Last year, a record number of terrorist attacks were planned, foiled or carried out within European Union (EU) countries, with the United Kingdom reporting the highest number of attacks.
EU law enforcement agency Europol has reported that in 2015, there were 211 attack, the highest since records began in 2006. The failed, foiled and completed terrorist attacks occurred in six EU member states: Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK. Of these countries, the UK had the highest number of attacks, 103 in total, in which most are believed to have been in Northern Ireland.
France had the highest number of planned, foiled or completed attacks – 72 – followed by Spain with 25. A spokeswoman for Europol has disclosed that it did not have a breakdown of the number of terror attacks that had actually been carried out in the EU.
According to the agency’s EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, there were 1,000 arrests for terrorist-related offences last year, in which 424 occurred in France. Europol has further reported that more than half of arrests that occurred in the EU – 687 – were “for jihadist terrorism,” adding that of these arrests, 94% were later found guilty in court. In addition to the jihadist terrorist arrests, there were 67 arrests for left-wing terror; 11 for right-wing terror; and 168 separatist. A further 144 arrests were unspecified. Europol has reported that 151 people died and that more than 360 were injured in terrorist incidents that occurred last year.
In its report, Europol states that “as in previous years, the attacks specifically classified as separatist terrorism accounted for the largest proportion, followed by jihadist attacks.” Europol also noted that the report outlines two “worrying developments,” stating that “the overall threat is reinforced by the substantial numbers of returned foreign terrorist fighters that many member states now have on their soil, and the significant rise in nationalist (xenophobic), racist and anti-Semitic sentiments across the EU, each resulting in acts of right-wing extremism.” While Europol has indicated that there was “no concrete evidence to date that terrorist travellers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed,” it noted that two of the men who carried out the 13 November terror attacks in Paris France, which killed 130 people, had entered the EU through Greece as part of the influx of refugees from Syria.
The report also highlighted that nuclear power plants and nuclear weapon facilities in the EU “remain potential targets for terrorists,” as does “the deliberate contamination of water supplies,” adding “explosive remnants of war and illicit trafficking in explosives from former conflict areas present a significant threat to the EU.” The report goes on to state that “chemical facilities or companies, especially these perceived as having a low profile until recently, can become a vulnerable target,” adding, “terrorists prefer the use of conventional firearms and explosives because of their availability, simplicity and effectiveness. Europol also described cyber terrorism as “high potential but currently low probability.”
On 9 June, the latest Ebola outbreak in Liberia, the last country still affected by the deadliest flare-up in history, was declared over.
Liberia effectively passed the World Health Organization (WHO) threshold of 42 days – twice the incubation period for the virus, since the last known patient tested negative for the second time. Last week, the WHO declared an end to the latest Ebola outbreak in Guinea, however it warned that a recurrence of the virus remained a threat as previous declarations announcing the end of Ebola flare-ups in West Africa have been followed by the emergence of new cases. While in late March, the WHO declared that the Ebola outbreak no longer constituted an international emergency, new cases emerged in Liberia just two days later.
The Ebola epidemic began in Guinea in December 2013 and killed more than 11,300 people. It devastated economies and health systems in the worst affected countries in West Africa and tested the world’s capacity to respond to a global health emergency. At its peak in 2014, the Ebola outbreak sparked anxiety about a possible global pandemic and led some governments to threaten or unilaterally enforce travel bans to and from the worst-affected countries. In all, the virus affected ten countries, including the United States and Spain, with more than 28,000 cases reported – virtually all in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The WHO has drawn criticism for its delayed response to the Ebola crisis and its failure to identify the outbreak.
On 15 January, Sierra Leone officials confirmed a death of Ebola, just hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the latest West Africa outbreak over.
According to an Ebola test centre spokesman, tests on a person who died in northern Sierra Leone proved positive. Sidi Yahya Tunis disclosed that the death occurred earlier this week and that the patient had died in the Tonkolili district, adding he had travelled there from Kambia, which is located close to the border with Guinea. The victim was a 22-year-old female student. According to district medical officer Augustine Junisa, “the victims was taken ill when she was on holidays in Bamoi Luma and was taken to Magburaka, where her relatives took her to the government hospital for medical attention…Three days later she died at home and her death was reported to the hospital officials and initial swap test was taken which proved positive.” Sources have reported that health officials are now urgently seeking those who had come into contact with the victim.
Sierra Leone was declared free of the virus on 7 November 2015, and the region as a whole was cleared when Liberia was pronounced Ebola-free on 14 January. While the WHO has warned that flare-ups are expected, Friday’s announcement of a new case in the region is a setback for the area. Already, ten other flare-ups have taken place in areas where the spread of Ebola was thought to have ended, effectively raising new questions about WHO procedures in assessing whether the epidemic was really over. On Friday, the UN Health agency reported that Sierra Leone’s government was moving rapidly in order to contain the new threat, noting however that it was not immediately clear how the 22-year-old woman may have contracted Ebola as all known transmission chains in that country were halted in November.
Timeline of Ebola Epidemic in West Africa
Below are key dates in the latest Ebola epidemic, which is the worst outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever, which first surfaced in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the latest toll released by the WHO, the epidemic has left more than 11,300 dead, mainly in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Almost 29,000 cases were reported during the outbreak.
Epidemic Starts in Guinea:
- December 2013: A one-year-old baby dies in southern Guinea and is later identified as “patient zero.” The virus remains localized until February 2014, when a care worker in a neighbouring province dies.
Ebola Begins to Spread in West Africa:
- 31 March 2014 – Two cases are confirmed by the WHO in Liberia, while on 26 May, Sierra Leone confirms its first case, to be followed in late July by Nigeria, in August by Senegal and in October by Mali. Senegal and Nigeria are declared free of Ebola in October 2014 while Mali is declared Ebola-free in January 2015.
Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone Cut Off From The World:
- 30 May 2015 – According to the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Ebola is “out of control.” The three worst-hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – declare measures that include states of emergency and quarantines. Many neighbouring states close their borders with the affected countries.
A ‘Public Health Emergency’:
- 8 August 2014 – The WHO declares Ebola a “public health emergency of international concern.” Four days later, it authorizes the use of experimental drugs in order to fight Ebola after an ethical debate. That day, a Spanish missionary infected in Liberia dies in Madrid, becoming the first European fatality.
Death in the US:
- 30 September 2014 – A Liberian man is hospitalized in the US state of Texas, effectively becoming the first Ebola infection to be diagnosed outside of Africa. He dies on 8 October.
- 6 October 2014 – A Spanish nurse in a Madrid hospital becomes the first person to be infected outside Africa. She is treated and released on 19 October.
Ebola Begins a Halting Retreat:
- 22 February 2015 – Liberia says it is lifting nationwide curfews and re-opening borders, as the epidemic begins to retreat.
- 26 February 2015 – The US ends its military mission in West Africa, where it deployed 2,800 soldiers in order to fight against Ebola. Soldiers were mainly deployed to Liberia.
Closing in on a Vaccine:
- 10 July 2015 – International donors pledge US $3.4 billion in order to help stamp out Ebola.
- 31 July 2015 – The WHO says an Ebola vaccine provided 100-percent protection in a field trial in Guinea, suggesting that the world is “on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine.”
Hardest-hit Countries Emerge from the Epidemic:
- 9 May and 3 September 2015 – Liberia is declared Ebola-free by the WHO after no new cases were recorded for 42 days. However the declarations are followed by a resurgence of the virus. On 4 December, Liberia releases from hospital its last two known Ebola cases.
- 7 November 2015 – Sierra Leone is declared free of the outbreak by the WHO.
- 29 December – The WHO declares Guinea’s Ebola outbreak over, six weeks after the recovery of its last known patient, a three-week old girl who was born with the virus.
As of the end of 27 October 2014, a total of 13,703 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD have been reported in six countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America. The figure of confirmed, probable and suspected EVD cases includes cases in previously affected countries: Nigeria and Senegal. A total of 4,922 deaths have been reported. The death rate in the current outbreak has risen to 70 percent from the previously estimated mortality rate of 50 percent.
EVD transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with World Health Organization (WHO) officials particularly concerned about the spread of the disease in the capital cities – Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown – where people are able to freely move across borders. All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began. According to WHO officials, “new cases continue to explode in areas that looked like they were coming under control,” noting “an unusual characteristic of this epidemic is a persistent cyclical pattern of gradual dips in the number of new cases, followed by sudden flare-ups.” While some regions in these countries have seen the number of EVD cases either stabilize or decrease, this does not mean that the regions are Ebola-free.
Countries with localized transmission, including Mali, Spain and the United States, are currently continuing to monitor potential contacts. On 23 October, Mali confirmed its first EVD case, a 2-year-old girl who died on 24 October.
On 21 October, the single patient with EVD in Spain tested negative for the disease for a second time. Unless a new case of EVD arises during this period, Spain will be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the date of the second negative test. In the United States, two health-care workers have tested negative for Ebola for the second time. They have both been discharged from hospital. Another health-care worker remains in isolation and is receiving treatment. WHO officials declared Senegal and Nigeria Ebola-free on 17 October and 20 October respectively.
The BBC has launched an Ebola public health information service on WhatsApp. The service will provide audio, text message alerts and images in order to help people living in West Africa get the latest public information on how to combat the spread of Ebola in the region. Content will be limited to three times per day and the service will be available in both French and English. To subscribe to this service, add +44 7702 348 651 to your contacts then send ‘JOIN’ to the number via WhatsApp. To unsubscribe, send ‘STOP’ via WhatsApp to the same number. Due to the large volume of requests, the BBC has warned that it may take a little time to be added or removed from the service.
Affected countries currently fall into three categories:
- Those with widespread and intense transmission: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone;
- Those with either an initial case or cases, or with localized transmission: Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States
- Those countries that either neighbour or have strong trade ties with areas of active transmission: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Togo.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified three patterns of transmission:
- In rural communities, which is facilitated by strong cultural practices and traditional beliefs;
- In densely populated urban communities;
- Cross-border transmission
- Countries with Widespread and Intense Transmission
Guinea currently has 1,906 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD and 997 deaths. While cases of EVD transmission are the lowest in Guinea, transmission across the country continues to be of concern and is being driven by transmission in four key areas:
- The capital city Conakry – Over the past week, there have been six new confirmed cases of Ebola reported in Conakry. The capital city remains a key area of concern with the nearby district of Coyah reporting 8 new confirmed cases.
- N’Zerekore – Located south-east of Macenta, the district of N’Zerekore reported 10 new confirmed cases over the past week.
- Keouane – Transmission remains strong in this district, with 22 new confirmed cases in the last week, effectively continuing a rapid three-week growth in new cases.
- District of Macenta – The most intense transmission in Guinea is occurring in and around Macenta, which is located in the south-west region of Guinea, near the border with Liberia. Over the past week, the district reported 15 new confirmed cases. Transmission in this district has remained intense for the past 10 weeks.
The outbreak’s epicentre Gueckedou has reported few new cases over the past 7 weeks, with 3 confirmed new cases in the past week, however transmission persists. In contrast to the situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone, several areas in Guinea have not reported a single case of Ebola while seven areas have not reported any new cases over 21 days after reporting an initial case/cases.
Two new districts in Guinea reported a case or cases of Ebola for the first time in October. In the eastern region of the country, on the border with the Ivory Coast and on a major trade route with Mali, the previously unaffected district of Kankan reported 1 new confirmed case. In the central region of the country, the previously unaffected district of Faranah reported 1 confirmed case of Ebola. Faranah borders the newly affected Sierra Leonean district of Koinadugu to the southwest. The central district of Mamou is currently classified as unaffected.
Land borders with Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone have been closed. Health screenings at all border crossings have been set up and all travellers displaying a fever, or EVD-like symptoms, will be subject to quarantine and/or denied entry/exit, from the country. Expect to experience delays at land border crossings. Enhanced screening measures have been introduced for outbound passengers at Conakry airport.
Liberia has 6,535 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD and remains the worst affected country in the current outbreak. The country has reported 2,413 deaths. All administrative districts in Liberia have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began.
The most intense transmission continues to occur in the Montserrado area, where in the past week, 30 new probable cases were reported. This area includes the capital city, Monrovia. While the weekly increase in new cases in this area appears to have halted since mid-September, underreporting of cases remains to be an issue across the country, especially in Monrovia, and therefore it is difficult to capture an accurate picture of the current situation. Beyond the capital city, most new reported cases have occurred in the districts of Bong, Margibi and Bomi, which over the past week have each reported 12 probable cases. The district of Grand Gadeh, which previously was considered the only unaffected area in Liberia, now has 2 confirmed and 2 suspected cases of EVD. It must be noted that these new cases may have not occurred in the past week and that reporting of these cases was delayed.
Since 20 August, a state of emergency has been in place, with security forces enforcing a nationwide curfew. Between 11PM and 6AM every night no movement is allowed anywhere in the entire country. Liberian authorities have set up road blocks in a bid to restrict movement around the country while security forces have been deployed in order to enforce quarantine for certain areas, including Lofa county. In Monrovia, the army and police have sealed off the neighbourhood of West Point with the area being placed under quarantine. There have been a number of outbreaks of violence, with civilians rioting at hospitals and attacking health workers.
All borders of Liberia have been closed, with the exception of major entry points, including the Roberts International Airport and James Spriggs Payne Airport. The Bo Waterside Crossing to Sierra Leone remains closed along with the Foya Crossing to Guinea. Any remaining border crossings may be closed with minimal notice. The Liberia Airport Authority has introduced enhanced screening measures for both inbound and outbound travellers at airport facilities.
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has established hotlines for the public to get basic information on Ebola: Call 0770198517 or 0777549805 or 0886530260 or 0886549805.
General medical facilities throughout the country are currently under severe strain as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are overwhelmed and may not accept further cases.
EVD transmission remains intense across Sierra Leone, with 5,235 confirmed, probable and suspected cases and 1,500 deaths. All districts in Sierra Leone have now reported at least one case of EVD.
Over the past week, the capital city Freetown reported 63 new confirmed cases and remains one of the country’s worst affected areas. The western rural region of the country reported 81 new cases over the past week, effectively making it the sixth consecutive weekly rise in the number of new cases in the area. The western districts of Bombali, which confirmed 56 new cases in the past week, and Port Loko, with 47 confirmed new cases, continue to be seriously affected by the outbreak. EVD cases in the district of Tonkolili are of increasing concern as over the past week the area reported 36 confirmed new cases. The neighbouring regions of Kenema and Kailahun reported 13 and 5 new confirmed cases respectively over the last week and remain amongst the worst affected areas of the country.
- Countries with Initial Case/Cases or Localized Transmission
Five countries – Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States – have reported a case or cases of EVD imported from a country with widespread and intense transmission.
On 23 October, Mali confirmed its first EVD case. The patient was a 2-year-old girl who had travelled from the Guinean district of Kissidougou with her grandmother to the city of Kayes, located 600 kilometres (375 miles) from the Malian capital, near the border with Senegal. She had travelled by bus via the capital city Bamako, where she stayed for ten days in the Bagadadji neighbourhood. The patient was symptomatic for much of the journey. On 22 October, the patient was taken to Fousseyni Daou hospital in Kayes, where she died on 24 October.
Currently 82 contacts – 57 in Kayes and 27 in Bamako – are being monitored by officials and efforts to trace additional contacts are on-going. At the time of the confirmation of the first EVD case in Mali, a WHO preparedness team was deployed in the country to assess Mali’s state of readiness for an initial Ebola case. The team was immediately redirected to provide support and expertise to Malian health authorities and to help with contact tracing and the training of healthcare workers.
In the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola in Mali, neighbouring Mauritania has implemented some border controls.
On 20 October 2014, the WHO declared Nigeria Ebola-free after six weeks of no new reported cases. For officials to declare the country Ebola-free, Nigeria had to make it 42 days with no new cases, which is double the incubation period, verify that it actively sought out all possible contacts, and show negative test results for any remaining suspected cases.
Nigeria had a total of twenty cases after a Liberian-American man flew into Lagos International Airport on July 20 and collapsed shortly afterwards. The disease later spread to Port Harcourt.
While Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free, Nigerian authorities are preparing for any additional outbreaks as the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa is far from over and spread to additional countries, including to Nigeria, remains possible.
On 17 October 2014, the WHO declared Senegal Ebola-free. The assessment was made after the West African country went forty-two days without reporting any new cases. In late August, Senegal confirmed one case of Ebola, an imported one from Guinea, which prompted officials to monitor seventy-four contacts of the patient and increase surveillance at the country’s entry ports.
A single case in Spain tested negative for EVD on 19 October. A second negative test was obtained on 21 October. A total of 83 contacts are currently being monitored. If no new cases are reported, Spain will be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the date of the second negative test.
There have been four confirmed EVD cases and one death in the US. Two health-care workers have now tested negative for Ebola twice and have been released from hospital. Another health-care worker has been placed in isolation in New York and is receiving treatment. Of 176 possible contacts, 92 are being monitored and 84 have completed the 21-day monitoring period.
- Preparedness of Countries to Rapidly Detect and Respond to an Ebola Exposure
The WHO has identified fifteen countries that neighbour countries that either are experiencing widespread and intense EVD transmission or have strong trade and travel ties with countries with current widespread and intense transmission. These countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Togo. The WHO has assessed that Mali and the Ivory Coast are currently at the highest risk of importing the disease.
The WHO and its partners are currently working with these countries in order to help increase their level of preparedness in the event of exposure to EVD. Teams have already been deployed to the Ivory Coast and Mali, where they have been working with health authorities, and over the next week a mission will be deployed to Guinea Bissau. In the remaining countries, WHO teams and partners are working with local authorities to help identify any gaps in their capacity to identify and respond to an initial EVD case.
Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
As of 26 October 2014, there have been 67 cases (38 confirmed, 28 probable, 1 suspected) of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The test results for the one suspected case are not yet known. This includes eight cases amongst healthcare workers. In total, there have been 49 deaths reported, including eight healthcare workers. All suspected cases have now been either laboratory confirmed or discarded.
Of a total of 1,121 total contacs, 1,116 have now completed a 21-day follow-up. On 10 October, the last reported cases tested negative for the second time and was discharged. The DRC will thefore be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the date of the second negative test if no new cases are reported. The current outbreak in the DRC is unrelated to that affecting West Africa.
New figures released by the World Health Organisation on Tuesday 14 October revealed that over 8,900 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have been reported in seven affected countries: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America. As of 14 October there have been 4,447 deaths. Health workers have been hit hard by the outbreak, with Doctors Without Borders reporting that sixteen of its employees have been infected with Ebola, in which nine of them have died. A top United Nations official warned this week that Ebola was winning the race as the WHO warned that within the next two months, West Africa could face up to 10,000 new Ebola cases per week if the outbreak is not contained.
Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, WHO assistant director-general Dr Bruce Aylward, disclosed that the death rate in the current outbreak had risen to 70 percent, from the previously estimated mortality rate of 50 percent. Acknowledging that Ebola was “a high mortality disease,” Dr Aylward noted that the UN health agency was still focused on getting six people into isolation and providing treatment to them as early as possible, adding that if the global response to the current Ebola outbreak is not stepped up in the coming sixty days, “a lot more people will die” and health workers will be stretched even further.
Experts in the field have indicated that the epidemic is doubling in size about every three weeks, with Dr Aylward indicating that over the last month, there have been about 1,000 new Ebola cases per week. This included confirmed, suspected and probable cases. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continue to the be the hardest-hit countries in the current epidemic, with WHO officials particularly concerned about the spread of Ebola in their capital cities – Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown – where people move freely across borders. While some regions in these countries have seen the number of Ebola cases either stabilize or fall, this does not mean that the regions are Ebola-free. Neighbouring countries, including Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast and Mali are currently at a high risk of importing the disease.
The WHO also announced Tuesday that Nigeria and Senegal could be declared Ebola-free in the coming days after completing a 42-day period with no new cases. A statement released on Tuesday revealed “if the active surveillance for new cases that is currently in place continues, and no new cases are detected, WHO will declare the end of the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Senegal on Friday 17 October.” If no new cases are reported in Nigeria, then the WHO will declare it Ebola-free on 20 October.
Senegal had one patient who was confirmed to have EVD. He has since recovered and it does not appear that anyone else was infected with the deadly disease. In Nigeria, one traveller from Liberia triggered an outbreak in which eight people died, most of them health workers. The virus spread from the initial case in Lagos to Port Harcourt however it has since been contained with no new reported cases. The situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone however is far different as, according to the WHO, “new cases continue to explode in areas that looked like they were coming under control.” Adding “an unusual characteristic of this epidemic is a persistent cyclical pattern of gradual dips in the number of new cases, followed by sudden flare-ups.”
Officials at the WHO indicate that waiting for forty-two days from the time when the last person with high risk exposure has tested negative for the disease effectively provides sufficient confidence to declare that the outbreak is over. The 42-day period is twice the generally accepted maximum incubation period of the virus however some incubation periods are longer, with the WHO is indicating that in 95 percent of Ebola cases, the incubation period was between one and 21 days while in 98 percent, it was no longer than 42 days.