Incident Report Tuesday, December 16, 2008


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Dominican Republic






Côte d’Ivoire

Bolivia (Country threat level - 4 ): On 15 December 2008 demonstrations called to protest a government ban on the importation of used vehicles turned violent. Thousands of protesters blocked two major roadways in Pisiga and Patacamaya, thoroughfares that connect La Paz with the rest of the country. Police officers used force to disperse protesters from the blockade in Patacamaya. At least one person was killed and five were injured in the clashes between the police officers and the protesters.

Brazil (Country threat level - 3 ): Union members and grassroots organization activists assembled in Brasilia on 15 December 2008 to protest the Brazilian government's plan to auction off land to drilling companies. The protesters took over the offices of the Mines and Energy Ministry for four hours, but the occupation ended peacefully. The National Oil Workers' Front stated that it may begin a strike on 16 December to continue protesting the sale of oil fields. The protesters are demanding that all oil field auctions be suspended immediately and indefinitely.

Dominican Republic (Country threat level - 3 ): An Atlantic Aviation twin-engine aircraft disappeared after taking off from Cibao International Airport (MDST/STI) in Santiago at approximately 1600 local time on 15 December 2008. The aircraft, which was en route to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, had 11 passengers and one pilot on board. The U.S. Coast Guard is assisting in efforts to locate the aircraft, though rescue efforts were temporarily suspended until the morning of 16 December due to bad weather. The pilot sent a distress signal to the Providenciales air traffic control center approximately 40 minutes into the flight.

Paraguay (Country threat level - 3 ): On 15 December 2008 members of Federación de la Producción, la Industria y el Comercio (Feprinco), one of the largest organizations of entrepreneurs in Paraguay, began marching from 13 outlying areas to the National Pantheon of Heroes in Asuncion. The union members are marching to demand greater protection of businesses from criminal attacks and illegal product imports. The protesters are expected to reach Asuncion at approximately 1900 local time (2200 UTC).

China (Country threat level - 3 ): On 16 December 2008 dense fog forced officials at Chengdu's Shuangliu International Airport (ZUUU/CTU) to close down the facility for six and a half hours, beginning at approximately 0430 local time (2030 UTC on 15 December). According to an airport spokesman, visibility was down to 26 ft/8 m, compared to a minimum of 1,640 ft/500 m that is necessary for takeoff. Officials expected more than 400 flights to experience delays of at least three hours, stranding approximately 10,000 passengers. Flights were gradually restored beginning at approximately 1300 local time (0500 UTC). Foggy conditions are again expected on 17 December, raising the possibility of renewed flight disruptions at Shuangliu International, which is a major hub for cargo and passenger traffic in southwestern China.

Kazakhstan (Country threat level - 3 ): Clashes broke out at a protest over housing issues in Almaty on 16 December 2008. Approximately 400 people were participating in the demonstration on Republic Square, calling for the government's resignation, when police officers attempted to arrest the leader of the action, prompting the clashes. The protest leader -- who is also the head of a local unregistered NGO -- was detained, but it is not known if there were any further arrests or injuries.

ASI Comment: Protests are uncommon in Kazakhstan, but several that have taken place in recent years have been over housing issues. The specific grievances behind this most recent protest were not reported, but several outstanding issues could have contributed. In recent years, Almaty has been engaged in development projects that have necessitated the razing of settlements on the outskirts of the city, which has prompted clashes between police officers and residents. In addition, the recent global economic downturn has significantly affected Kazakhstan, with the credit crunch stalling the construction sector. Delays in housing projects have the potential to increase tension in the population, which has already been hit hard by inflation in recent years. In general, however, issues related to housing are unlikely to develop into a significant level of unrest in the near term.

Thailand (Country threat level - 3 ): The Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) has announced that it will hold three days of protests against new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva beginning on 16 December 2008. The protests will be held at the Sanam Luang field, located in Bangkok's Phra Nakhon district. The DAAD accuses Abhisit and his Democrat Party of "stealing" the premiership from the Pheu Thai party, the successor of the former ruling People Power Party (PPP). Several protests against the new prime minister took place earlier on 16 December and on 15 December. There were no reports of significant disruptions or violence.

ASI Comment: The protests and the DAAD announcement are indications of the fragility of the political situation in Thailand and of the threat of renewed civil unrest. This threat does not appear imminent, however. If they remain confined to Sanam Luang, the DAAD rallies will likely not have a significant impact on day-to-day activities in Bangkok.

France (Country threat level - 3 ): French authorities evacuated the Printemps department store complex on Haussmann Boulevard in central Paris on 16 December 2008 after explosives were found in the store. The devices -- which a French media source described as five sticks of dynamite -- were left in restrooms on the third floor of the store's men's department. A bomb squad safely defused the devices. The explosives were found after a French news agency received a letter warning that the devices were planted at the store. A previously unknown group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front reportedly sent the warning, which called for the withdrawal of French soldiers from Afghanistan. The French interior minister stated that the devices could not have exploded because they lacked detonators. Traffic in the area -- which was halted during the search -- resumed at approximately 1300 local time (1200 UTC), and the store reopened at approximately 1430 local time (1330 UTC).

Greece (Country threat level - 3 ): Protests over the police shooting death of a teenager resumed in Athens and Thessaloniki on 16 December 2008, following a two-day lull in violence. In Athens, masked protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at the riot police headquarters, severely damaging vehicles in the area. Protesters also blocked streets near the main court complex and briefly occupied the state television channel. During the overnight hours, at least three Athens-area banks were damaged in Molotov cocktail attacks. In Thessaloniki, approximately 300 demonstrators gathered outside the main court complex and threw rocks and other objects at police officers, who fired tear gas to disperse them. There were no reports of injuries.

Ukraine (Country threat level - 3 ): President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc officially signed a coalition deal with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc, along with the smaller Litvin Bloc, on 16 December 2008. Ukraine's government has been in a state of limbo since Yushchenko announced the Parliament's dissolution in September. Early elections were initially set to take place in December; however, they were canceled due to the country's current economic crisis, which was prompted by the global downturn.

ASI Comment: In the short term, the establishment of the new coalition will allow the Parliament to take up anti-crisis legislation that has been pending for months. However, the coalition may find it difficult to gain a majority on certain issues due to defectors in the Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense Bloc, and the agreement will remain unstable due to continuing rivalries between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

Niger (Country threat level -
A splinter group of Niger's ethnic Tuareg rebel movement -- the Niger Movement for Justice -- claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Canadian diplomats and their Nigerien driver on 16 December 2008. The Canadians, who are U.N. special envoys to Niger, and their local driver were reportedly abducted the previous day approximately 28 mi/45 km northwest of the capital Niamey, near the town of Karma. Authorities report that the diplomats visited the Canadian-owned Samira Hill gold mine in the western Tillaberi region and were likely kidnapped on their return to the capital. The rebels claimed that the diplomats were kidnapped in a "commando operation" that was intended to warn diplomats not to do business with Niger's "ethnocidal regime." Although kidnappings are common in the country's northern regions, abductions near Niamey and in the country's south are relatively rare.

Nigeria (Country threat level -
A criminal group attacked four banks in the city of Ile-Ife -- which is located in Osun state in southwestern Nigeria -- on 15 December 2008. Reports indicate that approximately 20 criminals attempted to rob the banks at approximately 1000 local time in the city's Lagere area. At least 10 people were killed, including two robbers, and 40 others were injured in the gunbattle that ensued between the robbers, police officers and a local vigilante group known as the "Great Ife." The remaining eight criminals reportedly fled the scene, but authorities reported that they believe the robbers to still be hiding in the city.

Zimbabwe (Country threat level -
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) announced on 15 December 2008 that it will hold a nationwide protest on 16 December, demanding the formation of a new government and implementation of democracy. Demonstrators are expected to gather in Harare, Bulwayo, Masvingo, Gweru and Mutare early in the morning and continue their action throughout the day. The NCA's previous demonstrations drew more than 1,000 supporters in Harare, but also encountered violent crackdowns from Zimbabwe's police force. During a recent protest in the capital, at least 15 people were arrested and 22 others were seriously injured. Despite the crackdown, the NCA has stated that it will not be deterred from holding peaceful marches to demand democracy.

Haiti (Country threat level -
The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on 15 December 2008: "Lavalas party members are scheduled to march from Aristide’s residence in Tabarre on December 16th at 9:00 a.m. The demonstrators will begin in Tabarre, pass by the airport to Cite Soleil, and proceed to La Saline Boulevard. They will continue walking east on Delmas road to Delmas 2, toward the Bel Air area, and will end in Champs de Mars at the park across from the Plaza Hotel.

"The Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to continue to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security/safety awareness. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn violent. Americans in Haiti should take commonsense precautions and avoid any event where crowds may congregate. Visitors and residents must remain vigilant due to the absence of an effective police force in much of Haiti, the potential for looting, the presence of intermittent roadblocks set by armed gangs or by the police, and the possibility of random violent crime including kidnapping, carjacking, home invasion, armed robbery, and assault."

Côte d’Ivoire (Country threat level -
The U.S. Department of State issued the following Travel Warning on 15 December 2008: "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Cote d’Ivoire and urges U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution while traveling in Cote d’Ivoire. This replaces the Travel Warning for Cote d’Ivoire dated June 09, 2008, updates information on the security and political situation, and advises all U.S. citizens to maintain an adequate supply of water, food, and fuel.

“Cote d’Ivoire continues to experience periodic episodes of political unrest and violence since a 2002 failed coup attempt evolved into an armed rebellion that split the country in two. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and New Forces leader Guillaume Soro signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) in March 2007 and a new government was formed with Soro as Prime Minister (PM). Although implementation of the accord is ongoing, the political situation has not fully returned to normal. In December 2007, Bouake, the largest city under the control of the New Forces, experienced rioting by disaffected rebel soldiers and paramilitary forces, as well as fighting between opposing factions within the rebel movement, amid rumors of another coup attempt. Travel for the local population was severely restricted during this period, and two employees of the U.S. Embassy were evacuated by United Nations (UN) forces to a safe haven. Both UN and French peacekeepers remain in the country.

“Given the sometimes tense and potentially volatile security situation, the Department of State urges American citizens to exercise extreme caution should they travel to Cote d’Ivoire, and to take special care when traveling outside Abidjan. In February 2008, Embassy personnel and other international organizations were prevented from traveling to and from western Cote d’Ivoire due to rioting by government soldiers. Americans planning travel to Cote d'Ivoire despite this Travel Warning should consult the Embassy or their host organization(s) for the most recent security assessment of the areas where they plan to travel. Increases in food and oil prices could provoke impromptu strikes or demonstrations, as occurred in Abidjan in July 2008. Crimes such as mugging, robbery, burglary, and carjacking pose the highest risk for foreign visitors in Abidjan. Visitors should be careful when stopped in heavy traffic or at impromptu roadblocks due to the threat of violent robbery, and should avoid travel outside of the city after dark. Land routes to neighboring countries are open, although overland travel to Liberia and Guinea is strongly discouraged, and caution is urged when crossing into Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.

“Long-delayed presidential elections scheduled for November 30, 2008 have been postponed and a new date has not yet been set. Americans traveling to Cote d’Ivoire should follow political developments carefully, as there is potential for violence in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the elections.

“The Department of State continues to prohibit minor dependents under the age of 18 from accompanying U.S. government employees assigned to the Embassy in Abidjan. Embassy employees are asked to be cautious when traveling within Abidjan and to avoid travel outside of the city at night. Private Americans are urged to follow the same guidelines. U.S. Embassy personnel must obtain prior approval before traveling more than 35 kilometers outside Abidjan. Some of those requests may be denied, or multi-vehicle convoys may be required for security reasons. Americans resident in Cote d’Ivoire should maintain several days’ supply of cooking fuel, food, and water at home, and ensure that their vehicles are fully fueled at all times. "


16 December

Bahrain: National Day (Observed as a public holiday on 18 December. Military parade organized in Manama.)
Bangladesh: Victory Day (The day that Pakistani-held Dhaka fell to the Indian army, marking Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. Everything closes on Victory Day as it is a national holiday. Possibility of strikes due to a state of political unrest.)
Kazakhstan: Independence Day (All government offices, businesses close.)
Kyrgyz Republic: Kyrgyzstan Muslim Union to launch series of protests in regional centers, which will conclude with a demonstration in Bishkek on 24 December.
South Africa: Reconciliation Day (Anniversary of the Battle of Blood River)

17 December

Bhutan: National Day (Public holiday)
Ukraine: Trade union protests planned in large industrial centers ahead of a mass demonstration in Kiev on 23 December

18 December

Niger: Republic Day (Public holiday. Offices and businesses close.)
Qatar: National Day (Public holiday; many offices and businesses close.)

20 December

Argentina: Anniversary of the ousting of Fernando de la Rua (Street demonstrations likely to occur.)

21 December

Chinese Calendar: Dongzhi (Winter Solstice)
Israel: Hanukkah

23 December

Israel: Hanukkah
Judaism: Hanukkah (Feast of Lights)
Japan: Birthday of the Emperor (Public celebrations. Some businesses and government offices close.)
Ukraine: Trade unions to stage mass protest in Kiev

24 December

Israel: Hanukkah
Judaism: Hanukkah (Feast of Lights)
Kyrgyz Republic: Kyrgyzstan Muslim Union to stage demonstration in Bishkek.
Libya: Independence Day
Christianity: Christmas Eve (Partial holiday in many countries)

25 December

Israel: Hanukkah
Judaism: Hanukkah (Feast of Lights)
Taiwan: Constitution Day (Public holiday, government and business offices closed.)
Christianity: Christmas (Observed as a public holiday in many countries.)

26 December

Israel: Hanukkah
Judaism: Hanukkah (Feast of Lights)
Australia: Proclamation Day (Public holiday in South Australia)
Bahamas: Boxing Day (public holiday)
Christianity: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen's Day/Boxing Day (Observed as a public holiday in many countries.)

(1) - A minimum threat of physical harm. Petty crime is the most common threat.
(2) - A low threat of physical harm. Petty crime and infrequent demonstrations are the most common threats.
(3) - A medium threat of physical harm. Petty crime and demonstrations are common and violent acts do occur.
(4) - A high threat of physical harm due to violent acts associated with crime, demonstrations or terrorism.
(5) - A very high threat of physical harm due to violent acts associated with crime, terrorism, demonstrations or war.