National security wrap

The beat

Commemoration day for murder victim

The UK Prime Minister has announced 22 April as a national day of commemoration for Stephen Lawrence. Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack in south London in 1993. Only two of the six men who attacked the teenager were convicted of the crime. Twenty-five years on, residents of Eltham still live in the shadow of the killing. A report about the handling of the investigation into Lawrence’s death  found that there was ‘institutional racism’ in the police, a situation that some claim has changed little in quarter century.

In the line of duty

Two Florida sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed in what officials have described as an ambush. The pair were eating at a Chinese restaurant when the gunman, John Hubert Highnote, walked past the window and shot both officers through the glass, killing Taylor Lindsey, 25, and Noel Ramirez, 30. Including this latest incident, 19 police officers in the United States have been shot and killed in the line of duty in 2018. That is more than one death a week. In 2017, 46 police officers were killed by gunfire in the United States, and 89 officers died in other incidents.

Precious police puppies

The NSW police dog unit has revealed the names of its latest recruits. The names of the 12 Belgian Malinois—nine males and three females—were chosen by sick kids from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The 12 pups were born on 8 February to mum ‘Lola’ and dad ‘Kwint’, and are the first litter of Belgian Malinois born into the NSW Police Force. After receiving 5,000 suggestions on Facebook, 12 names, all beginning with ‘Y’, were chosen. The future law enforcers will go by the names Yogi, Yoda, Yin, Yule, Yoko, Yoyo, Yasha, Yazza, Yap, Yoshi, Yang and Yetta.

CT scan

Back to basics

Breaking a ten-month silence, Islamic State spokesperson Abu Hassan al-Muhajir released a 50‑minute audio statement on one of IS’s Telegram channels. The statement calls for violence against Arab nations. Though al-Muhajir repeats the call for lone wolf attacks against the West, his Arab focus suggests that IS may be returning to an earlier strategy of concentrating on the ‘near enemy’. Al-Qaeda may also be re-orienting its focus to the region as it seeks to rebuild.

More and more boots on the ground

Last week 2,000 personnel from 15 countries went to Morocco for the annual US–Morocco bilateral military exercise—African Lion—sponsored by US Africa Command (AFRICOM). The exercise focuses on improving interoperability and sharing tactics. AFRICOM’s size has steadily increased to more than 6,000 troops in 46 sites across the continent, matching an increase in the number of terrorist incidents in Africa over the last decade. AFRICOM has 800 troops in Niger alone. This week satellite images revealed that the US is also building a drone base in Niger to support West African counterterrorism operations.

Deal or no deal?

Middle East Eye obtained an exclusive report that governments from France, Algeria and Mali are backing a deal to offer Sahel militants immunity if they surrender. The deal hasn’t been confirmed, but it may not be far-fetched. The Algerian army announced that the head of the al-Furqan cell of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb surrendered on 20  April.


A bit of peace and quiet

South Korea has turned off its propaganda loudspeakers along its border with North Korea ahead of tomorrow’s summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae‑in. The speakers are a peculiar form of communication. On one side, they denounce hunger and human rights violations, and also blare Korean pop music; on the other, Kim Jong‑un is eulogised and the capitalist lifestyle lamented. Other communications include a radio program called ‘The voice of freedom’ broadcast by the South Korean military, and leaflets, DVDs, USB sticks and other material dropped across the border using balloons. A curious operational review of using hydrogen balloons to carry political, religious and humanitarian materials across the border can be found here.

Problematic perceptions

The US Customs and Border Protection service reported a 73% rise in assaults against US border agents last year. That number has been revealed as a fabricated statistic. The Intercept finds that the number of assaults by immigrants were grossly miscalculated because it included the mere brandishing of an object such as a rock or water bottle. These distortions and other anti-immigration assertions aren’t exceptional. Almost one-half of Americans believe that immigration drives violent crime, a claim many times disproven, including again last month.

EU partner in crime

This exposé by the New York Times provides a startling snapshot of how EU efforts to curb migration implicitly rely upon potential war criminals in Sudan. More than €100 million have been funnelled into migration management in Sudan despite an embargo against the country being in place. EU funds for these activities could easily leak to Sudan’s security apparatus, which has been accused of committing human rights abuses.

First responder

Is peace possible?

This week the UN is hosting a High-Level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace to discuss such topics as conflict prevention, better prioritising spending, strengthening partnerships and enhancing the role of women and youth in conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts. A report earlier this year by the UN Security Council makes the important link between conflict-affected countries and rates of poverty: nearly half the people living in poverty reside in conflict-affected countries. Creating resilience and peace in conflict-affected countries requires both addressing the conflict and looking more deeply at structures, attitudes and policies.

What keeps Lithuania up at night?

Lithuania has identified Russian aggression as a major risk to its national security in its 2018 National Threat Report. The threats emanating from Lithuania’s near neighbour cover a range of political, technological and military topics such as political and military influence in the Baltic region, intelligence operations, and cyber espionage, particularly in the energy sector. The report highlights serious concerns about potential Russian cyber interference in Lithuania’s elections next year given Russia’s track record in political interference.

Resilience for small island nations

Sustainability, security and democracy are some of the key themes being discussed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week in London. The issue of sustainability is of particular importance for small island nations, which face disproportionate challenges from climate change. On the sidelines of the CHOGM, UK Minister for International Development Lord Michael Bates outlined the UK’s priority to increase disaster resilience and financial resilience in small islands states. The UK will give an extra $26.7 million to Caribbean countries for disaster preparedness and risk resilience, as well as partnering with the private sector to provide better access to insurance.