund it show no sign of finding a compromise. Over 5,200 US troops were originally sent to the border and if the president decides to call a national emergency, this number could significantly increase.
#2 – Washington DC – United States
United States President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un around the end of February but sanctions on Pyongyang will remain in place. The announcement came after a meeting in the Oval Office between Mr. Trump and Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean intelligence chief, who has acted as the top nuclear negotiator for Mr Kim. President Trump, who had made a celebratory attendance after a meeting with the intelligence chief last year to announce his first meeting with Mr. Kim, did not attend the meeting this time around. Reports have been mixed over the current nuclear activity in North Korea since the first summit; what is clear is that there has still been little tangible evidence of a move or willingness to disarm.
#3 – Ceará – Brazil
Troops from Brazil’s National Police Force have been deployed in the northeastern state of Ceará to attempt to end the wave of violent attacks by criminal gangs against banks, retail outlets and other Government establishments. Around 300 members of the force arrived in the state capital, Fortaleza, and more than tenother cities across Ceará in early January in a bid to halt the rampage which has spiked recently, national Public Security Secretary Guilherme Teophilo said. New Brazilian President Bolsonaro, a former military officer, has made domestic security, local corruption and the eradication of gangs a priority.
#4 – Bogotá – Colombia
A car bomb exploded at a police academy in Colombia’s capital, Bogota on 17th January, killing at least ten people and wounding over 50 in an attack that created fears of a return to the country’s recent violent past. Authorities said the car broke through checkpoints into the grounds of the General Santander School where it exploded. It was the deadliest attack in Bogota since the government agreed a peace deal with the Marxist FARC rebel group in 2016; the group has been active since 1964. President Duque described the explosion as a “crazy terrorist act” against unarmed cadets and said he had ordered police and the military to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
#5 – LondonDerry – Northern Ireland
Four men in their twenties have been arrested in connection with the explosion on the evening of Saturday 19th January outside the city’s courthouse. Leading the inquiry, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told the media, “Fortunately, it didn’t kill anybody but clearly it was a very significant attempt to kill people here in this community.” The New IRA, one of the groups opposing the Good Friday Agreement that fundamentally ended over 25 years of violence in the province, and have in recent years been described as the biggest threat to peace in the Province. The blast on the 19th came at a time when police in both Northern Ireland and European Union-member Ireland have been concerned that the threat of a reappearance of a hard border between the two after Brexit could see an opportunity for sectarian groups. Following this attack, the security services also carried out a controlled explosion on a abandoned van that had been left outside a school and reported there had been an attempt to hijack a bus.
#6 – Berlin – Germany
February saw the completion of the world’s largest intelligence centre in Berlin as the new €1billion home of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) finally opened, twelve years from its initial conception. The project represents a new era of emphasis in Germany of state security, with 4,000 staff now in residence and the requirement for security intelligence reviews.
#7 – Istanbul – Turkey
Ans Boersma 31, a Dutch journalist with Het Financieele Dagblad, a Dutch main business daily, was detained on 16th January after trying to renew her residency. A statement by the communications director of the Turkish presidency said, “The Turkish authorities have recently received intelligence from the Dutch police that Ms Boersma had links to a designated terrorist organisation and a request for information about her movements in and out of Turkey.” Since the 2016 attempted coup, President Erdogan has jailed thousands of journalists, teachers, academics, legal and human rights activists. Human rights defenders have raised concerns over the ongoing suppression on freedom of speech in Turkey under Erdogan.
#8 – Nairobi – Kenya
At least 21 people are now known to have been killed when members of the Islamist group al-Shabaab stormed a luxury hotel complex in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. A 19-hour siege of the DusitD2 hotel and business complex on Tuesday ended with five attackers killed. The actions of an off-duty British SAS soldier who played a key part in the rescue of civilians have been well reported. The attack also shows the capability and continued offensive nature of the Islamist group, which has been operational in East Africa since 2006.
#9 – Mogadishu – Somalia
Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for two attacks: a car bomb in the capital that killed eleven, leaving another ten injured and the killing of Anthony Formosa, who was the construction project manager for DP World, a firm that has invested in Somalia. The attack highlights the current dangers of business operations, with al-Shabaab claiming in a statement that the attack was, “part of broader operations targeting the mercenary companies that loot the Somali resources”.
#10 Borno State – Nigeria
The United Nations has said it is “extremely alarmed” by the forced return by Cameroon of thousands of refugees to north-east Nigeria, where Boko Haram Islamists pose a seemingly enduring threat to civilians. Cameroon has 370,000 refugees, 100,000 of whom are Nigerians, according to the UNHCR. Earlier this month, more than 9,000 people fled to Cameroon after an attack on a military base and aid buildings in the town of Rann in north-east Nigeria’s Borno state. The attack was blamed on the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram, which has carried out similar raids against troops since July last year. Despite continued rhetoric from the President and numerous military operations, there seems little reduction in the ability of Boko Haram and we can expect them to maintain a considerable threat throughout 2019.
#11 Manbij – Syria
On 16th January a suicide bomber killed four US citizens, two of whom serving soldiers, at a market in northern Syria, less than a month after President Donald Trump declared victory over Islamic State in the region. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Manbij. The attack confounds the sudden plan for the US. withdrawal, a decision Trump’s senior advisers disagreed with before offering an evolving timetable for the removal of the approximately 2,000 US troops. The bombing also underscores Pentagon assertions that the Islamic State is still a threat capable of deadly attacks. There has been little evidence amongst the counter terrorism community to support the president’s assumptions and there has been analysis suggesting the group is active in more countries today than at the height of the Caliphate. A recently published Pentagon report also warns that the US withdrawal from Syria could result in IS reclaiming lost territory. This area will continue to be the focus of security intelligence reviews.
#12 Kandahar – Afghanistan
Five serving members of the Afghan security forces were killed when their checkpoint came under sustained attack by insurgents in the southern province of Kandahar on the 11th January. Aziz Ahmad Azizi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said that two other policemen were wounded in the attack in the Spin Bolduk district. He said seven Taliban insurgents were killed and six were wounded in the fighting. Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar. In a separate attack in western Herat province, gunmen attacked a city police station on Saturday evening, killing another five people, said Gelani Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Since the withdrawal of the substantive coalition force, ISAF, in 2014, the Taliban have continued to reassert their authority and the pattern of IEDs, suicide bombers and attacks has continued.
#13 Jakarta – Indonesia
Abu Bakar Bashir, the radical Muslim cleric and supposed mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings, may be granted early release from jail on humanitarian grounds. Bashir, 81, who is widely believed to be the spiritual leader of the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws for links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for fifteen years. Indonesia continues to try to counter on-going terrorism, and operations remain active. The Tinombala police-military operation to track down members of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) terrorist group in Poso, Central Sulawesi, has been extended once again. The latest extension to the joint operation was made in December 2018 and will last until April 2019, making it one of the longest terrorist manhunts in the Reform Era.
#14 – Australia
Suspected Islamic State member Neil Prakash, who was born in Australia to a Fijian father and a Cambodian mother, will not be allowed into Fiji since he “does not qualify”, the South Pacific country’s prime minister has declared. The 27-year-old, currently held in a Turkish prison and facing terrorism charges, was stripped of his Australian citizenship, something that can only happen to dual citizens. In response to reports claiming that Prakash may be heading to Fiji after his release, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said that he “cannot come here because he does not qualify”. This has raised questions over the stripping of citizenship as many thousands of fighters try to return home from the Levant or are being left to local jurisdiction, such as the British militants nicknamed ‘the Beatles’.
This security intelligence review compiled by Edward Marsh, National Security & Terrorism Analyst
References gathered for this security intelligence review from both open and primary sources from 1st January to 13th February 2019.