MS Risk Blog

London Terror Attack: Improvised Bomb Explodes Packed Tube, Injuring 22

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Police disclosed on Friday morning that a home-made bomb exploded on a packed rush-hour commuter train in London, injuring 22 people in what is being treated as the fifth terrorist attack to take place in Britain this year.

Passengers on board a train heading into the capital fled as fire engulfed a carriage at Parsons Green underground station in West London after the explosion at 8:20 AM (0720 GMT). Some suffered buns while others were injured in a stampede to escape. The National Health Service (NHS) has reported that 22 people were taken to London hospitals, with the ambulance service disclosing that none were thought to be in serious condition.

Speaking to reporters, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley disclosed “we now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device.” Rowley declined to answer whether the authorities knew who was responsible or if the suspected bomber had been on the train, saying that it was a live investigation which was being assisted by the intelligence services.

Pictures taken at the scene showed a white bucket with a supermarket freezer bag on the floor of one train carriage. The bucket was in flames and there appeared to be wires coming out of the top.

UN Security Council Imposes New Sanctions on North Korea

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On Monday 11 September, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to step up sanctions on North Korea – a move that has been welcomed by major US allies in Asia. The latest sanctions will target North Korea’s profitable textile exports, which will now be banned, and fuel supplies will be capped. The move comes after North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test.

Monday’s decision was the 9th sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member Security Council since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. A tougher initial US draft was weakened in a bid to win the support of China, Pyongyang’s main ally and trading partner, and Russia, both of which hold veto power in the Council. According to South Korean data, UN member states will now be required to halt imports of textiles from North Korea, its second largest export after coal and other material’s in 2016 that totalled US $752 million and accounted for a quarter of its income from trade. Nearly 80 percent went to China.

On Tuesday, 12 September, Japan and South Korea disclosed that after the passage of the US-drafted Security Council resolution they were prepared to apply more pressure if Pyongyang refused to end its aggressive development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. South Korea’s presidential Blue House disclosed on Tuesday that the only way for Pyongyang to end diplomatic isolation and become free of economic pressure was to end its nuclear programme and resume dialogue. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also quickly welcomed the resolution and stated after the vote that it was important to change North Korea’s policy by imposing a higher level of pressure. However, China’s official Xinhua news agency disclosed in a commentary that the Trump administration was making a mistake by rejecting diplomatic engagement with the North. Xinhua stated, “the US needs to switch from isolation to communication in order to end an ‘endless loop’ on the Korean peninsula where nuclear missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests.”

On Monday, Pyongyang warned the US that it would pay a “due price” for spearheading efforts on UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, which it said was part of “legitimate self-defensive measures.” In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, the foreign ministry disclosed that “the world will witness how (North Korea) tames the US gangsters by taking a series of actions tougher than they have ever envisaged.” However North Korea did not issue a response immediately after the adoption of the latest resolution.

Latest Attack In Afghanistan Sparks Fears that IS is Moving Towards New Territory

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An attack late last month on the Iraqi Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul has reinforced concerns that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is seeking to bring its conflict in the Middle East to Afghanistan, however current evidence of fighters relocating from Iraq and Syria, where they have been rapidly loosing control of territory in recent months, remains elusive.

On Monday 31 July, IS confirmed that it had carried out the attack, which began with a suicide bomber blowing himself up at the embassy’s main gate, allowing gunmen to enter the building and battle security forces. IS put out a statement identifying two of the attackers as Abu Julybib Al-Kharasani and Abu Talha Al-Balkhi, Arabic names that nonetheless suggest Afghan origins – Khoasan is an old name for the Central Asian region that includes Afghanistan, while Balkh is a province in northern Afghanistan. Security officials have disclosed that they are still investigating the attack, noting however that it is still too early to say whether there was any foreign influence or involvement.

The choice of target, which came three weeks after the fall of Mosul to Iraqi troops, appeared to back up numerous warnings from Afghan security officials that as IS fighters are increasingly being pushed out of Iraq and Syria, they risked shows up in Afghanistan. According to Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri, “this year we’re seeing more new weapons in the hands of the insurgents and an increase in numbers of foreign fighters,” adding “they are used in front lines because they are war veterans.” One senior security official put the number of foreigners fighting for both IS and the Taliban in Afghanistan at roughly 7,000, noting that most are operating across the border from their home countries of Pakistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, but also include others from countries such as India.

While such foreign fighters have long been present in Afghanistan, there has been growing concern that militants from Arab countries, who have left the fighting in Syria as pressure on IS there has grown, have also been arriving in Afghanistan through Iraq. The United States, which first arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 after al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington, is now considering deploying additional troops to Afghanistan, in part to ensure that the country does not become a have for foreign militant groups. However while Afghan and US officials have long warned of the risk that foreign fighters from Syria could move over to Afghanistan, there has been considerable scepticism over how many have actually done so. Back in April, during a visit to Kabul by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson disclosed that while IS had an “aspiration” to bring fighters from Syria, “we haven’t seen it happen.”

US commanders have disclosed that in partnership with Afghan security forces, they have significantly reduced IS’ strength over the past year with a combination of drone strikes and Special Forces operations. However according to Afghan intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters, security officials believe that IS is present in nine provinces – from Nangarhar and Kunar in the eastern region of the country, to Jawzjan, Faryab and Badakhshan in the north and Ghor in the central west. According to Juma Gul Hemat, police chief of Kunar, an eastern province where IS fighters pushed out of their base in neighbouring Nangarhar have increasingly sought refuge, “in recent operations, we have inflicted heavy losses on them but their focus is to recruit fighters form this area,” adding “they are not only from Pakistan or former Taliban, there are fighters from other countries and other small groups have pledged their allegiance to them.” Afghan officials have disclosed that newly arrived foreign fighters have been heavily involved in fighting in Nangarhar province, which is IS’ main stronghold in Afghanistan where thy have also repeatedly clashed with the Taliban.

Migrant Arrivals in Spain Surge

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Spain’s migrant surge may mean that it could soon top Greece for arrivals, as migrants have been arriving on the Spanish coast in dinghies, small boats and even jet-skis in the hope that they can slip in undetected.

This year, the country has seen a dramatic rise in the number of migrants arriving on its shores – effectively meaning that it may soon overtake Greece to become Europe’s second most popular migrant destination. According to the latest figure released by the Organization for Migration (IOM), so far, 8,200 migrants have arrived in Spain this year – this figure is triple the number compared with this time last year and already more that the total figure for 2016. While the number of arrivals is much lower than Italy, which has seen more than 96,400 migrants arrive by sea this year, Spain is catching up with Greece, which has had 11,713 migrants arrive.

It appears that the good weather over the past few weeks have led to a sudden increase in the number of migrants arriving in Spain. On 9 August, a dinghy carrying dozens of migrants arrived on a popular tourist beach in Zahara de los Atunes on the coast of Andalusai. Sunbathers looked on a migrants jumped out of the small craft and ran up the beach after successfully crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. They dinghy’s point of departure was not known. According to the authorities, that same day twelve migrants arrived in waters off the Spanish territory of Ceuta in northern Morocco on board jet-skis, with one man drowning before he could be rescued. On the morning of 10 August, Spanish coastguards disclosed that they had rescued ten men from sub-Saharan Africa in a rickety boat off Tarifa in southern Spain.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman has disclosed that he believes that migrants taking the long route towards Italy via the Sahara and Libya, many of whom come from West Africa, are now choosing to take the “safer” coastal route through morocco, adding that they were also using smaller crafts to cross the short but choppy sea to Spain in the hope of slipping in undetected. This tactic is in stark contrast to the many migrants arriving from Libya, who are often packed onto leak, overloaded boats, with the intention of summoning aid as quickly as possible.

According to the IOM, over 100,000 migrants reached Europe from north Africa and the Middle East from January to June, with the overwhelming majority coming by sea.

UN: Reports Suggest that North Korea Treating Foreign Detainees Inhumanely

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According to a United Nations investigator, foreign detainees in North Korea are reportedly being denied due process in court and being held in inhumane conditions.

Last month, Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, disclosed that military threats being exchanged by Washington and Pyongyang were diverting attention from the needs of ordinary North Koreans. While he welcomed the release earlier in August of Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim on humanitarian grounds, after he served more than two years of a sentence of hard labour for life on charges of plotting to overthrow the regime, the UN expert noted that at least nine other foreigners – three Americans and six citizens of South Korea – remain in custody in North Korea.

In a statement issued in Geneva, Ojea Quintana disclosed, “I am concerned by reports that detainees are not receiving due legal process and are being held in inhumane conditions.” He went on to say that North Korean authorities are obliged to provide foreign detainees with access to consular support and an interpreter, “but these entitlements cannot be taken for granted, based on the information I have been receiving.” A 2014 UN report catalogued massive violations in North Korea, including large prison camps, starvation and executions, that it said should be brought tot the International Criminal Court (ICC). The landmark report, which was strongly rejected by Pyongyang, stated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might be personally responsible for crimes against humanity.   The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which visits detainees worldwide, does not have access to political prison camps in North Korea, which are believed to hold some 100,000 people.

Otto Warmbier, a US student held for seventeen months after being sentenced to fifteen years in hard labour for trying to steal a propaganda item from his hotel, was released in a coma in June and died within days of arriving back in the US. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.