National security wrap

The beat

Jan Kuciak—the case continues

After the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée at the end of February, the perpetrators are still at large. Kuciak had investigated the Italian Mafia’s influence in Slovakia’s politics. The English translation of his posthumously published report can be read here. According to media reports, seven suspects who had been detained have since been released. Meanwhile, Slovak President Andrej Kiska criticised the government for ignoring warnings of the existence of an ‘Italian crime syndicate’ in Slovakia. He called for new elections.

Bosnia-Herzegovina to amend organised crime legislation

The EU urged Bosnia-Herzegovina to adopt draft amendments to its Criminal Procedure Code. The draft amendments seek to harmonise the code with international standards, specifically those in the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime that stipulate stricter oversight and use of special investigative measures. The amendments regulate undercover police personnel, communication interception, surveillance and the use of informants. The existing legislation is considered a key hindrance to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s progress towards EU membership.

Federal police distress

A review conducted by the Australian Federal Police found that a quarter of its workforce suffers from psychological distress. The review found that 14% of the staff surveyed suffered from clinically significant symptoms of depression, and 9% reported suicidal thoughts. Mental health is a rising concern among Australian emergency workers, with figures revealing that approximately ‘one police officer, paramedic or firefighter is taking their own life every six weeks’.

CT scan

JSIM attacks Burkino Faso

Seventeen people were killed in Burkino Faso’s capital on 2 March. A series of coordinated attacks targeted the French embassy and Burkino Faso’s army headquarters. According to France 24, the militants seemed to have had insider information: they narrowly missed a meeting of the nation’s top military officials. Mali-based terrorist group Jama Nusrat ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin (JSIM) claimed responsibility for the attack. JSIM is an amalgamation of four different jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and is thought to be the largest jihadist group operating in the Sahara.

State and non-state struggle in Sinai

The Islamic State branch in Sinai claimed responsibility for killing and wounding 10 Egyptian soldiers in an attack on 7 March. The attack follows last week’s reports about Egypt’s Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, which has stepped up Sinai anti-terror operations. The Egyptian Army continues to release unverified stats about the number of terrorists killed, weapons storehouses destroyed and suspects arrested. School classes have been suspended in the area indefinitely and internet services are routinely shut off as a result of the operation.

Terror by any other name

Passage of Indonesia’s revised anti-terror laws has stalled as the government considers how to define ‘terrorism’ legally. With more than 260 definitions worldwide, defining terrorism has never been more elusive, or more necessary.


European weapons-smuggling route dismantled

European police disrupted an international weapons-smuggling ring operating across Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France. Simultaneous raids in the four countries led to several arrests. Austria alone claimed to have seized 150 firearms and hundreds of kilograms of ammunition. Advances in ballistics technology have made it possible to examine firearms used in separate shootings—‘where the gun came from, where else it might have been used’—to assist in the identification of gun-smuggling routes.

Afghan–Pakistan border crossings

Pakistan postponed the reopening of a key border crossing with Afghanistan. The Ghulam Khan crossing point in North Waziristan was expected to open yesterday. Officials say it could become the biggest trade route between the two states. The border was closed in 2014 when security forces launched a major operation against Taliban militants. Meanwhile, the border is being fortified: 160 kilometres of fence have been erected, with another 400 kilometres expected to be installed by the end of the year.

Border biometrics

IT company Unisys developed an app that automatically flags suspicious border crossings by both travellers and cargo. The system, called LineSight, processes data from sources such as airline tickets and cargo manifests, as well as information from organisations like immigration agencies and Interpol. Using predictive analytics to decide what or whom to check or to let pass, the system lightens the burden on border officials as passenger and cargo volumes continue to increase.

First responder

50 times lucky

The last carriage of a V-train in the Blue Mountains, travelling between Hazelbrook and Lawson, caught fire last night. Fifty passengers were evacuated safely; the station guard was hospitalised due to smoke inhalation. Witnesses praised the role of fire rescue and police. After the incident, transport Minister Andrew Constance reaffirmed the government’s commitment to replace the decades-old trains.

Women fighting climate change

In a small township in South Africa, an environmental activist, Ndivile Mokoena, campaigns to highlight that climate change doesn’t affect only the environment. She argues that it should be understood as a development and human rights issue, where the most vulnerable are women and children. The Johannesburg-based organisation GenderCC has implemented a new project in South Africa, Indonesia and India to engage women in the fight against climate change by integrating gender and social aspects into urban climate policies.

Cash transfers, crisis response

Donors reaffirmed their commitment to prevent famine in Somalia at the High-Level Humanitarian Event on Somalia in London on Monday. After the 2017 drought, an estimated 5.4 million people need humanitarian assistance. Part of the adopted measures include ‘coordinated, unconditional, unrestricted cash transfers’. The potential for cash transfers to go beyond crisis response and underpin a national social safety net is explained in this webinar.