Afghanistan/Taliban – At least 13 policemen were killed by one of their own in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province. A police source said that an infiltrator from the Taliban had allowed militants into the police station in the regional capital of Lashkar Gah on the night of the 27 Feb 17. The infiltrator fled the scene with the Taliban, he said. A spokesperson for provincial governor Omar Zuak confirmed the incident, but did not provide details. No group has officially claimed responsibility. Lashkar Gah has come under increased pressure from the Taliban in recent months. The city of 200,000 people is seen as strategically important, and the key to holding Helmand province. The province is both a fertile farming region and a centre for opium production, bordering Pakistan on one end and covering major routes between cities. Thousands of people fled the rural areas to shelter in Lashkar Gah last August, before the city itself came under attack in Oct 16. The city was previously the scene of heavy fighting between the Taliban and NATO-led forces before their withdrawal in 2014.
Afghanistan – A gun-battle broke out between security forces and an unknown number of gunmen in Kabul on the 1 Mar 17 immediately after a resounding explosion in the western part of the Afghan capital, a police official said. A second explosion was also reported in the city, interior ministry confirmed. Taliban said they attacked three targets in the capital, claiming they inflicted heavy casualties. Police sources said that a suicide car bomber detonated a vehicle full of explosives next to a police station and near a military training centre. At least two gunmen with suicide vests entered the police headquarters and at the time of reporting there was fighting ongoing in that area. Hospital officials said six wounded people were receiving medical care. At the time of reporting there was no further information.
Australia/Da’esh – A man suspected of trying to advise the so-called Islamic State on missiles has been arrested in Australia. Haisem Zahab, 42, was arrested at Young, in rural New South Wales, on the 28 Feb 17 PM Malcolm Turnbull said. Police allege the electrician was helping to develop a long-range guided missile, and designing a laser device to warn of incoming munitions used by forces in Iraq and Syria. The arrest did not relate to a planned attack in Australia, Mr Turnbull said. Mr Zahab was an Australian citizen and planned to provide IS "with the technical capability, and high-tech capability, to detect and develop missiles", the prime minister said. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin alleged the man was acting alone and his advice was "fairly sophisticated and well-planned". He did not appear to have direct experience with missile or laser technology, the commissioner said. The police raid involving dozens of officers followed a complex 18-month investigation. Police said Mr Zahab was arrested in front of his family, including children, at Young, about 150km (93 miles) north-west of Canberra. Footage broadcast on the local Nine network showed police with dogs and metal detectors scouring the rural property. "This is a very technical offence and this gentleman is quite technically minded so we will be doing a complete, thorough forensic examination of that property," Mr Colvin said. "It could take hours, if not days, and we will leave no stone unturned in what we're looking for."Mr Zahab is facing two foreign incursion-related charges carrying a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a lesser charge of failing to comply with a police order. "This highlights that terrorism, support for terrorist groups, and Islamist extremism is not limited to our major cities," Mr Turnbull said. "It once again shows that we all need to be very vigilant." Mr Turnbull praised the joint efforts of Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police.
China/North Korea – China says it will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea for the rest of the year, depriving the country of a crucial source of foreign exchange following its latest missile test it was reported on the 18 Feb 17. The suspension, which implements existing UN sanctions over North Korea's nuclear programmes, started on the 19 Feb 17 and remain in force until the end of the year, China's commerce ministry said in a statement posted on its website. China "will temporarily stop its imports of coal from North Korea for the rest of this year" including coal for which customs applications have been made but not yet processed, it said. The decision came after North Korea's February 11 missile test, as tensions escalate over the reclusive state's defiance of UN resolutions. China had traditionally ensured that UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions against North Korea included humanitarian exemptions, and had continued to buy huge amounts of North Korean coal - worth $101m in Oct 16 alone. Einar Tangen, a Beijing-based analyst, says China's move would have a massive impact on North Korea's economy. "Coal represents one-third of North Korea's total exports ... The entire GDP of North Korea was about $17bn and now $1bn has effectively disappeared. This is biting into the very lifeblood of the administration," he said. China, a long-time main ally and neighbour of North Korea, appeared to be moving towards improved ties with South Korea after its political opposition gained popularity following President Park Geun-hye's impeachment, Tangen said. "China has recently been working hard with South Korea's opposition," he said. The UN Security Council, which includes China, sharply criticised North Korea on the 13 Feb 17 for the missile test, describing it as a "grave violation" of UN resolutions and threatening "further significant measures". On the 15 Feb 17 North Korea defended the missile launch and criticised the Security Council condemnation. The rocket launch was the first since US President Donald Trump came to power and was seen as a challenge to the new American leader, who has promised a strong response. Trump has repeatedly criticised China for doing too little to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme. Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, used his first meeting with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the 17 Feb 17 to urge China "to use all available tools to moderate North Korea's destabilising behaviour". North Korea launched a series of missiles and conducted two nuclear tests in 2016 in its quest to develop a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland. The latest rocket - said by North Korea to be able to carry a nuclear warhead - flew east for about 500km before falling into the Sea of Japan, South Korea's defence ministry said. The Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions since North Korea first tested an atomic device in 2006.
China/Uighur Militants/Da’esh – ISIS militants from China's Muslim minority group have vowed to return home and shed rivers of blood in the terror group's first video to target the country. The 30-minute clip was released on the 28 Feb 17 by a branch in Iraq and features a man being executed in the presence of a child as well as claiming to show the life of Chinese terrorists based in the Middle East. Young boys are seen practicing martial arts and assembling assault rifles in the video, which threatens bloodshed in the biggest country in the world. The video shows groups of youngsters understood to be Uighur militants from China's Xinjiang province sitting and listening to preachers as well as issuing threats. It was released by a division of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in western Iraq and featuring militants from China's Uighur ethnic group, said the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which analysed the footage. China has for years blamed exiled Uighur 'separatists' for a series of violent attacks in its western Xinjiang region - the Uighur homeland - and warned of the potential for militants to link up with global militant groups. The Uighur community is of Turkish origin and has regularly clashed with the government with Islamism usually at the heart of the conflict. In the video, a Uighur fighter issued the threat against China just before executing an alleged informant. 'Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say. 'We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed,' according to SITE's translation. A traditionally Muslim group, many Uighurs complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination by China. It appears to be Islamic State's first direct threat against China, Dr Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the National Security College of Australian National University, said. 'It is the first time that Uighur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to IS,' he added, referring to the group by its other name. The video showed China is now 'very firmly a target of jihadist rhetoric,' Clarke said, marking a shift from years past when it rarely figured in statements by global militant groups. But Clarke said it also could indicate a possible split among Uighur fighters, as it includes a warning to those fighting with the Al Qaeda-aligned Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) in Syria. China maintains tight security in Xinjiang but a drumbeat of deadly unrest has continued. A knife attack last month left eight dead, including three attackers, police said. The ISIS video showed fighters, including heavily armed children, giving speeches, praying, and killing other 'informants'. It also featured images of Chinese riot police guarding mosques, patrolling Uighur markets, and arresting men in what appears to be western China. The Chinese flag is pictured engulfed in flames. Clarke said the hints of a Uighur split could 'intensify the threat to China' as it indicates Uighur militants may be able to tap into the capabilities of both ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Overseas experts have up to now expressed doubts about the strength of Uighur militants, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures. A US think-tank said in July that tough Chinese religious restrictions on Muslims may have driven more than 100 to join ISIS. Authorities have banned or strictly controlled the observance of certain Muslim practices, such as growing beards, wearing headscarves, and fasting during Ramadan, saying they were symbols of 'Islamic extremism'. The video was released the same day that China held the latest in a series of mass rallies of military police in Xinjiang meant to indicate Chinese resolve in crushing security threats. More than 10,000 officers gathered on the 28 Feb 17 in the region's capital Urumqi - the fourth such rally this year in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities have tightened controls in the region, beefing up police checkpoints. In one violence-wracked corner of Xinjiang, authorities are offering rewards of up to 5 million yuan (S$1 million) to those who expose terror plots or 'struggle, kill, wound, or subdue' any attackers.
Gulf of Guinea/Piracy – Dryad’s 2016 figures highlighted a significant increase in offshore maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea compared to 2015. The figure of 49 attacks at sea for 2016 is a huge increase on the 2015 total of 20 attacks. The number of crew kidnapped (51) is also significantly greater than the 31 abducted for ransom the previous year. The Somali pirate threat in the Indian Ocean remains broadly contained with the main focus being the ongoing civil war in Yemen and the implications to shipping in the region. As a result of the reduced risk, NATO has ended its counter-piracy mission and a number of nations are reducing or removing their naval forces in the region. EUNAVFOR attributed only a single incident to Somali pirates, although neither NATO nor UKMTO recognised the incident as an attack. While the Yemen conflict has raised concern in the Bab al Mandeb, maritime attacks in the strait have been mainly on ships involved in the conflict. The focus of the maritime crime statistics this year is the significant increase in kidnap in the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia. While the number of mariners involved is small, compared to those held hostage at the height of the Somali pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, it is nevertheless a significant increase. While the Mediterranean remains in the headlines for continued concern over the maritime migration from North Africa, the end of Daesh/IS territorial control in Sirte is a small sign of improvement in a country that remains wracked by civil war. In the Indian Ocean, piracy has now taken a backseat compared to the risk to shipping from the ongoing conflict in Yemen that has seen ships involved in the conflict attacked and the first alleged Waterborne IED attack of a commercial ship in over 5 years. Southeast Asia saw a 55% reduction when compared to 2015, a trend that continued from the final quarter of 2015 that saw a more proactive and effective approach to law enforcement, in particular from the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities. Concern in the region in the last quarter focused on the Sulu Sea and the attacks by Abu Sayyaf. While these have been mostly on fishing vessels and coal barges, a couple of larger merchant vessels have been attacked and their crew kidnapped. The Mediterranean has continued as an area of interest, due to the ongoing civil war in Libya. However, instability ashore has not resulted in many incidents at sea. Despite this, the continued flow of those fleeing across the sea to Europe, has meant that the ongoing crises and instability across North Africa and the Middle East have had an impact upon maritime activities. Finally, looking at the rest of the world, 2016 saw a further increase in levels of maritime crime from the 2015 figures. This may not point towards a real terms increase though, as the quality of reporting continues to increase in multiple regions.
Source: Dryad Maritime
Indonesia/Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) – Indonesian police said they shot and killed a suspected militant in the West Java capital of Bandung on the 27 Feb 17 after his bomb exploded in a vacant lot and he fled into a municipal building and set it alight. National police chief Tito Karnavian said the man was a member of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, which was designated a terrorist organization by the US in Jan 17. Members of the militant group have contacts with Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian fighting with the ISIS group in Syria who has instigated several attacks by JAD in Indonesia. Karnavian said the attacker wanted fellow Islamic militants who are in prison to be released. “What we know is that he is from JAD, but we are still not sure whether he has contact with Bahrun Naim,” Karnavian said. “Clearly he wanted his friends to be released.” West Java police spokesman Yusri Yunus said the attacker was shot in the stomach and died on the way to a hospital. No one apart from the suspected militant was injured in the attack, which triggered a massive police response and gunbattle. TV footage showed police storming the municipal building as black smoke billowed from its upper floors. Indonesia has carried out a sustained crackdown on Islamic militants since the 2002 bombings on the tourist island of Bali killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. The arrests of hundreds of militants and the killings of leading figures have neutralized the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network, which was responsible for the Bali bombings and other attacks, but a new threat has emerged from ISIS-inspired radicals. An attack in Jan 16 in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, killed eight people, including four attackers. Other recent attacks have killed only the perpetrators or been foiled by counterterrorism police, including a December plot to bomb a guard-changing ceremony at the presidential palace, a popular attraction in Jakarta. Yunus said another person may have been involved in this attack because witnesses told police they saw two men on a motorbike arrive at the lot where the bomb exploded and one of them riding away following the explosion. The low-explosive bomb exploded about 50 meters (55 yards) from the municipal building. Yunus said the man who entered the building was armed with a gun and apparently had explosives in a backpack. When police called on him to surrender, he responded by throwing out an explosive. All workers in the building escaped after the attacker ran into it. TV footage showed police using a ladder to help some people out through the building's windows.
Kashmir/India – A female and three soldiers were killed on the 23 Feb 17 when militants ambushed an army convoy in Indian Kashmir, police said. The soldiers were returning from a search operation when the militants attacked their convoy, injuring six, three of whom later died. The civilian woman was also hit by a stray bullet and died, police said. Area superintendent of police Tahir Saleem said the ambush occurred in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. The area was one of the main centres of violent protests last year against the killing of a popular militant leader in a gun battle with Indian troops. More than 90 civilians were killed and thousands more injured in clashes between protesters and government forces.
North Korea/Iran – Officials from both countries say Iran and North Korea want to strengthen relations. A report on the 19 Feb 17 by ICANA.ir, the news agency of Iran’s Parliament, quotes parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying: “We have always been after stability of relations with North Korea.” Larijani was addressing Choe Thae-bok, visiting chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly. He also said both countries should improve economic relations. Thae-bok responded, saying: “North Korea is seeking improved relations with Iran.” He also praised Iran’s economic and defence improvements. The report said both officials complained about “interventions in independent countries” by the United States. Thae-book is in Iran to participate in an international conference in support of the Palestinians.
Pakistan/ Pakistan Taliban Jamaat-ur-Ahrar – Suicide bombers attacked a court complex in north-western Pakistan, killing at least six people, police said on the 21 Feb 17. A spokesperson for the Pakistan Taliban Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack in town of Tangi in the district of Charsadda. At least six people were killed and 15 wounded in the attack, according to police and hospital officials at the Tangi government hospital where the wounded are being treated. Three suicide attackers attempted to attack the court, but as they exploded their vests, they were shot dead at the gate, another police official, Sabz Ali said. Police sources said a search operation was launched in the area following the blast. That search has now been completed and the area was deemed clear. A wave of recent attacks has gripped Pakistan. Over the past 10 days, a string of bombings has killed more than 100 people.
Pakistan – At least seven people were killed and 17 wounded in a bomb blast at a market in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, government officials said on the 23 Feb 17. The bombing ripped through a building that was under construction at a commercial market in the affluent Defence area, replete with upmarket boutiques and cafes as well as an academy for the international hair salon Toni & Guy. It was reported at the time by a official police spokesman that it was a planted explosive device. At the time they did not know if it was a timed device or remote detonated. According to police, 20kg of explosives were planted at the market. Reports of a second blast in the Gulberg area were later retracted by government officials, who said that a tyre blowout caused the loud sound.
Philippines/Abu Sayyaf – The Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf armed group has posted a video purportedly showing the beheading of a German man held for three months after demands for a ransom were not met. The video, reposted on the 27 Feb 17 by the monitoring group SITE, showed an elderly captive slumped on a grassy lot and a man holding a knife to his neck. "Now they'll kill me," the 70-year-old man said before he was executed on the 26 Feb 17 after a ransom demand deadline passed. SITE identified the man as Jurgen Gustav Kantner, believed to be held by Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of southern Sulu province. The Philippine army said it had received information reports that the hostage had been killed but it was working to verify them. "We have sought the help of local governments and the Moro National Liberation Front in looking for the body of the latest victim of the Abu Sayyaf," said Colonel Edgard Arevalo, a spokesman for the military. "Until we find the body of the victim, we still hold on to the hope [that he is still alive] and we will continue to conduct combat operations," he added. Kantner was snatched on the 5Nov 16 from his yacht off the southern Philippines. The armed group's fighters shot his 59-year-old wife dead after she fought back and left her body in the boat. Abu Sayyaf is a small but highly active group known for beheading, kidnapping, bombing and extortion in the south of the country. The group is believed to be holding a number of hostages and has freed several in return for ransom payments. Abu Sayyaf, which is considered a "terrorist" organisation by several western countries, emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a separatist rebellion by minority Moro Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south. Kidnap-for-ransom operations have long been a lucrative business in the region but have escalated in recent years.
Russia/Kurds/Geneva Talks – Russia hopes the Syrian opposition will form a joint delegation for the Geneva peace talks, RIA Novosti news agency reported on the 27 Feb 17 citing Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. The agency also quoted Bogdanov as saying that Kurdish representatives should also take part in the talks. The United Nations opened the Syria peace talks with a symbolic ceremony on the 23 Feb 17.
Turkey – A car bomb on the 17 Feb 17 rocked the south-eastern Turkish province of Sanliurfa, close to the Syrian border, killing a 10-year-old and a neighbourhood watch guard and wounding 17 people, the provincial governor's office said. The explosion, which took place near a building where prosecutors are housed, struck the district of Viransehir, the office added. The governor said the "terror attack" was caused by a parked vehicle that was loaded with explosives and detonated using a remote control, the agency reported. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Twitter that no terrorist organisation or attack would weaken Turkey's fight against terror. No group immediately claimed the attack, but Turkish authorities on the 18 Feb 17 blamed Kurdish militants for the car bombing, and detained 26 people in connection with the attack, including the suspected owner of the car used in the blast which Dogan news agency said was caused by a tonne of explosives. Sanliurfa governor Gungor Azim Tuna told the official news agency Anadolu that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was to blame.
Turkey/Canada – A Turkish Airlines plane in Istanbul was evacuated on the 18 Feb 17 after a suspicious note was discovered in one of its bathrooms. The Turkish Airlines cabin crew found the words “BOMB TO TORONTO” on the bathroom’s wall on Flight TK-17 during its pushback from the gate, a Turkish Airlines said. The plane was leaving Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport for Toronto Pearson International Airport. The plane returned to its parking spot and was evacuated. The airline said the plane and its passengers underwent security procedures, but the official said nothing suspicious was found. A new plane was designated for the flight to Toronto.
Turkey/Iran – Diplomatic tensions escalated on the 21 Feb 17 between Turkey and Iran as the countries traded accusations over their roles in the Syria conflict and the Middle East. The pair have been regional rivals for centuries but have sought to forge a pragmatic relationship in recent years, with the Islamic Republic strongly supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after last year's failed coup. But mainly Sunni Muslim Turkey and Shiite Iran have been on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria, with Ankara seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran, along with Russia, his key backer. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu lashed out at Iran in a speech to the Munich Security Conference at the weekend, saying some of its actions had undermined security in the region and urging Tehran to promote stability. "Iran wants to make Syria and Iraq Shiite," he said, quoted by Turkish state media. Erdogan has also in recent weeks accused Iran of promoting a "Persian nationalism" that had damaged the Middle East. The Iranian foreign ministry on the 20 Feb 17 summoned the Turkish envoy to issue a protest after Cavusoglu's comments while spokesman Bahram Ghassemi warned that Tehran's patience "had limits". "We hope that such statements are not made again. If our Turkish friends continue with this attitude we will not remain silent," he added. Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu hit back by saying it was "incomprehensible" to receive such accusations from Tehran who he charged with "not hesitating to push into war zones refugees sheltering from regional crises." "Instead of accusing countries that have criticised Iran, it should take constructive steps and review its own regional policies." The angry exchanges have come just after Erdogan returned from a week-long tour to the Arabian Peninsula, including talks with the leadership of Iran's arch regional foe and Ankara's Sunni ally Saudi Arabia. Harmony between Turkey and Iran is crucial in ensuring the preservation of a fragile ceasefire in Syria, also backed by Russia, that came into force at the end of last year as a basis for peace talks. Although Ankara says Assad should go, the government has occasionally softened its stance, indicating the president could have some role in determining the country's future. The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a report in Dec 16 that only "by finding common ground" could Turkey and Iran help stabilise the region. "The alternative, crystallised in the zero-sum dynamic that marks Iran's relations with Saudi Arabia, is even greater disorder and suffering," it warned.