National security wrap

The beat

Adelaide drug haul

The Australian Federal Police seized 313 kilograms of methamphetamine in what was described as the biggest drug haul in South Australian history. The shipment, hidden in two crane jibs, most likely originated in Southeast Asia. Three men have been arrested and face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. The drugs were heading for Adelaide, which is dubbed Australia’s ‘ice capital’.

Mountie rescue

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer has been honoured for saving a young boy’s life at the Winter Olympics. Frank Martineau leaped into action, performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on an 8‑year‑old boy who was choking on some Korean sticky rice. The RCMP is deployed to Pyeongchang as part of a 16-country international team assisting with venue security.

CT scan

Turkish women sentenced to death

Iraq’s Central Criminal Court found 10 Turkish women and one Azeri woman guilty of breaching Iraq’s anti-terror laws. The women went to Iraq to join Islamic State. The court sentenced 10 of the women to life terms, and one Turkish woman to death. Those handed life sentences claimed that they were duped or forced by their husbands to go to Iraq. The woman sentenced to death was the only one to confess to travelling voluntarily to Iraq with her family. The sentencing is one of many to come as Iraq deals with several hundred captured foreigners with links to Islamic State.

Not all fun and games

PlayStation maker Sony revealed this week that in 2017 it passed key information to the FBI about Isse Aweis Mohamud, who was suspected of planning to travel to Iraq to fight for a terrorist organisation. The information included device message history, implying that Sony has more information about its users’ communications than previously thought.

New to the terrorist watch list

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain has labelled Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Faleh-e-Insaniat Foundation terrorist organisations. These groups’ official status had long been ambiguous despite their association with terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba. Hussain promulgated the ordinance just as the US indicated that it would seek to add Pakistan to the terrorism-financing watch list at the Financial Action Task Force’s meeting in Paris this week. The US State Department welcomed President Hussain’s ordinance, but questioned what ‘concrete steps’ Pakistan is taking to deprive the groups of financing.


Rohingya repatriation

Senior officials from Myanmar and Bangladesh will discuss the repatriation of over 6,500 Rohingya Muslims trapped between the two countries next week. Bangladesh has already handed over the names of more than 8,000 refugees to be vetted for repatriation. Amid protests against the return proceedings in Rohingya refugee camps, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned against forcibly returning refugees to Rakhine State. Any forced repatriation of refugees would violate the international law principle of non-refoulement.

Some pizza and 100 tear gas grenades, please

San Diego spent over US$50,000 on supplies to disperse expected protests against prototypes of President Donald Trump’s border wall. The preparations, which included everything from Costco pizza to 100 tear gas grenades, were spurred by a warning from the Department of Homeland Security about potentially violent demonstrations. The demonstrations never materialised. Activists criticised the prototypes’ location as ‘a trap’ to incite protests that would paint the anti-wall community as belligerent.

Colombia’s constricting border

Colombia again tightened its border with Venezuela last week, announcing the discontinuation of so‑called ‘crossing cards’ that let people come and go freely. With Venezuela facing an intensifying economic crisis, the strict immigration procedures have affected cross-border trade, exacerbating hardships in the already-vulnerable region.

First responder

When pigs fly … or have anthrax

An alleged anthrax outbreak in Papua New Guinea created public fear, but local authorities say there’s nothing to worry about, for humans at least. PNG Health Secretary Pasco Kase confirmed that no one had caught the disease. However, another media site reported that the Department of Agriculture and Livestock had detected the anthrax-causing bacteria in Madang province, where some 600 pigs have died in the last two months.

Economic resilience in the Caribbean

The Caribbean Development Bank is optimistic for the region’s 2018 economic growth, predicting a 2% increase in GDP. In its 2017 Caribbean economic review and 2018 outlook, the bank identifies the prevalence of natural disasters in the region as a major impediment to sustained growth. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria affected 10 countries in the region last year. The report proposes a framework for building sustainable and resilient economies in the region. The framework’s four components are macroeconomic resilience, productivity and competitiveness, human development and environmental resilience.

Fever outbreak in Nigeria

Thousands of people in Nigeria face a severe health risk as the nation battles a Lassa fever outbreak. There have been more than 600 newly reported cases in the last six weeks, including 57 fatalities. The fever has spread to 17 of Nigeria’s 36 states, mainly in the nation’s southwest. The World Health Organization is sending teams with supplies to help manage the outbreak.