National security wrap

The beat

UK tackles ‘county lines’ drug trafficking

British MP Victoria Atkins has called on Uber and Airbnb to help crack down on the exploitation of children by ‘county lines’. Her comments come just weeks after the National County Lines Coordination Centre became operational. ‘County lines’ are gangs that coerce children into moving illicit drugs between cities and rural areas in the UK using dedicated phone lines. These child drug mules may use ridesharing and short-term rental services like Uber and Airbnb to move product. An estimated 1,500 county lines currently exist in the UK. They are also believed to be a contributing factor to the increasing number of British citizens reported as victims of modern slavery.

#RaisingtheAge in New York

All inmates under the age of 18 were moved from New York’s Rikers Island prison when the state’s ‘raise-the-age’ law came into effect on 1 October. The legislation requires that juveniles be incarcerated in settings that ‘meet their developmental needs’. It also allows 16-year-olds to be charged as juveniles rather than as adults. A similar clause for 17-year-olds will come into effect next year. This article provides answers to some FAQs.

A not-so-lovely bunch of coconuts

Italian police were surprised after a suspicious suitcase they blew up at Rome’s Fiumicino airport turned out to contain coconuts. Photos of the exploded bag can be seen here. Police reportedly left it to airport staff to clean up the debris.

CT scan

Counterterrorism laws reach further in Victoria

New terror laws have commenced in Victoria that strengthen the powers of state police. The new laws also allow police to detain people who are suspected of planning to carry out an attack within the following two weeks without a warrant or court order. Adults may be held for up to four days and children as young as 14 can be detained for up to 36 hours. First-time terrorism offenders are more likely to be denied bail under the new laws.

Special Chinese counterterrorism force

China has announced that it will form a special counterterrorism police force to counter both home-grown and international terror groups. The announcement aligns with China’s 2015 anti-terrorism law that allows the Chinese military to participate in overseas counterterrorism operations. However, experts have doubts about China’s ability to execute overseas missions due in part to practical and diplomatic issues.

Spain busts prison radicalisation ring

Spain has shut down an Islamic State radicalisation ring spanning 17 prisons across the country. Although no plan for an attack was uncovered during the operation, the inmates—some of whom were due to be released—were seen as posing a potential threat to the public. Authorities have identified 25 inmates as closely linked to the Islamic State terror group.


US guns go south of the border

Of the thousands of immigrants crossing the US–Mexico border, many are fleeing gang and drug violence fuelled by American-made firearms. A University of San Diego report found that in 2010–2012, nearly half of US-based gun dealers relied on the Mexican gun-smuggling trade to stay afloat. The weapons, which are dispersed among cartels and rebel groups, have been responsible for increased bloodshed in Central and South American states—a key driver of illegal immigration.

ICJ ruling leaves Bolivia high and dry

The International Court of Justice has ruled that Chile has no obligation to help Bolivia get access to the Pacific Ocean. Ever since Bolivia lost its coastline following the War of the Pacific (1879–1883), the two states have periodically discussed establishing a corridor to the sea. However, the ruling determined that such talks don’t equate to a legal obligation to actually negotiate ocean access—a major setback for landlocked Bolivia.

Anti-landmines, pro-peace

North and South Korean troops have started removing landmines from along their heavily fortified border. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in agreed to the project during last month’s summit as part of a pact to reduce tensions and build trust on the peninsula. All landmines in the Joint Security Area (where troops from either side come face to face) are expected to be removed in coming weeks—a small but notable step in getting rid of the estimated 2 million landmines scattered throughout the demilitarised zone.

First responder

Ebola likely to spread to Uganda

The World Health Organization has warned that there’s a ‘very high’ risk that Ebola may spread from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda due to ongoing battles between local militias and population movements in eastern Congo. On 3 October, the UN Security Council called for all groups in Congo to stop fighting so that Ebola response teams can get safely into the disease-affected areas.

Typhoons wreak havoc in North Asia

Typhoon Trami hit western Japan over the weekend, killing at least one person and leaving hundreds injured. Evacuation warnings were sent to around 3.7 million people in 19 prefectures, and hundreds of trains and flights were delayed or cancelled. Now it looks set to be hit by another: Super Typhoon Kong-Rey is projected to be heading Japan’s way. Taiwan, China and Korea are also on alert.

Flash floods traps residents and tourists in Northern India

Heavy rainfall caused landslides and flash floods in several parts of northern India last week, triggering a massive rescue operation. The Indian Air Force deployed helicopters to rescue trekkers from several parts of the state of Himachal Pradesh. A local MP has sought New Delhi’s assistance for relief measures.