National security wrap

The beat

Honduran president’s brother faces drug charges

Juan Antonio Hernández, the brother of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández, has been arrested in the US on drug and weapons charges, including the importation of tonnes of cocaine. President Hernández says ‘nobody is above the law’ and he hopes the US justice system will get to the bottom of the accusations. Last year, a former Honduran president’s son, Fabio Lobo, was jailed in the US for conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

New tactics reduce scooter crime

Scotland Yard has reported a 36% drop in thefts involving scooters after adopting new tactics last year. One of the methods involves specially trained ‘scorpion’ teams using small, controlled nudges from police cars to dismount riders. While the policies were drawn up with legal advice, the Police Federation has said it’s concerned the tactic could leave officers vulnerable to prosecution.

Americans held in China

Chinese authorities have defended the exit ban placed on three Chinese-Americans, claiming they’re Chinese citizens suspected of ‘economic crimes’. Sandra Han and her two adult children, Cynthia and Victor Liu, travelled to China in June and have been prevented from leaving. Exit bans are often used to compel family members to cooperate with authorities; in this case, the target is the siblings’ estranged father, Liu Changming, who is wanted over his alleged role in a US$1.4 billion bank fraud case. US officials have expressed concerns over China’s use of exit bans and have been in contact with the siblings.

CT scan

New bounty for Mumbai terrorists

This week marked the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which claimed 166 lives. The US State Department has offered a new US$5 million reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Pakistan to implement sanctions against Lashkar-e-Taiba and its armed affiliates, and bring them to justice. India has accused the group of masterminding the deadly attacks with the help of a Pakistani intelligence agency, an accusation Pakistan denies.

Nigerian soldiers killed by Islamic State affiliate

The militant group known as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has claimed responsibility for killing 43 Nigerian soldiers in Metele in northeastern Nigeria. The soldiers were deployed to stem a Boko Haram incursion, but were overwhelmed by the heavily armed fighters. ISWAP is a loose affiliate of Islamic State with roots tracing to Boko Haram—a group Nigeria has been fighting for decades.

Terrorist leader killed in Mali raid

The French army carried out a counterterrorism raid in Mali in which radical preacher Amadou Koufa and 30 militants were reportedly killed. Koufa was the deputy leader of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), one of the most active and violent terror groups in Africa’s Sahel region. France and the US have deployed thousands of troops in the region to counter the Islamist insurgency.


Corridor towards peace

India and Pakistan have broken ground on the Kartarpur corridor, allowing Sikh pilgrims to cross the border without visas. The corridor will connect the holy shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. The proposal was announced in August when Indian minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan for President Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony and should be completed in mid-2019. The initiative has been praised as a step towards improving historically fractious relations between the two countries.

Protecting isolated tribes

The death of American Justin Chau at the hands of North Sentinelese tribespeople has sparked a debate over the preservation of ‘uncontacted’ populations. The missionary was killed on North Sentinel Island, part of the territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands administered by India. There are over 100 such isolated indigenous groups around the world, mainly concentrated in the Amazon. But loss of territory from land clearing (like that proposed by Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro) and exposure to diseases are putting these people at risk of extinction.

Egypt and Sudan collaborate on border protection

The Egyptian and Sudanese governments have agreed to set up joint patrols to combat the increased threat of militias and terrorists crossing their borders from Libya. The strategic partnership will emphasise intelligence sharing and operational cooperation and is a welcome development in the two states’ relationship, which deteriorated in recent years over Ethiopia’s dam on the Blue Nile and the disputed Halayeb Triangle.

First responder

Vanuatu could sue over climate change

Vanuatu is contemplating legal action against fossil-fuel companies for their contribution to climate change. The Pacific nation needs to raise funds urgently to cover the costs of dealing with damage from the effects of global warming. Addressing the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Vanuatu’s foreign minister, Ralph Regenvanu, said the government was looking to ‘shift the costs of climate protection’ onto the fossil fuel industry and the countries that backed it. Australia has provided more than $16 million in climate change assistance to Vanuatu over the last two years.

Companies collaborate on drone disaster-response

The Philippine Red Cross is in talks with telecom giant Nokia and phone company Smart Communications to use cellular network-enabled drones in disaster response efforts. Drones connected to a portable broadband network and equipped with cameras, sensors and speakers would be deployed in disaster-affected areas to gather visual information and data analytics to assist rescue efforts. A portable Wi-Fi-device designed to help people in disaster zones won IBM’s ‘Call for Code’ competition this year.

Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul agree to health cooperation

Health ministers from Japan, China and South Korea agreed to share information on medical issues during natural disasters at a forum in Kumamoto on Sunday. They also vowed to improve their countries’ life expectancy and ability to combat infectious diseases.