National security wrap

The beat 

Murder rate rises in Brazil as police go on strike

Military police in Brazil’s Ceará state have gone on strike seeking a pay rise, leading to a surge in homicides. In the first five days of the strike, the murder rate increased fivefold compared to the same period last year. Brazilian law prohibits striking by police, and officers involved in the protest could face jail time. The country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has sent in army and national guard troops to help restore order. Meanwhile, Carnival celebrations have been cancelled in several cities in Ceará due to security concerns.

Were British politicians above the law?

A UK investigation into child sexual abuse has found that police, political parties and prosecutors ignored allegations linked to parliamentarians and government ministers during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Former police officer Robert Glen said that prosecutions were hindered by senior officers being ‘too political’. Authorities are yet to address the inquiry’s claims.

No more monkey business

NSW Police caught three baboons that escaped while being taken to a Sydney hospital on Tuesday. The male baboon was due to go to the clinic for a vasectomy, while the two female baboons were there ‘to keep him calm’, said Health Minister Brad Hazzard. The male has since had the surgery, which the minister says ‘went well’.

CT scan

Right-wing extremism still a threat in Australia

ASIO’s director-general, Mike Burgess, has warned that groups and individuals in Australia have the capability and intent to carry out terrorist acts, driven by a range of motivations including Islamist-inspired and right-wing extremism. In his annual threat assessment, Burgess said ASIO was focused on stopping the spread of extremist messages online, preventing radicalisation and identifying plots to carry out violent attacks.

US commitment to fighting terrorism in West Africa under question 

Despite the rapid increase in terrorist activity in Africa’s Sahel region, the US is considering withdrawing some of the 5,000 troops it has there, including around 1,000 stationed in West Africa. The withdrawal was proposed late last year as part of the US government’s efforts to ‘rebalance’ its overseas troop commitments. Tensions in the Middle East meant that only limited resources were available for this month’s major Flintlock exercise, through which the US trains regional militaries struggling to counter terrorism in the Sahel.

Iran placed on terrorism financing blacklist

The global dirty money watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, has placed Iran on its blacklist for failing to respond to warnings to comply with international anti-terrorism-financing conventions. The blacklisting will make borrowing more costly for Iran and increase its isolation from the international financial system.


Europe not considering border closures as coronavirus spreads

Despite the spread of cases of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, from northern Italy, the European Commission says it’s not yet considering border closures in the Schengen area. Health ministers from Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Croatia will meet in Rome next week to discuss containment strategies. Parts of northern Italy have been locked down and Austria temporarily suspended train services crossing the Italian border on Sunday as it tested patients suspected of having the virus.

Locals protest refugee camps in Greek islands

Large groups of protesters have attempted to block the construction of refugee camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios. Residents are planning more strikes this week. More than 44,000 asylum seekers are being held in camps on outer Aegean islands. The protests follow the Greek government’s announcement that it would erect a floating barrier off Lesbos to deter migrants crossing from Turkey.

Ugandan and Rwandan leaders meet at border

The presidents of Uganda and Rwanda have met at a border crossing post for a summit designed to reduce tensions between the two nations. Rwanda closed the border with Uganda in February last year and strongly advised its citizens against travelling there. The two were accompanied by the leaders of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo who have endeavoured to promote a peace deal between the neighbours.

First responder 

Coronavirus could infect billions

Infectious diseases specialist and adviser to the World Health Organization Ira Longini has predicted that two-thirds of the global population may eventually be infected with the Covid-19 virus. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has made a similar finding, telling the Wall Street Journal that 40–70% of the world’s population was likely to be infected this year. Some experts say the spread of the virus means it’s already a pandemic, but the WHO says that point has not yet been reached.

Mongolia prepares for extreme winter

Mongolia’s national meteorological agency says half of the country is at risk of a dzud—a severe winter—following last year’s dry summer. Harsh conditions will threaten livestock, which provide food, transport and income for around half the country’s population. The Mongolian government and a number of non-government organisations say climate change is partly responsible for the increased frequency of dzuds.

Venezuelans facing food crisis

The World Food Programme has published a food security assessment that found that one in three Venezuelans needs some form of food assistance. On behalf of the Venezuelan government, the WFP collected data on more than 8,300 households. Hyperinflation has contributed to an economic situation that means 59% of surveyed households don’t have enough money to buy food.