CBRNe World News Briefs


AMERICAS

Early in November, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police (IMPD) in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) SIGMA+ program, has concluded a three-month pilot study of sensors studied to support early detection of weapons of mass destruction threats. The objective was to integrate the CBRNe sensors into IMPD vehicles to gather real-world environmental data over a large part of the Indianapolis metropolitan region. On November 16th, Latin American and Caribbean First Responders from the Member States of OPCW conducted a training to improve how to develop and implement decontamination procedures and techniques. The program was supported by the Special Risks Brigade of the Argentine Federal Police. The Brazilian Army has started to modernize its CBRN defense capabilities. Service officials are acquiring new equipment to gradually replace hardware that is reaching the end of its life cycle in a bid to boost existing capabilities. The 1° BTL DQBRN was established in December 2021 for reconnaissance/surveillance, identification, and decontamination of CBRN threats. On November 22nd, the USA Government allocated €165,000 in support of the OPCW’s Africa Program. The Director-General expressed gratitude for the second contribution from the USA and claimed that “combatting illicit trade in hazardous chemicals is a cross/cutting effort in which custom authorities play a critical role”. On November 23rd, at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs meeting American arms control chief, warns about a global biological weapons’ danger saying that the threat is real, serious, and growing since some states have sophisticated, there are well-established programs, and non-state actors are acquiring capabilities. Furthermore, the US claimed that the Biological Weapons Convention ignored the risks for two decades while threats are severely growing.

From November 29th to December 3rd, female armed forces personnel from the Pan-American region took part in an online course held specifically for women and organized by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat in partnership with the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). The course aimed at widening their knowledge on assistance and protection in chemical incidents. On the same days, from the 22 to 3 December OPCW provided also a course for the analytical chemists from Latin America and the Caribbean to enhance their skills in the analysis of chemicals controlled under the Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC).

EUROPE

On November 2nd, at The Hague the Director-General of the OPCW, H.E. Mr. Fernando Arias, spoke at the annual chemical weapons destruction conference organized by the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The international meeting takes place with the aim to progress in eliminating chemical weapons and encourage the exchange of information and ideas relating to safe disposal. The British government claims that the taxi blown up near the hospital in Liverpool, UK, is assumed to be a terrorist attack. Iraq-born Emad Al Swealmeen had rented a property in Liverpool seven months ago and had started making “relevant purchases” for his homemade bomb “at least” since that time. On November 17th, Belarus accuses Polish security forces of using toxic irritating chemicals against migrants on the border. A cloud of smoke has filled the air around the Bruzgi-Kuznica border after the Polish forces sprayed water cannons and a yellow liquid that caused burns and suffocated asylum seekers attempting to forcefully cross into Poland. On November 19th, NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg claimed that US nuclear weapons could end in Eastern Europe if Germany removes them from its territory. On March 15th, 1991, Germany renounced to manufacture, possession of, and control of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Nevertheless, Germany is still hosting US nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s deterrence strategy.

On November 26th, 51 miners lost their lives at the Listvyazhnaya mine, Siberia’s Kemerovo Region, Russia. Coal dust caught fire, the methane gas explosion filled the mine with smoke killing the miners trapped inside the mine. The workers had already denounced the growing levels of methane gas. On the December 2nd, President Vladimir Putin accused the management of the mining site of systematically falsifying the data of the methane levels inside the coal mine, deliberately altering the results of the gas sensors. On December 1st, an unexploded WWII ordnance blasted injuring four people at a construction site in Munich. The drilling for the construction of a tunnel caused the explosion. The rail operator Deutsch Bahn has announced some disruptions. In the second week of December, details emerged from the trial of Asad Bhatti at the Old Baley, the English Central Criminal Court: the financial analyst had chemicals and electric circuitry and was intentioned to build explosive devices, found at his place and in a storage unit. On his laptop, the police found different files and manuals on how to build explosive devices and that could link the man to terrorism.

AFRICA

On November 6th, the Somali National Army’s killed two al-Shabab terrorists while planting landmines along the road. SNA claims that the terrorists were experts in mine action. Their equipment included AK-47 rifles, batteries, and remote controls used for making explosive devices. On November 10th, at the University of Buea in the Southwest region of Cameroon, a homemade bomb thrown through the roof of a lecture hall exploded and wounded 11 students. On November 14th, in Guriel town (Somalia) three internally displaced children have died after an improvised explosive device (IED) hit them while playing outside the camp. On November 16th, ISIS claimed a suicide attack in the heart of Kampala (Uganda’s capital). The three bombers killed three people and dozens were hospitalized. The explosions happened near the police station and the parliament; the latter was evacuated. The involvement of the Islamic State has been confirmed by the police. Anti-terrorism police caught another potential suicide bomber and found a device at his home.

On December 6th, a new World Malaria Report by the World Health Organization has been released denouncing how the disruptions related to the Covid-19 pandemic have caused an increase in the number of Malaria deaths. In 2020, it is estimated that an increase of 14 million cases compared to 2019 has been recorded: the death toll has seen an increase of circa 69.000.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicenter of a possible malaria crisis, with 95% of total cases worldwide and 96% of total deaths, and that recorded an estimated increase of 12% in deaths between 2019 and 2020.

MIDDLE EAST

The Department of State’s Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction ISN/CTR conducts WMD threat reduction activities for Iraq with different stakeholders such as the government, the university and research faculties, chemical and biological academic, professionals, and private industry associations. Iraq’s program focuses on preventing that CBRNe materials, dual-use equipment, technologies, expertise, and infrastructure end up in the hands of terrorists and other criminal actors.

On November 14th, the second phase of the Hazardous Substances Monitoring Program in Abu Dhabi has been launched. Chaired and supervised by Brigadier Humaid Saeed Alefreet, Deputy of Security and Ports Affairs Sector at the General Command of Abu Dhabi Police, the objective of the project will contribute to preserving the country’s safety of its residents from the risks of hazardous materials and develop and to stay up-to-date by using the latest mechanisms and equipment. In mid-November, Iran announced on Twitter a nuclear attack. A missile attack in Yemen injured and killed 29 civilians. According to the government, the Houthi movement was the main reason for the attack. In the meantime, the IAEA chief encourages censuring Iran on the board of governors meeting in November. There was an attack on Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on November 8th, in Baghdad, an explosive drone targeted his residence. According to a November 17th report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has increased the stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, both the uranium enriched to 20 percent and those enriched to 60 %. The enriched Uranium has started to be produced with more advanced centrifuges at the Fordow plant, where IAEA plans to increase the frequency of inspections. On Saturday, December 4th, at 8:15 local time, a loud explosion has been heard in Natanz, circa 20 km from Iran’s main nuclear plant. State television confirmed that the explosion was part of drills. The explosion happened between the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2015 nuclear deal talks held In Vienna. On December 7th, a bomb killed four people in the southern Iranian city of Basra. The explosion happened in the proximity of the major hospital of the city, where a motorbike rigged with explosives detonated. The militants of Islamic States are suspected.

ASIA

On November 3rd, given the recent flooding in some provinces of Cambodia, the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) is focusing on spreading awareness about the dangers of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The affected area is in Stung Kach commune of Pailin province’s Sala Krao district near the border with Thailand. In addition, UNDP was asked to give support and assistance to reach the mine-free 2025 goal. On November 8th, over 250 kg of explosives have been recovered in Manipur (India) along the border with Myanmar, with which India shares a 398-km international border). The area is known to be a trading town and serves as a transit point between the two countries. A week later, in the same area, the 46 Assam Rifles convoy was attacked while returning from their company forward base to the headquarters. The terrorists first carried out an IED blast to trap the convoy and then fired at the vehicles. On November 10th, in Quang Tri (Vietnam), due to the heavy rains, two huge bombs emerged from the ground. It is the Mobile Mine Clearance Team of PeaceTrees Vietnam, an NGO based in the USA in charge of removing the leftover explosives that are aiming to deactivate the bombs. On November 16th, the West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong was evacuated due to a contaminated letter sent to Judge Kathie Cheung. On the same day also the Sha Tin Court has been evacuated because of a contaminated item sent to Judge Pang Leung-ting. Bomb disposal officers have intervened. It has been reported that the letters contained lye, The source said Tuesday’s letters were found to contain lye, also known as caustic soda or sodium hydroxide, known for causing chemical burns. A few days earlier another evacuation had occurred because of a contaminated letter. On November 17th, the race between the two superpowers, China and the United States, may now go nuclear. A Pentagon report estimated that China may have 700 nuclear warheads by 2027 and 1,000 by 2030. The sudden buildup of the nuclear force suggests a possible change in China’s strategy from its traditional “minimum deterrence” stance to one that is tactically prepared for war. The step back for nuclear nonproliferation, which was already retreating this decade, raised the risks of conflict. On December 2nd, Zheng Zhongwei, Chinese health official, head of a group tasked with Covid-19 vaccine developments, has broadcasted on the national channel CCTV, that China is accelerating research and development of vaccines against the Omicron variant labeled as “Variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. It has not been confirmed that the new variant evades the immunity of the previous vaccines. China has not officially recorded Omicron strain cases on its territory. On December 7th Singapore’s Health Minister announced that the daily press release will be suspended since the tangible decrease in the number of infections. Singapore has recorded a steady decrease for almost a month, signaling the decline of the Delta variant.

OCEANIA

New Zealand is facing new challenges due to a rise of infections caused by the delta variant. Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern is ready to impose new lockdowns in Auckland, its largest city, and other parts of the country. The rise of cases also has forced Ardern to switch from a strategy of total elimination of COVID-19 to controlling the virus through mass vaccinations. In Australia, nearly 85 percent of the population over 16 is fully vaccinated. Nevertheless, the vaccination gap between Australian states and territories continues to exist. Western Australia remains the country’s least vaccinated state (72.9 percent). With the release of restrictions, things are returning to ordinary life.

In December it emerged that Australia risks facing a major crisis, that will interest the entire logistic sector, due to the shortage of urea, a key ingredient in diesel and fertilizer. The shortage interests the entire transport industry and the agriculture sector, but also power generation and healthcare and spills over into a big slice of the population that drive diesel cars. The emergency is linked to the export ban imposed on urea by China which is the main Australian provider. Is it estimated that Australia has 8 weeks of supply left, but there are concerns about earlier depletion.