MS Risk Blog

Accidental Release of Diplomatic Letter Confirms Rift Between Somali Government and Kenyan Forces

Posted on in Somalia title_rule

An apparently accidental publication of a diplomatic letter has exposed a rift between the Somali Federal Government and Kenyan troops. The letter accuses the Kenyan army of causing recent faction fighting, which has left at least sixty-five dead in the southern port city of Kismayo. Kenyan troops are in Somalia as part of the African Union (AU) force who is currently battling Islamist militants in support of the United Nations-backed government. Kenyan authorities have yet to comment on the letter.

Somalia - letter

The letter, which is titled as “Extremely Urgent – Kismayo conflict,” is from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fawzia Yusuf Adam. He is also the deputy prime minister to the African Union. The letter accuses Kenyan troops, who are part of the AU’s peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM, of not being neutral peacekeepers and that instead, they are attempting to create a buffer state, known as Jubbaland, within Somalia, which will be run by local politicians that they can control. It further indicates that the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF), which is backed by one Somalia faction against others, arrested a senior Somali government army officer and used heavy weapons in civilian areas. According to the letter, the “incompetence” of the Kenyan commander of AMISOM in southern Somalia is said to have caused an outbreak of recent fighting in the southern port city of Kismayo which has led to a “preliminary” count of 65 dead and 155 injured. According to on-the-ground reports in Mogadishu, the letter appears to have been emailed to journalists accidentally after someone had mistakenly included the Prime Minister’s “press contacts” into the email recipients’ list.

The letter calls for the “immediate deployment” of a multinational African peacekeeping force to take over control in southern Somalia in a bid to calm the situation, which threatens to destabilize a region of the country which continues to be threatened by al-Shabaab militants. Although the Kenyan AMISOM contingent was recently reinforced by several hundred troops from Sierra Leone, Sierra Leoneans are “embedded” inside the Kenyan units. As such, the KDF continues to be the dominating force in this region of Somalia, which has been classified by AMISOM as “Sector 2.” While the letter highlights the need for a multinational deployment in the region, it does not go as far as to say that Kenyan troops should be replaced. Instead, it pointedly states that new “political officers” should be appointed for the area “whose nationalities will be different from the AMISOM contingent in Sector 2.”

Although Kenyan authorities have not yet officially responded or made any comments pertaining to the newly released diplomatic letter, the Kenyan army has previously insisted that it was neutral in its dealing with Somalia and that it was only attempting to bring peace to its neighbor. However this is not the first time that the Kenyan troops have been accused of backing a militia force, which opposed the central Somali government in Mogadishu. Over the past several weeks, authorities in Somalia have accused Kenyan troops of supporting militia soldiers “in violation of their mandate,” as well as attacking civilians and arresting a top government army commander. These accusations culminated in the Somali government demanding several days ago that Kenyan troops stationed in Kismayo be replaced. With the accidental release of this confidential diplomatic letter, it appears that this time the Somali government’s accusation may confirm suspicions in the region that while Kenya’s troops are a part of AMISOM, they may also have their own agenda – to create a buffer zone to prevent further cross-border attacks which have plagued the border region ever since Kenya deployed its troops in Somalia in 2011. Kenyan forces seized Kismayo, which is located 480 km (300 miles) south of Mogadishu, from al-Shabaab in October 2012. Currently, there are several self-declared presidents of Jubbaland and the central government in Mogadishu does not recognize neither one of them. Although Somali and AU forces have driven al-Shabaab militants out of a number of major cities, its fighters still control the smaller towns and rural areas located in central and southern Somalia, where they have been able to launch attacks within government-controlled territory.

Egypt Update: Monsour Sworn in as Interim President

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

On 4 July, head of the Egyptian High Constitutional Court (HCC), Adli Monsour, has taken the oath of office as Egypt’s Interim president, following yesterday’s overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi. Immediately following his swearing in, Monsour gave his first speech to the people of Egypt, thanking the youth for leading the charge to gain back the 2011 revolution. “I look forward to parliamentary and presidential elections held with the genuine and authentic will of the people. The youth had the initiative and the noblest thing about this glorious event is that it was an expression of the nation’s conscience and an embodiment of its hopes and ambitions. It was never a movement seeking to realise special demands or personal interests.”

Monsour, who had been deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court from 1992, had been chosen by President Morsi to be the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court upon the retirement of its former leader, effective 30 June.

He had been in office only two days when the army named him leader of Egypt

Monsour is a 67-year-old father of three, French educated at the Ecole Nationale de l’Administration. He was a long-serving judge under the former president Hosni Mubarak, serving in state sponsored religious courts as well as civil and criminal courts. Monsour helped to draft the supervision law for the presidential elections that brought Morsi to power in 2012, which included setting a legal timeframe for electoral campaigning.

Immediate Fallout

As the swearing in proceeded, dozens of Mohamed Morsi-supporters protested outside the High Constitutional Court. Security forces formed a barricade to prevent clashes with celebrating citizens, and arm tanks and soldiers surrounded the HCC.

Following the swearing in, several ministers from Egypt’s Cabinet who belonged to the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Muslim Brotherhood presented their resignations in protest. These include the Ministers of Local Administration, Youth, Labour Force, Investment, Supply, Planning and International Cooperation, Education, Information, and Transportation. Declining an offer by Interim President Monsour to work on developing a unified government, Sheikh Abdel Rahman El-Bar, a member of the Brotherhood’s executive board, stated that the group will not work with “the usurper authorities.

In Damanhour and Beni Suef, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters held rallies against what they are calling “a coup against legitimacy,” holding photos of Morsi and chanting, “Down with military rule.” Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement Wednesday announcing their refusal of the former president’s removal, calling the military’s move a “coup d’etat.”In Beni Suef, reports say that protesters have stormed and are currently occupying the governorate building.

In a press conference on Thursday, The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an umbrella group for several Islamist parties, has issued a call for “peaceful protests on Friday in all of Egypt’s provinces to denounce the military coup against legitimacy and in support of the legitimacy of President Morsi.” The statement was echoed on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website, Ikhwanweb.

Egyptian Army’s Overnight Actions

In the early hours of July 4, several hundred arrest warrants were issued for Muslim Brotherhood figures who were accused of inciting violence or posing a threat to national security. Among those arrested were the Muslim Brotherhood’s former Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef, and the group’s current Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie. Badie was arrested for the murder of eight protestors in Marsa Matrouh, near the Libyan border. The army has taken them to Tora Prison on the outskirts of Cairo, where ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his sons are detained.

Security forces also stormed Al Jazeera’s Egyptian offices, arresting five employees for reportedly showing “only pro-Morsi” demonstrations. Several other stations were also taken off the air, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist networks in al-Nass, al-Hifaz and al-Amjaad. The Army states that it is a precautionary measure to prevent the media from inciting violence. It is unknown if or when they will resume broadcasting.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s legislative chamber, the Shura council, has been dissolved due to suspension of the constitution, and will not reconvene until a new constitution is drawn.  In June, the council’s election was ruled unconstitutional by the HCC, but was granted immunity from dissolution by the now suspended constitution. The lower council was dissolved earlier in the year by a separate court ruling. Following the draft of the new constitution, new presidential and parliamentary elections will then take place. A timeline is yet to be determined.

Hope for Egypt

Despite these setbacks, Egyptians are in high spirits at the prospects of rebuilding the nation. Protesters celebrated into the night, with fireworks and cheers. In the morning, Egypt’s main stock exchange index, the EGX30, which had been in decline for a month, rose by 7.3 percent, cutting year-to-date losses to just 2.3 percent as the market reacted to the ousting of Morsi from power. Egyptian investors, relieved by the removal of Morsi, purchased a net LE140.3 million worth of stocks, and total turnover reached a relatively high LE459 million. Egypt saw a market capital gain of LE20 billion in the first hours of trading.

International Reaction

There has been mixed reaction to the events in Egypt. In the Middle East, formal congratulations came from Saudi Arabia; however, leaders in Qatar, a supporter of Islamists in the Arab uprisings, sent a more muted statement, saying they would “respect the wishes of the Egyptian people.” Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad called Morsi’s ouster the “fall of political Islam”, and said, “Syria’s people and leadership and army express their deep appreciation for the national, populist movement in Egypt which has yielded a great achievement.”

Rached Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist an-Nahda party, called the removal “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy,” and Turkey has lamented the loss of a valuably ally, calling it “unacceptable.” Iran called for respecting the legitimate demands of the people, but warned of “foreign and enemy opportunism”.

In the African Union, an unidentified senior source has stated that the group is likely to suspend Egypt from all its activities following Morsi’s removal from office. Members of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council will meet on Friday, and may implement the AU’s response, which is suspension for any country where an unconstitutional change has taken place.

Western foreign governments are still working through semantics to determine whether Morsi’s removal was a coup, or a military intervention. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague criticized military intervention but called it a popular move, urging fast and inclusive transition: “We have to recognise the enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with what the president had done and the conduct of the government over the past year.” The United States is considering using the annual $1.3 billion aid package as encouragement for civilian

Egypt Update: President Morsi Overthrown, Interim President Named

Posted on in Egypt title_rule

After four days of protest, beginning on June 30, the one year anniversary of the Egyptian President’s election, Mohamed Morsi has been removed from office.

On Monday, the Egyptian Army issued a 48 hour ultimatum, urging Morsi to work with members of other parties to create a roadmap to meet the desires of the masses. As the 24 hour mark passed, Morsi issued a televised and passionate statement that he would not leave, and would fight for the legitimacy of his democratically elected office. He also asked the military to repeal the 48 hour ultimatum, to no avail.

As the deadline passed, military forces were deployed to areas containing high concentrations of Pro- and Anti-Morsi protesters. Head of the Egyptian Army, General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, appeared in a televised statement, flanked by Muslim, Coptic Christian, political and military leaders. Al-Sisi announced that the chief justice of constitutional court, Adli Mansour, would take the powers of the presidency.

The announcement effectively removed former President Mohammed Morsi from power.

In addition to the removal of Morsi, General Al-Sisi has announced a suspension of the highly contested constitution, and called for early elections, which will require the court to create a draft law for the forthcoming process. Al-Sisi also called upon the court to address a draft law for ethics which would include freedom of expression and media, regardless of political party. Finally, Al-Sisi urged peaceful demonstrations and avoidance of violence.

Protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square gave out a huge cheer in response to the speech. Fireworks erupted in Anti-Morsi camps throughout Cairo, as Army helicopters circled Tahrir Square, throwing Egyptian flags to the crowd. The protests drew over 33 million people, the largest in world history.

Pro-Morsi gatherers have given an oath to uphold democracy and continue to support Morsi. Following the speech, the Muslim Brotherhood television station went off the air, and a post on Morsi’s Facebook page denounced the army move as a military coup. Morsi’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Egypt’s Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, was sentenced to one year in prison for failing to uphold a court order to reinstate employees at Tanta Flax and Oil Company and for annulling the company’s sale to a Saudi businessman.

Following General Al-Sisi’s address, Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Church, and Mohammed ElBaradei, a key leader of the opposition parties, made short statements. ElBaradei called the army’s roadmap a fresh start to the January 2011 revolution.

In the coming days, arguments will surround whether the Army’s action constituted a coup d’etat. The Army claims to have acted on the will of the people, particularly the 22 million signatures on the “Tamarod” petition, which demanded Morsi’s removal. The military will not take over political responsibility, rather have handed it over to the high courts. However, because it is a military action, the title of “coup d’etat” could strain relations with international partners, such as America, which will not provide economic assistance to nations where power is transitioned through military force.

Adli Mansour will be sworn in as the interim president on Thursday.

MENA Update

Posted on in Africa, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria title_rule


Mali Rebels Offer Freedom Deal for Algerian Hostages

23 June, 2013- The Mali-based al-Qaeda affiliate, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has offered to release one individual from a group of Algerian diplomats which were kidnapped last year, in exchange for the release of three “mujahedeen” currently held in Algeria. A statement sent to the Algerian government said, “If Algeria rejects the proposal, the Algerian hostages’ lives will be in danger.” The group did not release the names of the three prisoners they wish to have released, nor where they were being held.

MUJAO abducted a group of seven people, including the Algerian diplomats, on 5 April, 2012 in Gao, northern Mali.  The kidnappers initially asked for €15 million to release the group, however, they released three of those hostages months later in July.  In September 2013, MUJAO announced that the group had killed one of the hostages, however, this has not verified by the Algerian government.


Bahraini Security Arrests 9 in Prison Break Plan

25 June, 2013- Bahrain announced the arrest of nine Shiites members of the group Jaish al-Imam (Army of the Imam) thought to be linked to Iran, that were planning, among other things, to attack a prison to facilitate a jail break. Arms, ammunition and a plan for attacking the prison were seized. Those arrested were intending to carry out attacks on key installations in the country, the ministry said.

Bahrain is a country with a Shiite Muslim majority population that is ruled by a Sunni Muslim dynasty. Relations between Bahrain and overwhelmingly Shiite Iran have been tense since the authorities in Manama, with the help of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors, suppressed a pro-democracy movement largely led by Shiites.


Egypt Reinforces Military Presence in Suez Region ahead of Protests

27 June, 2013- The Egyptian army has reinforced its presence in the Egyptian Suez Canal city of Port Said ahead of national anti-government protests on 30 June. Several armoured vehicles toured the city’s streets before parking in front of the governorate headquarters. The forces were received with cheers by residents. Egypt is bracing for the protests on 30 June, called for by signature drive ‘Tamarod’, which aims at withdrawing confidence from the president and holding early elections.

The campaign’s petition to remove Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi from office has gathered 15 million signatures, more than the number of votes amassed by Morsi last year. The petition accuses the president of “failing to implement policies to improve the life of ordinary people,” citing Egypt’s critical economic situation. Some Egyptians are calling for the army to take over power for a temporary period and appoint a new government, in the event that Morsi resigns.

In preparation for June 30 demonstrations, army troops have started to take over the assignment of safeguarding vital facilities, including Martyr Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel and the banks of the Suez Canal.

Meanwhile, early clashes north of Cairo resulted in one person killed and more than 200 injured as opponents of President Morsi pelted his supporters with garbage as they gathered outside a mosque to stage a march in support of the president. This clash is probably an omen of larger clashes likely this weekend.


Bombs Target Protesters, 14 Dead

25 June, 2013- Bombs targeting Shiite protesters and pilgrims killed 14 people in northern town of Tuz Khurmatu, a day after 35 people were killed nationwide, most of them in a wave of car bombings in the capital. The death toll for June is now over 350. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants linked to al Qaeda frequently target Shia Muslims.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside a tent filled with Shia Turkmen protesters in the town, killing at least 11 people and wounding 55. The protesters had been rallying over poor security in the town, which is regularly hit with attacks.

Tuz Khurmatu lies in a tract of territory in the north that Kurdistan wants to incorporate into its three-province autonomous region over Baghdad’s objections. The unresolved dispute over the territory, which stretches from Iraq’s eastern border with Iran to its western frontier with Syria, is cited by diplomats as one of the biggest threats to the country’s long-term stability.

Also on 25 June, a “sticky bomb” attached to a minibus went off as Shiite pilgrims were on their way to the central shrine city of Karbala for Shabaniyah commemorations. Three people were killed and 15 wounded when the bomb went off near the town of Iskandiriyah. In east Baghdad, gunmen wounded two guards outside an Assyrian church.

Iraq is struggling with a prolonged political deadlock and violence at its worst levels since 2008. Attacks have increased considerably since the beginning of the year, coinciding with rising discontent among the Sunni Arab minority that erupted into protests in late December.


Libya Deemed Major Transit Hub for Terrorists

An African Union (AU) leader has warned that Libya has become a major transit hub for terrorists. AU representative Fransisco Cetano Jose Madiera stated that he has reports which indicate that Libya has become a major transit hub for the main terrorist groups travelling from one country to another. In addition, Libya is seen as a refuge and point for terrorists to “reorganize”.

Following the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s weakened security and porous borders make it a prime location for rebel groups to transit through. This was a key concern at the two-day regional security meeting in Oran, Algeria. Libya is a key component to stabilising the Sahel region, however few countries in the region have the means to protect their borders. The EU has offered to work with Libya to tighten border security but the lack of organization in the country makes the endeavour very difficult. The European bloc believes that development of the region could be a solution to fighting the problem of porous borders.

Libya is working in close collaboration with Algeria and Tunisia to secure their borders and to fight against terrorism and organised crime. Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister has said that officials are “in a constant contact with the Libyan government”, including Algerian contributions to the training of the Libyan police and army.


Qatar’s New Emir to Follow in Father’s Footsteps

25 June, 2013- In his first speech as the new emir of Qatar, 33 year-old Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, announced that he plans to follow policies established by his father and the country’s last government. The emir signalled that Qatar would undergo drastic change in domestic or foreign policy despite new leadership. The new emir’s father announced the end of his 18-year rule the day before, an unprecedented move for the country.

During the previous emir’s rule, Qatar spread its wealth through foreign investments, largely financed by its vast natural gas sources, to increase its political and economic influence in the region.

While Qatar supported the Arab Spring and has maintained an alliance with the United States, critics worry that the nation’s open support of the Syrian opposition could mean financial support of al Qaeda-linked groups. Further, some Westerners fear Qatar’s friendly terms with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The new emir reaffirmed his country’s wish to remain on peaceful diplomatic terms with all governments. “We respect all the influential and active political trends in the region, but we are not affiliated with one trend against the other. We are Muslims and Arabs who respect diversity of sects and respect all religions in our countries and outside of them.”

During his speech, Sheikh Tamim refrained from mentioning the Syrian war, instead expressing his support for the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel. The sheikh also unveiled his cabinet reshuffle; outgoing Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani is to be replaced by Sheik Abdullah bin Naser Al Thani and Khalid al-Atiyah, respectively. Qatar has been dominated by the Al Thani family for nearly 150 years.

Qatar holds the world’s third largest gas reserves and produces around 77 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually, making it the largest supplier on the planet. According to the International Monetary Fund, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Changes Start of Weekend

Saudi Arabia will change the start of its two-day weekend from Thursday to Friday, in order to bring it into line with other countries in the region and coordinate business and banking days. The royal decree takes effect this week.

Last month Oman switched to a Friday-Saturday weekend, making Saudi Arabia the only country left among the six-member Gulf Co-operation Council to persist with the old format. The change means that Saudi businesses will now have four working days overlapping with Western and regional businesses rather than three. Friday remains a holiday in Muslim countries because it is a holy day set aside for communal prayer.


Spain uncovers al Qaeda network for Syrian Militants

21 June 2013- Spanish authorities arrested eight suspected members of an al Qaeda network who are allegedly involved in training, funding, and facilitating travel for Islamic radical fighters to Syria. The network is based in the Spanish territory of Ceuta and in the city of Fnideq in neighboring Morocco. The names and nationalities of those arrested have not been disclosed, but they are all Spanish citizens. The network has apparently funneled “dozens” of fighters to Syria, where some have taken part in suicide attacks and others have joined training camps. The network recruited fighters from various parts of Spain as well as Morocco and Ceuta.

According to Spain’s Foreign Ministry, investigations are underway for other groups which are still preparing to travel to Syria. Although separate investigations of al Qaeda networks were begun in 2009 and 2011 by the National Guard and the Civil Police, the two agencies began collaborating this year. Spain is one of many European countries from which an estimated 700 fighters have traveled to join the rebels in the Syrian conflict.

Al Qaeda has been active in Spain since the 1990s, when the Spanish cell was headed by a Syrian named Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, a.k.a. Abu Dahdah. Yarkas was later found to have had foreknowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, although the full extent of his involvement was never determined.  He was arrested in late 2001 and sentenced to 27 years in prison for conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks, but his sentence was later reduced to 12 years for lack of proof on the conspiracy charge. He was released on 23 May. The US has been seeking to monitor Yarkas for some time. Although Yarkas has not been added to the US or UN lists of global terrorists, a 2003 UN designation of an Indonesian al Qaeda-linked terrorist notes that Yarkas was instrumental in establishing al Qaeda training camps in Indonesia for European recruits.

Al Qaeda has been linked to Spain’s worst terrorist attack, the Madrid train bombings of March 2004, which killed 191 people. The cell phones used to detonate the bombs were provided by Jamal Zougam, yet another member of Yarkas’ al Qaeda cell, and Zougam’s accomplices included members of a known al Qaeda affiliate, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.


China Heightens Security in Xinjiang

Posted on in China title_rule

Following major ethnic violence and rioting last week, Chinese authorities appear to beginning a security crackdown in the remote and fractious Xinjiang province, in the far west of China. Xinjiang is the site of sporadic violence between the local Muslim Uighur population and authorities.

Paramilitary police and armoured vehicles have flooded the streets of Urumqi, the capital, and access to information in the province is even more strictly controlled than usual. Given that the 4 year anniversary of rioting that killed nearly 200 people is in 3 days, more violence and disorder is expected in the coming week. Though not commonly targeted in attacks, any foreigners in the region should exercise caution at all times and in particular avoid any demonstrations.

The most recent unrest began on Wednesday last week, in the township of Lukqun, about 200km southeast of Urumqi. Reports say a large mob, armed with knives, attacked several police stations and a government building, attacking individuals and setting police cars alight before the authorities opened fire. 35 people, including 9 security personnel, were killed in this incident. This was followed by an incident on Friday, in which more than 100 people riding motorcycles and armed with knives attacked a police station in the town of Hotan, though no-one was killed in this second incident.

Recent months have seen more occurrences of normally sporadic unrest. Of particular note is an incident at the end of April in the town of Selibuya, Kashgar province, in which 21 people died. 12 police officers were reportedly burned alive in this incident. The most serious unrest in recent years was in 2009, when nearly 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, were killed in widespread rioting.

Chinese authorities strictly control all media and information in Xinjiang, and accurately verifying facts surrounding incidents can be very difficult. Officially, Beijing blames ‘terrorists’ for any and all unrest, attributing it to separatist groups who want to establish an independent state of ‘East Turkestan’. It also typically attributes violence to the influence of foreigners in the province. In this recent incident, it has explicitly implicated the Syrian rebel movement, suggesting that the unrest was precipitated by Uighurs who have trained and fought in the Syrian civil war.

Despite the obvious bias of Chinese authorities in this matter, there is some truth to their claims that some Uighurs are connected with jihadist groups and similar. Al Qaeda has in the past threatened to attack Chinese targets following the deaths of Uighurs in Xinjiang, and over 20 Uighurs were detained following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and held in Guantanamo Bay. The small East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM) is reportedly affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and is classed as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations.

Nevertheless, the attitude of the Chinese authorities is also very likely a major contributing factor in ethnic unrest. While Xinjiang province has seen major investment following China’s economic growth, little of this appears to have benefited the ethnic Uighur population. Massive resettlement of Han Chinese has dramatically changed the ethnic demographics of the province, and Uighurs complain of losing jobs, confiscation of their land, an erosion of their traditional culture and of being deprived of their religious rights.

Xinjiang is in the far west of China, and has been controlled by various Chinese empires sporadically throughout history. Following a brief period of independence, it was brought under communist Chinese control in 1949. The province is extremely rich in resources, a fact that has brought increased investment by also increased immigration. Xinjiang’s population is now 43% Uighur and 40% Han.

While not commonly targeted in any unrest, foreigners in Xinjiang should maintain caution while in the province. Any demonstrations or protests should be avoided, particularly as the authorities typically respond harshly to any unrest. Foreigners may also encounter harassment and intimidation from state authorities, and should avoid taking pictures of sensitive incidents or locations.