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HOT SPOTS FOR TRAVELLERS

Hot Spots Report

AMERICAS

United States (Security threat level - 2): On 26 January 2015, a blizzard is expected to affect the east coast of the United States, stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine. The blizzard is forecasted to drop up to 3 ft/90 cm of snow over a period of 48 hours, beginning at approximately 1300 local time (1800 UTC). The New York City area is expected to be especially hard hit, with snowfall estimates at 30 in/76 cm and winds gusting at 50 mph/43 kt. The impending weather has already created transportation disruptions, with more than 2,100 flights canceled by airlines on 26 January and approximately 2,000 on 27 January. The cancellations affected primarily flights arriving and departing New York, Boston and Philadelphia. In New York, the Office of the Mayor has asked residents to stay off the roads, and stated that the subway and rail road may be closed due to the inclement weather.

ASIA

Pakistan (Security threat level - 5): Authorities placed airports around the country on a heightened state of alert on 26 January 2015, allegedly due to intelligence inputs indicating possible plans to attack an airport. At Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport (OPRN/ISB), authorities discouraged motorists from entering the airport’s parking lot, and the increased security measures resulted in long lines of vehicles. No details are available on the threat that prompted the alert.
Pakistan (Security threat level - 5): An attack carried out by militants on a transmission tower in the province of Balochistan caused a power outage that affected locations across the country on 25 January 2015; media reports claimed that the outage was the most extensive that Pakistan has ever experienced. Power was restored to the capital city of Islamabad and to Karachi during 25 January, but approximately 80 percent of Pakistan’s population remained without electricity. Authorities expected to have power fully restored by the evening of 26 January. Authorities blamed separatist Balochi rebels for the attack.
Philippines (Security threat level - 4): On 25 January 2015, clashes occurred between police forces and Islamic insurgents in the southern Philippines. The fighting began when police officers encountered members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano village, which is a stronghold of Islamist insurgents and is located in a remote area of Mindanao Island. The police officers sought the arrest of a suspected militant from Malaysia known for his bomb-making prowess. The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014, and the fighting took place one day before the congressional hearings were scheduled to take place on ratifying the peace agreement. Representatives from MILF stated that the officers did not use the normal protocol for entering the village, prompting the MILF members in the village to take up arms; more than 40 police officers were killed in the clashes. It is still not clear if the Malaysian national in question was in the village.

Analyst Comment: Peace with MILF is a contentious topic in the Philippines, and President Begnino Aquino has invested a significant amount of political capital into implementing the peace deal agreed to in March 2014. While this is only the first major outbreak of violence since the parties agreed to the deal, the fighting on 25 January has the potential to delay or even derail the peace deal. While the hearing on ratifying the peace deal went ahead in the Senate committee, a special committee on the Bangsamoro law (which is how Filipinos often refer to the peace deal) within the Philippine legislature called for a suspension to the ratification process and a full investigation into the fighting.

EUROPE

Greece (Security threat level - 2): On 25 January 2015, the far-left Syriza bloc secured victory in Greece's parliamentary election, garnering approximately 36 percent of the vote. New Democracy, the leader of the previous government, finished in second place, with approximately 28 percent of the vote. Following the announcement of the party's victory, Syriza agreed to form a coalition government with the right-wing Independent Greeks party. Together, the coalition members will hold 162 of the 300 seats in Greece's parliament. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, was sworn in as prime minister on 26 January.

Analyst Comment: Although the coalition members are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they are both against austerity measures taken by the Greek government in past years. It remains to be seen how well the new coalition will interact with the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which insist on continued cost-cutting measures to improve Greece's financial state as it recovers from a sovereign debt crisis that required bailout loans in 2010 and 2012.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Egypt (Security threat level - 4): Egypt’s state-run media reported on 26 January 2015 that 23 people -- including three police officers -- were killed during clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo on 24-26 January 2015, while nearly 100 others were injured. The violent protests marked the fourth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that led to the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak. Most of the violence took place in Cario’s al-Mataryiyah district, Ain Shams and al-Haram neighborhoods, Ramses Square, Rabaa al-Adawiyah Square, Talaat al-Harb Square and Tahrir Square. In addition, on 25 January, a bomb targeting police officers stationed outside a sports club detonated in Cairo’s Heliopolis district. Two police officers were injured in the explosion. The Ajnad-Masr militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level - 5): On 25 January 2015, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) lower house approved the amended census bill that was passed by the Senate on 23 January. The amended bill calls for the country’s next elections to take place as planned in 2016 and does not require a national census prior to the polls. The original text -- which called for the census -- sparked four days of violent protests in Kinshasa and Goma, as the opposition claimed that it was an attempt to keep President Joseph Kabila in power past the end of his mandate. According to local media reports, activities have normalized in Kinshasa as of 26 January, with markets, businesses and gas stations resuming normal operations; however, many schools remain closed. An increased police presence is still in place in some areas of the capital, but there have been no new reports of unrest in recent days. The opposition had planned to stage protests on 26 January, but those demonstrations were called off after parliament’s vote on 25 January.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Central African Republic (Security threat level - 5): On 23 January 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui issued a Security Message, which reads in part as follows: "The U.S. Embassy in Bangui wishes to inform U.S. citizens of the recent spate of kidnappings of expatriates residing in the capital Bangui. Some have been taken hostage in recent days; most have been released within 24 hours. While current information suggests U.S. citizens are not targets, Westerners appear to be the focus of these kidnappings. U.S. Embassy Bangui recommends that U.S. citizens living in the Central African Republic (CAR) observe caution, and report to the Embassy all incidents occurring in their area. The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens in CAR despite our travel warning to exercise caution while traveling in Bangui."

Gabon (Security threat level - 3): On 26 January 2015, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice, which reads in part as follows: β€œIn recent months there have been strikes and demonstrations throughout Gabon. The next protest march is scheduled for 27 January 2015. Avoid large gatherings and keep in touch with the news.”
Germany (Security threat level - 2): On 26 January 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and consulates in Frankfurt and Munich issued a Security Message, which reads in part as follows: "The U.S. Embassy in Berlin and the Consulates General in Frankfurt and Munich inform U.S. citizens in Germany of upcoming demonstrations in several German cities. We take this opportunity to urge all U.S. citizens to be aware of the increased threat level in the region and to take appropriate personal security precautions.

"On Monday, January 26, 2015, U.S citizens residing in or traveling to Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich may encounter PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) and counter-PEGIDA demonstrations in downtown areas according to media sources. The demonstrations are scheduled to start at approximately 18:30 and may cause traffic disruptions.

"On Monday, January 26, 2015 (and possibly on subsequent Mondays as well), a PEGIDA offshoot organization may demonstrate at the Düsseldorf Train Station. According to media sources, the organization is also planning a demonstration for Monday, February 16 in Düsseldorf, which coincides with Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) celebrations. Counter-demonstrations may be expected.

"Similar demonstrations may take place in other cities throughout Germany in the coming weeks, particularly in Dresden, Leipzig and Cologne in addition to the locations previously mentioned.

"Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if you find yourself in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. U.S. citizens should monitor local media and maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness. In the event of an emergency, contact the Police at 110 or Fire at 112, as appropriate."

Lebanon (Security threat level - 4): On 24 January 2015 the U.S. Embassy in Beirut issued a Security Message for U.S. citizens, which reads in part as follows: "The U.S. Embassy in Beirut advises U.S. citizens in Lebanon of reports in local media on January 23, 2015 that a suspected suicide bomber confessed to authorities that future targets had allegedly included Casino du Liban in Jounieh, and Le Royal Hotel in Dbayeh.

"After a period of relative calm, this event serves as an important reminder of the ongoing security concerns in Lebanon -- even in areas which are normally considered less dangerous. While the security forces of Lebanon have had a number of important successes in preventing suicide attacks, the U.S. Embassy continues to urge U.S. citizens in Lebanon to exercise heightened security awareness of their surroundings at all times, and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and security. Be conscious of your personal security at all times. The Embassy urges all U.S. citizens in Lebanon to monitor the media for the latest developments. ..."

Marshall Islands (Security threat level - 1): On 26 January 2015, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for the Marshall Islands, which includes the following: "A ‘King Tide’ has caused widespread flooding in the capital Majuro and at least 4 remote outer islands. Further flooding is possible, particularly if there are any storm surges or high winds in combination with the high tides."


SIGNIFICANT DATES

26 January

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Australia: Australia Day (Public holiday)
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Dominican Republic: Duarte's Day (Government offices and schools close. Some businesses close.)
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.
India: Republic Day. Increased security measures will be in place in New Delhi and other cities.
Uganda: NRM Liberation Day

27 January

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Bosnia and Herzegovina / Serbia: St. Sava's Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.

28 January

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Cayman Islands: National Heroes' Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.

29 January

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.

30 January

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.
Nepal: Martyrs Day

31 January

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.

1 February

Australia: Australian Open (Tennis tournament) in Melbourne
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.
Mauritius: Abolition of Slavery Day
Rwanda: Heroes' Day
United States: Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

2 February

Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.

3 February

Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.
France: Carnival de Nice
Malaysia: Thaipusam
Maldives: The Day Maldives Embraced Islam
Mauritius: Thaipoosam Cavadee
Mozambique: Heroes' Day
Paraguay: Anniversary of end of Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship (Demonstrations may occur.)
Sao Tome e Principe: Heroes' Day

4 February

Angola: Liberation Day / Initiation of Armed Struggle
Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.
France: Carnival de Nice
Malaysia: Thaipusam
Venezuela: Anniversary of 1992 failed coup by Hugo Chávez (Demonstrations may occur among Chávez supporters celebrating the date and among his opponents who denounce the celebrations.)

5 February

Barbados: Errol Barrow Day
Burundi: Unity Day
Colombia: ELN Guerilla Group founded in 1958
Equatorial Guinea: Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held in four cities -- Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin -- from 17 January to 8 February.
France: Carnival de Nice
Iran: Arbaeen
Pakistan: Kashmir Solidarity Day
Tanzania: Chama Cha Mapinduzi Day (Founding of the Tanzanian ruling party. Low-level political violence may occur.)

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