In recent weeks, the political and security situation in Bangkok has gone from bad to worse. In the aftermath of gunmen attacks on anti-government protest rallies in the capital’s busy intersections, and the country’s easternmost Trat province, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation Chief, Tarit Pengdith warned that the country’s crisis may “escalate into civil war”, and urged “restraint and patience” on both sides of the political divide. At least twenty-three people, including children, have been killed, and around 700 have been left injured in the political unrest that plagued Thailand since late November 2013. Nonetheless, hostility between the ‘red’ and ‘yellow shirts’ continued. In a reflection of the dire circumstances, the caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul supposedly sought the advice of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in resolving in the political impasse. Until, suddenly, after seven weeks, the “shutdown”, instigated by ‘pro- establishment’ forces, came to an end.
Formula 1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone and three other parties were accused of making a ‘corrupt bargain’ with a German banker Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky. It is alleged that they paid him £27 million in bribes to undervalue BayernLB’s stake in the sport prior to its sale to current owners CVC Capital Partners eight years ago. Constantin Medien were a shareholder in the sport and claim that they lost out on a large amount of commission as a result of Ecclestone’s dealings with Gribkowsky. A seven week hearing took place in London’s High Court aimed at establishing whether the shares were undervalued as alleged.
As the Ukrainian crisis continues to unfold on 21 February 2014, the day’s deal between President Yanukovych and the opposition has seen Yanukovych and his ruling Party of Regions make far more concessions than they had previously been willing to. These include calls for a new constitution, early presidential elections to be held by December 2014 and a return to the 2004 constitution in the interim, thereby stripping Yanukovych of many of his powers. While certain concessions may be long overdue, and necessary to de-escalate the rising tensions on Kyiv’s streets, any hope that they will lead to a firm retreat from the brink of civil war, on which Ukraine now stands, are premature.
The wild, remote and beautiful Sinai region has long been known for its lawlessness, having historically served as a key focal point for smuggling routes. Today, however, it is an active war-zone, especially in the north, where hardened Islamist militants battle almost daily against the Egyptian security forces. One of the primary fighting groups in the Sinai, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), has come into the limelight in recent months, quickly becoming recognised as the dominant extremist group in the area. This increased prominence can be attributed in part to its alleged involvement in a number of spectacular terrorist attacks, which are distinctly notable for the fact that they have occurred in the populous Nile Delta, far away from ABM’s strongholds in the mountains and deserts of the Sinai. ABM has gone from relative obscurity to becoming almost a household name, particularly amongst the international media fraternity, so it is important to assess just who this shadowy movement is, and where they have come from, seemingly so suddenly.
The Inkerman Group’s Operations Centre is providing real-time security updates and risk briefings for clients with operations, staff and assets in Ukraine.
Today’s e-mail and SMS alerts for those affected by the current turmoil include:
UKRAINE – UPDATE – PROTESTS
- Unconfirmed reports via pro-opposition sources on the ground and on social media claim security forces plan to carry out a large scale raid on Independence Square, Kyiv from 1600hrs (local time) on 19 February 2014.
UKRAINE – UPDATE – MAIDAN TURMOIL SPREADS WESTERN UKRAINE
- Protesters sympathetic with those occupying Kiev’s Independence Square, the heart of the “Euromaidan Movement” have solidified their control of regional political and security institutions throughout Western Ukraine, having seized many Oblast-level administrative offices during protests in late January 2014.
- As of the time of publication on 19 February 2014, demonstrators have taken control of the police headquarters of Lviv, Rivne, Ternopol and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts as well as numerous Ukrainian Army bases throughout the two. By and large, security forces in the region have cooperated with protesters and the Interior Minister’s Police Chief for Ivano-Frankivsk announced that he would not comply with any “illegal orders” to act against peaceful demonstrators.
- Small-scale protests have been reported at Kharkiv University in Ukraine’s second largest city. Local militiamen, known as tityushki, are reported to have been patrolling the university’s campus as of 1500hrs (local time).
- Large pro-government demonstrations are being held in Sevastopol, Crimea, and in Donetsk, Donetsk Oblast, where the mayor has called for Yanukovych to file treason charges against opposition politicians.
- The Ukrainian Defence Ministry has announced that it does not intended to shift troops to help combat demonstrators, contrary to local rumours. The Inkerman Group’s intelligence resources indicate that this decision was reached due to the Army’s conscript nature, whereas the Interior Ministry troops that have been used to combat protestors are career officers, largely recruited from eastern Ukrainian cities in the Donetsk Basin, which form the heart of President Yanukovych’s support.
- The death toll remains at twenty-five confirmed victims, ten of whom are police officers, though local sources are announcing that the death toll has now risen to twenty-six, though the final reported death has not been independently verified. Local sources indicate that the toll is to rise dramatically, given the number of seriously injured protesters being treated at a makeshift hospital in the St. Basil Monastery on nearby Lviv Square. Greek Catholic priests who run the monastery have issued statements claiming they have received threats from local “tityushki” thugs. It is estimated that as many as 1,000 injured have been treated at the monastery, with protesters fearful of reporting to government run hospitals. Activists participating in the demonstrations have previously been abducted from Kyiv’s hospitals.
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More than four months after its official deadline passed, the Final Plenary Session of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) was held on 21 January 2014, and the framework from which the new Yemeni constitution will be constructed was agreed. With the official closing ceremony slated to be held on 25 January 2014, the details of the framework document are widely anticipated. A federal system for the future Yemeni state has been agreed upon, although how the country will be divided is still heatedly disputed. It is also expected that the Cabinet will be reorganised, and the Shura Council restructured to comprise equal numbers of representatives from the north and the south. The final session also saw delegates voting to allow President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to remain in power beyond the two-year term that he was elected for in February 2012. While many sources have reported that the decision extends his term by one year, the vote will ultimately secure Hadi’s position until another President is elected after the new constitution has been drafted and approved. Despite being lauded as a monumental success, however, the closing of the NDC comes amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in most of the country, with very few substantive steps having been taken to resolve the underlying conflicts and grievances among the population. As the international community rushes to congratulate Yemen on its achievement, the government appears to be ignoring a host of factors which not only undermine the legitimacy of the framework document, but will also make its implementation a Sisyphean task.
There is no overarching theme in Libya – that is, unless you count the effect political paralysis in Tripoli has on the country’s numerous security problems. The longer Prime Minister Ali Zeidan remains isolated, and the General National Congress (GNC) can override his wishes, the longer the Libyan Government will remain unable to brave the endless oil blockades in the East, as well as terrorism, assassinations and intertribal clashes. In fact, the continued political stalemate in Tripoli, as well as the tendency of authorities to divert attention toward the supposed threats of Muammar Gaddafi’s ghost, has only exacerbated these problems.
The Asia-Pacific is in the clutches of tense geo-political rivalry, as states attempt to come to grips with a new balance of power in the region. 2014 is likely to see growing confrontations between Asian powers, mainly in the problematic but resource-rich maritime zones of East and Southeast Asia, in a struggle for influence, financial reward and territorial domination. Although not an ideological battle such as that seen following the Second World War, this ‘cold war’ is also made up of mutual recriminations and escalating tensions, as a background to the ongoing power shift in Asia, with regional actors attempting to manage and counter China’s growing assertiveness.
In recent years, as technology has been advancing at a rate of knots, cyber crimes have been making headlines on a regular basis reporting highly technical and elaborate scams and high value losses, sparking fear in businesses and individuals alike. Whilst high-tech defences have been being developed to combat these crimes, low level, low-tech fraud techniques have once again begun to trend in the background.
On 07 February 2014, Russia is due to launch the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the first Olympic games to be held in the region and the first to be held in Russia since the 1980 Moscow Olympics. However, despite the best efforts of Russia’s bevy of security agencies, as well as the Russian Government’s public relations’ efforts, the international community and tourists have become increasingly worried over the risk of a terrorist attack at, or near, the event. Despite Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s best efforts to declare Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov dead, and Putin’s statements equally frequent statements on Russia’s ongoing victory over Islamic terrorism, Umarov, and the terrorist threat remain very much alive. The release of a video by Islamist terrorists on 19 January 2014, has further underlined the region’s terrorists desire to strike the Sochi Olympics, the mountain events of which are rather insensitively being held at Krasnaya Polyana, the site of the final defeat of the predominantly Muslim Circassian people in May 1864 and also the location of a celebratory Russian military parade shortly thereafter. Yet the question remains, do the terrorists of the Caucasus have the ability to make good on their claims to strike the event? And what will become of the North Caucasus, and its terrorist groups, once attention shifts away from the region after the Olympics?
Between 14-15 January 2014, Egypt finally began the process of giving recent legislative changes, formed by the army backed interim government, a chance to be put to public referendum. The first test was to see the new constitution being passed, giving legitimacy to the June 2013 ousting of unpopular former President Mohamed Morsi after mass uprisings, other aims were to set a benchmark for future polls. With the likely intent of seeing an army backed candidate run and win the presidential elections. Parties allied to the army’s future roadmap for stability will in turn attempt a similar win in parliamentary polls before the years end but likely in the Summer of 2014. All of which defined in the constitution as having to be achieved in the space of 6 months of the referendum. Before polls opened an explosion occurred outside a Criminal Court on Sudan Street in the Imbaba area of North Giza. What that incident does illustrate is the current trend of further encroachment into Greater Cairo by militant groups or lone wolves intent on using violent direct action against police, government, military, infrastructure or legal targets. The eastern Nasr City district remains the current focus of terror incidents in Greater Cairo with eleven high profile blasts in four months. How does this threat manifest itself across the capital in the short term? And what affect will successful transition from interim military led rule, to democratic accountability, mean for the future of Egypt and its affect on the terror environment?