National security wrap

The beat

Aiming for the Finnish line

At Finland’s police academy, for the first time, half of new recruits are female. Last year, only 31% of recruits were female, so the new statistic represents a substantial increase. Across the world, police forces struggle to recruit and retain women in their ranks, which has led to the adoption of creative measures, like the Australian Federal Police’s all-female recruitment round.

Moroccan police use water cannon against teachers

Moroccan police used water cannon and other anti-riot equipment to stop 15,000 teachers protesting in Rabat on the weekend. The teachers intended to march from the education ministry to parliament and spend the night there but were prevented from doing so. They have been protesting to change their contracts and demand better working conditions and salaries.

‘Kiwigate’ busted by French police

French police have stopped a long-running fraud in which Italian kiwifruit was labelled as French and sold at premium prices. The availability of ‘French’ kiwis during their typical off-seasons made police suspicious. Investigators found that 12% of kiwis labelled as French were actually Italian. More than 15,000 tonnes of fruit were found to have been mislabelled between 2016 and 2018.


Pakistan ‘uses weaponised drones’ in Kashmir

India’s Border Security Force alleges that Pakistan deployed weaponised drones in dozens of locations across the line of control in Kashmir. It’s not clear what type of drones were used, but Pakistan is hoping to obtain at least 48 Wing Loong II drones from China as part of one of the biggest military deals between the two countries, signed in October last year.

Democrats to challenge wall funding approval

A Democrat-led congressional committee is set to challenge the Pentagon’s authorisation of US$1 billion in funding to build part of the wall along the US–Mexico border. The Department of Homeland Security asked the Pentagon to build 92 kilometres of 5.5-metre-high ‘pedestrian fencing’, to construct and improve roads and to install lighting. Meanwhile, in California near the Mexican border, an artist is building a 400-metre-long ‘border wall’ consisting of blocks of spoiled Cotija cheese.

Kookaburra sits in the Land of the Free

It’s been a big week in animal smuggling news. In Australia, a pair of endangered iguanas were found on a cruise ship in Sydney. In Indonesia, a Russian man attempted to smuggle a drugged baby orangutan, two geckos and four chameleons from Bali. And in the US, an Australian woman found a kookaburra for sale for US$1,200 in a pet store in Virginia.

CT scan

Hambali’s US lawyer calls for him to be tried in Indonesia

The alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings and a number of other terror plots in Southeast Asia has been held by the US at Guantanamo Bay for more than 12 years. Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin) was charged in 2017 but his military defence lawyer, Major James Valentine, says a fair trial in the US isn’t possible because the US doesn’t want the world to know how severely he was tortured. Hambali’s family also wants him tried in Indonesia.

Herdsmen massacred in Mali

Members of the Dogon ethnic group allegedly massacred more than 130 Fulani herdsmen in central Mali. The Dogon accuse the Fulani of aiding jihadists, and the UN and Human Rights Watch have said the Fulani are a recruitment pool for jihadi groups. While ethnic tensions have long caused violence in Mali, the jihadist insurgency that spread in 2012 exacerbated the situation. The UN has sent a team of investigators to the region.

Lebanese citizens charged with terrorism in the UAE

Eight Lebanese citizens have been accused of establishing a Hezbollah terrorist cell in the UAE and planning attacks. All of the men are Shia Muslims and have lived and worked in the UAE for more than 15 years. Their families have denied that any of them have political affiliations. The men were first detained between December 2017 and February 2018 and have so far been denied legal representation.

First responder

Cyclone recovery underway in northern Australia

Australian army and air force personnel participated in evacuation and recovery efforts in northern Australia after two cyclones battered the region. Evacuations in the Northern Territory were reportedly the biggest since Cyclone Tracy in 1974. The cyclones made landfall just weeks after record rainfall flooded more than 13.25 million hectares of northern Queensland.

First responders need more training to deal with electric vehicle fires

Bloomberg reports that only 250,000 out of an estimated 1.1 million firefighting personnel in the US are adequately trained to deal with electric vehicle fires. The article highlights a case in which firefighters didn’t know how to fully extinguish a battery fire in a Tesla Model S. Even though firefighters put the fire out, the car reignited twice as it was being towed away. The difficulty of extinguishing battery fires is a problem that needs to be tackled as more electric vehicles hit the road.

‘Small states’ discuss disaster resilience in Samoa

Samoa is hosting a major biennial conference of small states with the theme ‘building resilience through disaster risk reduction’. Governments and international aid donors are participating in a series of workshops and training exercises focused on disaster finance and risk management. Small states are learning to deal with increasingly frequent natural disasters as a result of climate change.