National security wrap

The beat

State of emergency lifted

Sri Lanka has lifted a nationwide state of emergency that President Maithripala Sirisena had imposed on 6 March to quell anti-Muslim violence in the Buddhist majority country. Tensions boiled over between Muslims and Sinhalese in the central district of Kandy after a ‘Sinhalese man, who had been attacked by a Muslim mob, died in hospital’. The riots killed two people and damaged over 450 Muslim–owned homes and businesses.

University police

Johns Hopkins University wants to create its own police force. The move follows a spate of 16 ‘gunpoint robberies’ around the university’s main campus. Johns Hopkins currently falls within the jurisdiction of the beleaguered and underfunded Baltimore Police Department, which has been accused of racial bias. University police departments are common throughout the US. However the proposal would make Johns Hopkins the first private university in Maryland with its own police force.

Prison radio

A Victorian man who hacked into police radio transmissions has been sentenced to 21 months in jail. The man pled guilty to attempting to call off a police chase by impersonating an officer. Victoria Police uses a digitally encrypted radio network within metro Melbourne, but continues to use VHF in country Victoria, which can be monitored by the public. Country police are upgrading to a digital radio network.

CT scan

Joint China–Cambodia CT exercise

Cambodia and China began their joint counterterrorism and humanitarian Dragon Gold exercise on 19 March in Cambodia. Participating personnel will practice with helicopters, tanks and live ammunition. This is the second such joint drill and comes at the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Cambodia suspended military cooperation with the US last year.

African CT meeting

Intelligence chiefs from 11 African countries met in Uganda on 19 March to discuss regional terrorism. The agenda focussed on terrorist funding, which the participants concluded must be cut off. Officials also discussed intelligence sharing and identifying links between established groups like al-Shabaab and emerging local groups. Discord between intelligence agencies has hampered regional counter-terrorism efforts.

Rebel without a cause

A London bus driver was acquitted of terror offenses. He had been charged after being discovered with a copy of The anarchist cookbook. The arrest highlights the wide scope of Britain’s Terrorism Act 2000, which requires defendants to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for possessing ‘terrorist’ material.


Nagorno-Karabakh leader visits Washington

The head of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), Boko Sahakyan, visited Washington last week. The proto-state broke away from Azerbaijan 30 years ago and is supported by Armenia. Azerbaijan, a secular Muslim country, has been integral to US efforts in Afghanistan and a reliable intermediary between the Russian and American armies. Sahakyan’s visit threatens that friendly relationship. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has protested to the US, particularly the ‘double standard’ that allows NKR officials to visit the US when officials from other breakaway territories in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are banned.

Biometric border developments in Australia

The Australian government has chosen Unisys Australia to design and implement its new enterprise biometric identification services (EBIS) system for the Department of Home Affairs. The EBIS will be able to analyse the biometric data—namely fingerprint and face-matching—of all travellers. The move comes amid ongoing legislative reform to introduce a controversial national face recognition scheme.

Cross-border strife

The state of emergency in Ethiopia, declared after former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned, has increased tensions across the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia accused neighbouring Eritrea of supporting groups that are smuggling weapons across the border to destabilise Ethiopia. Asmara dismissed the accusation as scapegoating for Addis Ababa’s internal security crisis. Meanwhile, a new influx of refugees into Kenya after the recent massacre in Moyale town has left authorities deeply concerned. This piece argues that it’s the prevalence of ‘cross border communities’ in the Horn of Africa that makes the situation so volatile.

First responder

Crime in the face of disaster

Papua New Guinea is still suffering from the effects of February’s devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Ongoing tribal violence is severely disrupting aid delivery. It has been reported that airlines cancelled flights, and that services and aid distributions were disrupted, following the death of a local councillor in Hela Province. Australia has committed $3.4 million to relief efforts.

Climate change and forced migration

The World Bank warns that the effects of climate change will force tens of millions of people to leave their homes by 2050. The bank projects that sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America—home to 55% of the developing world’s population—could have more than 140 million internal climate migrants. The report recommends cutting greenhouse emissions, moving towards a more diversified climate-resilient economy, and embedding climate migration into development planning and national policies.

Let it snow

Cloud seeding is a method of promoting the formation of rainfall or snowfall by adding chemical crystals to clouds. It’s widely used. But does it work? Scientists are confident that cloud seeding can create snowfall under the right conditions, but need further testing to see if cloud seeding can create rain or snowfall over an entire mountain range.