National security wrap

The beat

Police protection pulled after bombings in Kashmir

After last week’s bombing in Kashmir, India has removed the police protection it provided to a number of Kashmiri political figures. In the past, India has given police protection to certain separatist leaders, worried that attacks on them would escalate tensions in the already unstable region. India said having to provide security in this way was a waste of police resources.

Australia steps up on organised crime in the Pacific

The Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police, Fiji Police Force and Tonga Police Force have signed a memorandum of understanding and created a joint taskforce to step up efforts to stop transnational organised crime in the Pacific. This follows the Boe declaration on security signed between Pacific leaders last year. Drug trafficking will be a primary target of the taskforce and Australia will increase its presence in the region through both intelligence and investigation activities.

Maltese connection to bluefin tuna racket?

Maltese police have been in discussions with Europol to investigate the Maltese link to an extensive bluefin tuna racket operating across the Mediterranean. Last year, Spanish authorities made 79 arrests in relation to the scheme, which involved the sale of more than 2.5 million kilograms of tuna that was illegally caught in Maltese and Italian waters.


UK passes stronger border measures

The UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act received royal assent last Tuesday. The legislation provides British police with more power to stop, question, search and detain people at border areas to determine if a person has been involved in ‘hostile state activity’. The head of the UK’s overseas intelligence agency, MI6, says that Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq pose a serious security threat and the government has most recently moved to strip the British citizenship of Shamima Begum, who joined IS in 2015.

Iran–Turkey relations warm in Kurdish-majority area

A new checkpoint has opened between Iran and Turkey in the Kurdish-majority Van province. Construction on the ‘Kapikoy’ checkpoint began in 2017 and has cost Turkey 100 million lira (A$26.5 million) to build. The opening of the checkpoint is a sign of warming relations between Iran and Turkey and strategic convergence on Syria and the Kurdish question.

Motorcycle taxis block border

A checkpoint between Thailand and Malaysia in Songkhla province was blocked by 50 Thai motorcycle taxi operators for an hour on Sunday. The riders were protesting Malaysia’s stricter border measures for motorcycle taxis taking passengers to the country’s Kedah state. The border between Malaysia and southern Thailand has been the scene of an Islamist insurgency and weapons have been smuggled across the border to attack Malaysian targets.

CT scan

European Commission updates ‘dirty money’ blacklist

Last Wednesday, the European Commission announced the 23 states blacklisted for their weak controls on terrorism financing and money laundering. Transactions involving entities from blacklisted countries are subject to more stringent checks by European banks. Five ‘improved’ states were removed from the list, including Laos and Vanuatu. Some member states objected to Saudi Arabia’s inclusion on the list because of the effect it may have on trade. The list is awaiting endorsement by the European Council and could still be rejected.

Victorian counterterrorism police to receive semi-automatic rifles

Victoria Police will be armed with 800 semi-automatic rifles to help ‘overpower terrorists and improve public safety’. The rifles can carry 30 rounds and shoot accurately from 300 metres. During considerations about the guns last year, a former senior police officer urged Australia to resist the American style militarisation of police forces.

Further instability on Sinai peninsula

Egyptian security forces killed 16 suspected armed fighters in raids in the city of Arish on Tuesday. The raids followed a turbulent week in Egypt. An Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack on an army checkpoint in the North Sinai region that killed or wounded 15 Egyptian soldiers. On Sunday, three policemen were killed by a suicide bomber near Cairo’s historical centre. The Egyptian army continues to fight a long-running insurgency in the Sinai.

First responder

Humanitarian convoy reaches Syrian refugees

Between 6 and 15 February, the UNCHR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent led the largest humanitarian mission since the start of the Syrian conflict. A convoy of 118 trucks delivered food, clothes and medical supplies to the Rukban makeshift settlement, which is home to 40,000 displaced people. Rukban’s proximity to Al-Tanf, a military base set up by the US in 2016, has provided protection to Syrians displaced by the conflict, though there are fears this protection will be lost with the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

Queensland faces a new threat

Recovery efforts are underway in Queensland where record flooding inundated thousands of square kilometres, destroying property and killing hundreds of thousands of livestock. Although the rain has subsided, floodwaters haven’t, exposing people to a number of infectious diseases. One person has died from melioidosis, an infection caused by a bacteria commonly found in soil and mud. Those involved in the clean-up and recovery effort have been urged to wear gloves and boots to prevent more infections.

‘Seabin’ picks up plastic in Perth

Perth’s first ‘Seabin’ has been deployed. As its name suggests, it’s a floating bin and it’s designed to collect rubbish, oil, fuel and detergents floating in the ocean. In 24 hours, the Seabin retrieved three kilograms of rubbish in Perth’s Port Coogee marina. While the new technology has been praised, it’s not yet likely to have much of an impact on the estimated eight million tons of plastic dumped into the world’s oceans every year.