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National security wrap

Posted By , , and on October 11, 2018 @ 13:36

The beat

US state finds thousands of untested sexual assault kits

Officials in Washington state have identified a backlog of more than 6,000 untested sexual assault kits [1], the oldest dating back to 1982. The state-wide inventory of kits, which contain biological samples from people who have been victims of sexual assault, established the size of the problem, with many either never sent for DNA analysis or still awaiting testing in forensic laboratories. Washington and North Carolina [2]—which has an estimated 15,000 untested kits—received federal grants as part of a government initiative to reduce such backlogs. Not testing the kits means that evidence is not uploaded to the FBI’s national DNA database, preventing the early identification of potential rape suspects and possible case matching for a range of other offences,

Drug dealer sentenced over child trafficking

A joint UK police operation [3] led to a 14-year jail sentence for a drug dealer who forced three teenagers to deal on his behalf. Zakaria Mohammed was found guilty of child trafficking under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, a legal first for ‘county lines [4]’ operations in which drug dealers recruit children to deliver drugs from cities to smaller towns across the UK. West Midlands police called it a ‘hugely significant conviction [5]’ saying ‘it shows that we can go after county lines offenders not just for drug supply but also under trafficking legislation due to them exploiting children’.

Bulgarian journalist killed

A 30-year-old Bulgarian investigative journalist, Viktoria Marinova, was found murdered in the Danube town of Ruse last week—the third [6] death of a working journalist in the European Union this year. While Bulgarian authorities say there is no evidence to suggest her murder was related to her journalism, Marinova’s final story covered possible local government corruption [7] involving EU-funded infrastructure projects. Bulgaria is ranked 71st on Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Index.

CT scan

UK laws need to meet threat of returning foreign fighters

Britain’s terrorism laws need to be revised [8] to meet the challenges posed by the return of foreign fighters, according to security minister Ben Wallace. The Home Office has recognised the difficulties in gathering evidence on an estimated 900 individuals who travelled to Syria and joined jihadist groups. ‘It’s hard to gather evidence of activity but easy to gather evidence of locations visited,’ Mr Wallace said. The UK government plans to make travel to ‘terror hotspots’ or other ‘designated areas’ illegal, with offenders facing up to ten years in prison.

Iran could join terror financing convention

Iran could become the latest signatory to the international Financial Action Task Force [9]  to combat the flow of illicit money transfers and terrorism financing. While the legislation to join the UN convention has just passed Iran’s parliament, hardliners continue to oppose the measure, claiming it violates Iran’s sovereignty. The Guardian Council, which vets all legislation passed by the Iranian parliament, is yet to approve the bill.

Calls for more cooperation in counterterror efforts

Vladimir Voronkov, UN Under-Secretary-General and head of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office, has urged better strategic cooperation [10] from member states in countering global terrorism. At a conference in Belarus, Voronkov said that as terrorist groups utilise new communications technologies, more innovative solutions and collaborative response efforts are required from ‘governments, civil society, the private sector and multilateral organisations’.


Protests over Caucasian border swap

A land transfer [11] between the Russian republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia has sparked [12] major protests, allegations of vote-rigging and demands for Ingushetia’s leader to resign. The two regions once formed the Chechen–Ingush Autonomous Republic within the Soviet Union and remained under Russian federal control since the USSR’s dissolution. The agreement to transfer 1,260 hectares from Ingushetia to Chechnya was intended to reduce simmering tensions [13] but has resulted in further discord.

Burning the booty

Authorities in Myanmar incinerated [14] animal products worth an estimated US$1.3 million as part of their efforts to curb the country’s prolific cross-border wildlife trade with China. Conservation charity Save the Elephants reports [15] that the illegal ivory trade in the Myanmar border town of Mong La has grown by 63% over the past three years. While China has banned trade in ivory [16], porous borders and poor enforcement enable tourists and smugglers to keep the trade alive.

Strengthening Europe’s borders

The EU has signed a border management agreement with Albania to combat [17] irregular migration and cross-border criminal activities. The agreement permits Frontex [18], the EU’s border and coast guard agency, to coordinate joint operations and conduct rapid border intervention and return operations with Albania. The accord will come into effect once it is ratified by the European Parliament.

First responder

UN delivers climate change ultimatum

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released [19] its bleakest report to date on climate change, demanding ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’. The report claims that if countries fail to prevent global temperatures from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030, the impact on our ecosystems will be disastrous and irreversible. The Australian government has rejected [20] the report’s recommendation to phase out coal power by 2050.

Foreign NGO aid workers unwelcome

The Indonesian government has asked [21] foreign nationals affiliated with non-government agencies assisting earthquake- and tsunami-hit Sulawesi to leave the country. The announcement is reportedly motivated by the government’s desire to appear to be self-sufficient in disaster-response in the lead-up to an election. The death toll [22] from the twin disasters now exceeds 2,000 and authorities have set today as the deadline to end search and rescue efforts.

Zika scare in India

The Indian states of Rajasthan and Bihar are on alert [23] as 29 cases of the Zika virus have been reported over the last few days. Agencies including the National Centre for Disease Control are assessing the situation and assisting the Rajasthan government in checking the spread of the virus. A total of 179 medical teams have been deployed in the affected areas, with pregnant women [24] being given particular attention.

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URLs in this post:

[1] 6,000 untested sexual assault kits: https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/washington-state-6500-untested-rape-kits_us_5bb7d9eee4b0876eda9e2cc8

[2] North Carolina: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/10/04/rape-kits-north-carolina-attorney-general-josh-stein-grant/1512983002/

[3] operation: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/04/drug-dealer-county-lines-jailed-trafficked-children-sell-heroin-birmingham

[4] county lines: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/753-county-lines-gang-violence-exploitation-and-drug-supply-2016/file

[5] hugely significant conviction: https://www.lincs.police.uk/news-campaigns/news/2018/county-lines-drug-boss-jailed-for-trafficking-children-in-uk-policing-first/

[6] third: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bulgaria-murder/bulgarian-investigative-journalist-killed-authorities-say-idUSKCN1MH0YW

[7] government corruption: https://www.9news.com.au/2018/10/10/07/03/slain-bulgarian-journalist-man-freed

[8] revised: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/09/terror-laws-need-revision-bring-foreign-fighters-justice-says/

[9] Financial Action Task Force: https://www.dw.com/en/irans-parliament-votes-to-combat-financing-of-terrorism/a-45788328

[10] better strategic cooperation: http://tass.com/society/1025232

[11] land transfer: https://www.janes.com/article/83651/ingushetia-land-transfer-protests-indicate-growing-risks-of-violent-protests-and-road-blockades-in-russia-s-north-caucasus

[12] sparked: https://www.voanews.com/a/4605412.html

[13] intended to reduce simmering tensions: https://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/chechnya-ingushetia-border-dispute-protests-north-caucasus-russia-europe-news-17261/

[14] incinerated: https://www.illicit-trade.com/2018/10/burmese-government-burns-illegal-wildlife-products-worth-1-3-million-in-bid-to-deter-traffickers/

[15] reports: http://www.savetheelephants.org/about-ste-2/press-media/?detail=new-research-shows-myanmar-s-growing-illegal-ivory-trade-with-china

[16] banned trade in ivory: https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d514e7a4d6a4e7a457a6333566d54/share_p.html

[17] combat: https://www.dailysabah.com/balkans/2018/10/06/eu-seals-migrant-border-pact-with-albania

[18] permits Frontex: https://emerging-europe.com/news/eu-signs-milestone-border-agreement-with-albania/

[19] has released: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/07/world/climate-change-new-ipcc-report-wxc/index.html

[20] rejected: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/oct/09/australian-government-backs-coal-defiance-ipcc-climate-warning

[21] asked: http://time.com/5419222/indonesia-foreign-aid-sulawesi-earthquake/

[22] death toll: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/indonesia-quake-tsunami-death-toll-rises-2000-181009112317744.html

[23] on alert: https://www.ndtv.com/jaipur-news/zika-virus-7-tested-positive-for-zika-in-jaipur-pm-narendra-modi-seeks-reports-1929014

[24] pregnant women: https://qz.com/india/1417596/zika-outbreak-in-india-affects-22-in-jaipur-rajasthan/

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