MS Risk Blog

Security Updates for MENA (29 January 2013)

Posted on in MENA title_rule

ALGERIA: On Sunday, gunmen attacked and blew up a gas pipeline in northern Algeria, killing two guards and wounding seven before being driven off. The extent of damage to the pipeline is still uncertain.

The militants launched a homemade mortar shells at the Ain Chikh site in the Djebahia, 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of Algiers. The area is a stronghold of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but militants rarely carry out attacks in the region.

The pipelines, which are protected by local community guards, carry gas from the Hassi R’Mel field in the Sahara desert to the Mediterranean coast for refining. Algerian army units have searched the area, but there have been no arrests. The incident comes two weeks after Islamist militants attempted to seize control of the Ain Amenas gas complex. The attack left 37 hostages dead. Following the gas complex siege, Algerian military was still searching for attackers who had gone missing during the raid.

Between 2011 and 2012, pipelines in Egypt were blown up more than 15 times by Islamic militants in protest of Egyptian oil being delivered to Israel. Oil and gas reserves are the backbone of Algeria’s economy, supplying large amounts of natural gas to Europe. It is likely that the attack was a display of aggression toward Algeria’s support of French intervention in Mali.


No restrictions in this travel advice

Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country

Avoid all but essential travel to whole country

Avoid all travel to part(s) of country

Avoid all travel to whole country

The UK Foreign and Common Wealth office (FCO) has not changed travel advice for Algeria following the pipeline explosion. The FCO advises against all but essential travel to areas within 450km of the Mali and Niger borders and within 100km of the Mauritania border, and all but essential travel to areas within 100km of the Libya and Tunisia borders, south of Tebessa.

LIBYA:  The British embassy in Tripoli has become aware of reports of a potential threat against it. The threats come days after “specific and imminent threats” picked up by MI6, urging British nationals to leave the eastern city of Benghazi due to a “specific and imminent threat” against Westerners, and a day after a similar threat to British nationals in northern Somalia.

An embassy spokesperson said, “We are aware of reports of a potential threat against the British embassy in Tripoli and we are liaising closely with the Libyan government.”

“There is no change to our travel advice, we still recommend against all but essential travel to Tripoli.”

Libyan officials said they were not aware of such reports. Deputy Interior Minister Omar Al- Khadrawi stated, “The British embassy has not informed us of any threats towards it and there has been no coordination between us.”

Last week’s call for many Western and European nationals to leave Benghazi frustrated Libyans, who are eager to increase foreign investment to rebuild infrastructure.


LIBYA- EGYPT: The Libyan government has issued a ban on foreigners crossing the Egyptian-Libyan border at Musaid to enter the country. The ban does not apply to Egyptians. Interior Ministry’s spokesman, Magdi Al-Arafi, said that foreigners would have to enter the country from Egypt by air. The border restrictions are due to constant and highly-organised trafficking of drugs and weapons, as well as humans. Six months ago, border forces went on strike in protest against the intimidation and violence from smugglers.

LIBYA-TUNISIA: The Ras Jadir border was reopened Sunday after the two countries reached an agreement on safety control and trade measures. Ras Jadir is a main border crossing for goods and people, and has been closed several times, impacting the movement of freights in both directions, and affecting  border residents who earn their living from trans-border trade.

VISA REQUIREMENT CHANGES: Today, Libyan authorities have announced that all foreign visitors to the country must have a visa. Previously travellers from countries such as Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan were not required to have it. In addition, companies wishing to employ foreign workers need to satisfy the Libyan Interior Ministry.

Libya has been trying to boost security at its oil fields following the deadly attacks in Algeria and the threats on Westerners in the region.


No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country

There is no change to UK FCO travel advice. The FCO advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli, Zuwara, Az Zawiya, al Khums, Zlitan and Misrata, and the coastal towns from Ras Lanuf to the Egyptian Border, with the exception of Benghazi. The FCO also advises against all travel to all other areas of Libya, including Benghazi.

EGYPT: Head of Suez Canal Authority, Vice Admiral Mohab Mamish, said that the navigation movement in the Suez Canal is normal and is fully secured, and Canal leadership is determined to keep the Canal fully protected. The Canal waterway is secured by the naval force, the second and third field armies, border guard and the Ministry of Interior. Security measures have been tightened due to tensions in Suez and Port Said.

Protests in Egypt came to a head as the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution coincided with death sentences handed down to 21 football fans involved in deadly riots in Port Said in 2012. President Muhammed Morsi declared emergency law in Suez, Port Said, and Ismalia, but residents ignored the night time curfew and took to the streets, saying they no longer recognize Morsi’s authority. In other Cairo and Alexandria, protesters marched in opposition to Morsi’s authority. In Cairo, protestors captured and set an armoured police vehicle ablaze in Tahrir Square.

Egypt’s Defence Minister, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, warned that the current crisis could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations. Al-Sisi fears that the economic, political and social challenges facing Egypt represented “a real threat to the security of Egypt and the cohesiveness of the Egyptian state”.

On Monday, The Egyptian cabinet ratified law which allows the president, at-will, to “empower the armed forces to make civilian arrests in safeguarding state institutions and restoring security.” The law would apply until after the next legislative elections. The move will likely anger protesters further as Morsi’s actions are increasingly reminiscent of the Mubarak regime.



No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country

The FCO advises against all travel to North Sinai, and all but essential travel to South Sinai, with the exception of the Red Sea Resorts in Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab, and road travel and transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh. The FCO warns that demonstrations happen regularly across Egypt, often on Fridays. Some have been violent and resulted in deaths, and police may use tear gas for crowd control. In addition, disturbances in Cairo, Port Said, Suez, Ismalia and Alexandria have been violent. A state of emergency is in force in Port Said, Suez and Ismalia; the curfew is from 21:00 to 06:00, and is expected to remain in place until 26 February 2013.

IRAN: Iranian authorities have arrested fourteen journalists in the past two days, citing links to “anti-revolutionary” media. The coordinated crackdown comes ahead of the June presidential elections. Iran’s clerical leadership is making strides to avoid a repeat of the protests which occurred in 2009.

Journalists working for reformist newspapers Arman, Bahar, Etemaad, Shargh, and the Aseman weekly – and Iran’s ILNA labour news agency – were arrested on Sunday for cooperating with Persian-language “foreign media”. Last week, Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei warned, “Based on information I have from reliable sources, unfortunately a number of journalists, as well as writing for the nation’s newspapers, work hand-in-hand with Westerners and anti-revolutionaries.”Iran is one of the world’s worst jailers of members of the press, along with Turkey and China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. A CPJ tally in December 2012 said there were 45 journalists behind bars in Iran.

Meanwhile, On Thursday, Iranian Ambassador Hassan Danaie-Far insisted that Tehran retained the right to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world’s traded oil passes, in response to any aggression, military or otherwise, by the United States. The statement came in response to continued pressure by the US over Iran’s nuclear program.

Danaie-Far stated, “The only remaining card on the table is war. Is it to their benefit? Is it to the benefit of the world? Is it to the benefit of the region?”

Washington has warned Tehran that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a “red line” and grounds for United States military action.


No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country

The UK FCO has retained the same advice since November 2012 against all travel to Iran. British nationals have been arbitrarily detained in Iran in 2010 and 2011. The FCO believes that the risk of this occurring again following the imposition of further EU sanctions on Iran, is significant.

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