National security wrap

The beat

Minister arrested amid constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan police have arrested the country’s sacked petroleum minister Arjuna Ranatunga over allegations that he ordered a bodyguard to fire shots into a crowd that had surrounded an office building he was visiting. One man in the crowd was fatally wounded. The arrest came during an escalating constitutional crisis. On Friday, President Maithripala Sirisena removed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister, replacing him with a former leader, Mahinda Rajapaska. Wickremesinghe insists that his removal is unconstitutional and that he’s still the prime minister, though Rajapaska began work in the role on Monday. The crowd that surrounded Ranatunga’s office was believed to comprise Sirisena loyalists. Ranatunga, a former Sri Lankan cricket captain, is loyal to Wickremesinghe.

App targets bicycle trafficking
Bicycle thefts in Vancouver reached such epic proportions three years ago that policeman Rob Brunt brought a bike registration app called Project 529 to the city to recover stolen bikes before they could be sold on what was, reportedly, a billion-dollar black market. Project 529 now has 800,000 bicycles registered on its database. Bike thefts have decreased by 55% in Whistler and by 30% in Vancouver.

Addressing the ‘Nordic paradox’
Sweden will open a hotline for domestic violence perpetrators in the new year. Trained psychologists and social workers will be available to counsel abusers or those thinking about using violence. The two-year pilot project aims to help perpetrators stop their abuse by making it easier for them to seek help. Sweden suffers from significant levels of domestic violence despite high rates of gender equality, a phenomenon known as the ‘Nordic paradox’. Similar hotlines operate in the UK and the US.

CT scan

MI5 to take on far-right threat
Britain has acknowledged that right-wing extremism poses a major threat to its national security, with domestic security service MI5 to take over responsibility for monitoring it from the police. That adds far- right terrorism to MI5’s existing responsibilities for monitoring Islamic terrorism and Northern Ireland–related terrorism. The change will allow MI5 to collect intelligence on right-wing individuals and groups.

Ex-spy chief gunned down
Jordan’s retired counterterrorism chief and former head of the country’s domestic intelligence agency, General Habis Hanayneh, was shot and killed by an assailant in the city of Madaba, southwest of the capital Amman. According to a statement from Jordan’s Public Security Department, the gunman was arrested after fleeing the scene and had confessed to the killing. The statement said the killer believed Hanayneh was responsible for his arrest in a security sweep in Russia in 2005.

Female suicide bomber targets police in Tunisia
Nine police officers have been injured in a suicide bomb attack targeting police in the Tunisian capital of Tunis. The 30-year-old woman believed to have carried out the attack had no known militant link, according to the country’s interior ministry. The bombing in the city centre comes three years after terror attacks in March and June 2015 killed more than 60 people.


Breakaway republic at centre of sanctions battle
The Council of the European Union has extended its sanctions regime against the leaders of Transnistria—an unrecognised separatist territory claimed by Moldova—in a bid to force a resolution to its situation. The territory is beset by conflicting interests: Romania and the EU want ‘reintegration’ of Transnistria with Moldova; Russia and Ukraine want Transnistia to remain separate. The sanctions target ‘persons … responsible for preventing progress’. While the EU earlier extended tariff-free exports to Transnistria as a reintegration incentive, Russia has exploited them to bypass its own EU sanctions.

Officials caught falsifying refugee numbers
A joint investigation by the Ugandan government and the UNHCR has concluded that officials from both fraudulently inflated refugee numbers by over 300,000 people and mismanaged refugee support funds. It’s a major setback for Uganda’s ‘progressive refugee policy’, which has sustainably (though not always smoothly) settled 1.1 million refugees from across Africa. Under the policy, communities divide communal land to loan to refugees, enabling them to settle and grow food.

Migrant caravan mistakenly linked to terrorism
Last Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr tweeted that there was no ‘better way to get terrorists into the country’ than via the caravan of immigrants travelling from Central America towards the US. That conflated news of the caravan’s progress with an announcement by Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, that his nation had apprehended 100 Islamic State–affiliated terrorists—before the caravan formed.

First responder

Tech to the rescue
A team of coders has won IBM’s Call for Code competition with a device that can be dropped from drones to provide WiFi coverage to people in disaster-affected zones. The devices would enable people to connect with rescue workers and relay information about their location, condition and needs. Meanwhile, an Australian company has invented an app called RADAR which makes it easier for victims of natural disasters to apply for government aid.

Australian drones to deliver vaccines in Vanuatu
Vanuatu has hired a German and an Australian company to deliver vaccines to children in remote locations using drones. The delivery trials will begin in December and will initially focus on smaller islands. If successful, it’s hoped that the program will be expanded to cover all parts of Vanuatu. UNICEF, which is the largest buyer of vaccines globally, is supporting the program. Immunisation rates are reportedly declining in many countries because of inadequate supply chains.

Lloyd’s to cover disaster relief in emerging nations
Amid increasing pressure on the insurance industry, UK giant Lloyd’s of London has introduced four new products to improve coverage for victims of natural disasters in developing countries. Lloyd’s hopes to improve disaster resilience by augmenting existing aid budgets with insurance and other private funding.