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HOT SPOTS FOR TRAVELLERS

Hot Spots Report

AMERICAS

Brazil (Security threat level - 3): On 15 April 2014 approximately 1,000 people gathered in Sao Paulo’s business district to protest against the large sums of public money being used to fund the World Cup. The “Nao Vai Ter Copa” (There Will Be No World Cup) protesters gathered outside the Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) before marching down Avenida Paulista. The protest was largely peaceful until the protesters reached the Butanta neighborhood, where they vandalized two banks. At least 1,000 police officers and riot troops responded, using stun grenades to disperse the demonstration. At least 54 people were arrested. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The next protest in Sao Paulo against the World Cup is scheduled to take place on 29 April. Protests against the World Cup have been staged periodically since the nationwide movement calling for better health services, education and transportation swept Brazil during the Confederations Cup in June 2013. While recent demonstrations have been smaller than those that occurred last year, they have also been more violent, frequently ending in acts of vandalism and clashes with police officers. The threat of protests in Sao Paulo remains elevated as Brazil gears up to host the World Cup between 12 June and 13 July 2014.

ASIA

South Korea (Security threat level - 2): A passenger ferry sank off the coast of South Korea on 16 April 2014. An estimated 450 people were on board when the incident occurred. The ferry had been traveling from Incheon to Jeju Island, which is located off the southern coast of South Korea, when it began sinking approximately 13 mi/20 km off the mainland’s coast. While the cause is under investigation, rescued passengers reported hearing a loud banging sound moments before the vessel began to tilt. The South Korean coast guard reports that approximately 180 individuals from the vessel have been rescued. Two people are reported killed, and nearly 300 others are still missing. The rescue operation was ongoing as of last report.

EUROPE

Ukraine (Security threat level - 4): An “anti-terrorist” operation to quell unrest in eastern Ukraine has met resistance as of 16 April 2014. On the evening of 15 April, Ukrainian military forces took control of the occupied Kramatorsk airfield between Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region; however, reports indicate that pro-Russian forces have blocked at least one military convoy in the town of Kramatorsk and that five armored personnel carriers and one tank belonging to the Ukrainian military have been commandeered and driven to nearby Slavyansk. The circumstances behind the vehicle seizures remain unclear, with some reports indicating that they were the result of defections. Some vehicles were seen flying Russian flags. Trains between Kramatorsk and Druzhkivka have been blocked, although it is not clear who is blocking them. In the regional capital of Donetsk, a group of 20 armed pro-Russian separatists entered the mayor's office. Security forces did not offer resistance. The armed group is demanding that the region hold a referendum on Ukrainian federalism to give local area residents greater rights.

The unrest remains largely confined to the region of Donetsk, although the security service building in the city of Luhansk also remains occupied, and reports indicate that two Ukrainian armed forces servicemen were abducted in the region on 15 April. Meanwhile, in the southern city of Odessa police and government supporters have erected roadblocks leading to the city in an effort to prevent unrest from spreading there.

NATO responded on 16 April by announcing an increase in its military presence along its eastern border, which includes the countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. NATO has not indicated that it will deploy troops to Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance.


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Ethiopia (Security threat level - 4): Gunmen ambushed a passenger bus in western Ethiopia near the Sudanese border on 16 April 2014, killing nine people and wounding six others. The attack took place in the Benishangul Gumuz region. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Nigeria (Security threat level - 5): Nigerian officials and witnesses reported on 15 April 2014 that heavily armed Boko Haram Islamists abducted at least 100, but possibly as many as 200, girls from a school in Chibok, Borno state, late on 14 April; Chibok is located approximately 80 mi/130 km from Maiduguri. Reports indicate that the assailants numbered in the dozens and arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in several vehicles at 2100 local time. The militants subsequently engaged security guards in a gunbattle, killing two of them, before raiding the school and kidnapping the girls. The assailants also set fire to 170 residences and businesses in the area. As of 16 April, the Nigerian military, the local police force and civilian volunteers are searching for the victims, who may have been transported to a forested area near the Cameroonian border.

Analyst Comment: This incident follows a threat issued on 23 March by Boko Haram’s leader that the group would begin targeting schoolgirls. Borno state shut down all of its secondary schools in March due to concerns over attacks targeting educational institutions, and it is unclear why the Government Girls Secondary School was still open; some reports indicate that it was only open for exams. Boko Haram has kidnapped women in the past -- usually for use a sex slaves -- but such a mass abduction is rare. This large-scale raid and kidnapping took place on the same day that suspected Boko Haram attackers carried out a bombing in the capital city of Abuja, killing at least 75 people. Both incidents have raised serious doubts over the efficacy of Nigeria’s military operations in the northeast, where the group is headquartered. A state of emergency has been in place in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states since May 2013, but nearly daily attacks continue to take place.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Republic of Congo (Security threat level - 3): On 16 April 2014 the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville issued an Emergency Message, which reads in part as follows: "Embassy Brazzaville advises American citizens to avoid the area of Mbomo, which is located on the southwest border of Odzala National Park in the north of the Republic of the Congo. On Friday night, April 11, near Mbomo, a mob reported to number 150-200 people attacked the office of African Parks Network. There are reports of some injuries. Congolese security forces have responded and are working to increase security in the area. However the possibility of future violence remains a concern. While Americans do not appear to be specifically targeted, all non-essential travel to this area should be deferred until further notice."

SIGNIFICANT DATES

16 April

Cambodia: Cambodian New Year (Public holiday)
Hungary: Holocaust Memorial Day
Judaism: Passover (Pessah)
Thailand: Songkran Festival (Public holiday)

17 April

Algeria: Algeria Presidential Election
Brazil: Anniversary of the massacre of El Dorado dos Carajas (Demonstrations, civil unrest and/or land invasions likely to occur on this day or throughout the month.)
Christianity: Maundy Thursday
Gabon: Women's Day
Iraq: FAO Day
Judaism: Passover (Pessah)
Myanmar: Burmese New Year (Also known as Maha Thingyan. Government offices and businesses close.)
Syria: Independence Day

18 April

Christianity: Good Friday (End of Lent)
Christianity: Orthodox Good Friday
Judaism: Passover (Pessah)
Myanmar: Burmese New Year (Also known as Maha Thingyan. Government offices and businesses close.)
Zimbabwe: Independence Day

19 April

Christianity: Orthodox Holy Saturday
Christianity: Holy Saturday
Judaism: Passover (Pessah)
Myanmar: Burmese New Year (Also known as Maha Thingyan. Government offices and businesses close.)
Swaziland: King Mswati III's birthday
Tajikistan: Capital City Day
United States: Anniversary of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City (1995)
United States: Anniversary of the end of the Siege of the Branch Davidian compound (1993)
Venezuela: Beginning of the Independence Movement

20 April

Christianity: Orthodox Easter Day (public holiday)
Christianity: Easter
Ecuador: Anniversary of the ousting of President Lucio Gutierrez (Demonstrations may occur, primarily in Quito.)
Egypt: Coptic Easter
Judaism: Passover (Pessah)
Myanmar: Burmese New Year (Also known as Maha Thingyan. Government offices and businesses close.)

21 April

Brazil: Tiradentes Day (Commemorates revolutionary hero; public holiday)
Christianity: Easter Monday
Christianity: Orthodox Easter Monday (public holiday)
Judaism: Passover (Pessah)
Myanmar: Burmese New Year (Also known as Maha Thingyan. Government offices and businesses close.)
Puerto Rico: Jose de Diego's birthday (Government offices and banks closed). Celebrated on the third Monday of April each year.
Uruguay: Landing of the 33 Patriots

22 April

Judaism: Passover (Pessah)

23 April

Brazil: Sao Jorge (Rio de Janeiro only)
Bulgaria: Lazarouvane
Turkey: National Sovereignty and Children's Day

24 April

Armenia: Genocide Memorial Day (Public holiday; commemorations held in Armenia and worldwide)
Niger: National Concord Day
Togo: Day of Victory

25 April

Australia / New Zealand: Anzac Day
Egypt: Sinai Liberation Day
Iceland: First Day of Summer
Italy: Liberation Day (Commemorates the retaking of Rome from German forces. Public holiday. Offices and businesses close.)
Italy: Saint Mark's Day (Patron saint of Venice; festivities held in the main square in Venice)
North Korea: Military Foundation Day (Public holiday)
Portugal: Liberty Day
Swaziland: National Flag Day
United States: Annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Indianapolis (Traffic disruptions likely in the vicinity of the venue - TBA - due to the large number of attendees)

26 April

Tanzania: Union Day
United States: Annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Indianapolis (Traffic disruptions likely in the vicinity of the venue - TBA - due to the large number of attendees)

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