CBRNe World News Briefs
On July 8th, the Ministry of Defense of Russia stated that the Russian Air Force conducted a drill involving the nuclear strategic bombers Tu-95 and Tu-160. According to the statement, the bombers left from an airbase located in the Saratov region, near the Volga River, flying over 2500 miles to hit targets located in the Arctic with cruise missiles. Vauxhall Bridge in central London, UK, was closed and successfully reopened on July 15th following reports of an explosive device. EOD teams were called to an address in Vauxhall Bridge Road, where one man was arrested. A section of the A202 highway, including Vauxhall Bridge, was closed in both directions as a safety measure. Azerbaijan’s Mine Action Agency has seized and defused 208 mines and unexploded ordnance on territories regained after the Armenian withdrawal. In a report on demining operations carried out from July 5th to 10th, the agency said that 153 anti-personnel, 29 anti-tank mines, and 26 unexploded munitions, were found and neutralized. Some 113 hectares of land were cleared of mines and unexploded munitions within a week.
In Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, police have arrested and charged a 23-year-old man in connection with explosives left at an east Regina Superstore on July 9th. The Regina Police and RCMP explosives disposal units were called and found “items dangerous to the public” in a vehicle in the parking lot and the store, according to a police media release. Accordingly, a portion of Victoria Avenue East was shut down while a team of EDU (Explosive Disposal Units) members worked to make the vehicle safe. On July 14th, US Army units from the 20th CBRNE Command ended a five-month operation to remove unexploded chemical munitions from Camp Kendrick, a World War I test facility for chemical munitions. The camp later became part of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Army civilians from CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity (CARA), an all-civilian organization based on Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, was the lead organization from the 20th CBRNE Command. Texas-based 46th Chemical Company’s CBRNE Response Team 4 (CRT 4) supported CARA during the operation. The team recovered six intact munitions, including four identified to potentially contain a mustard agent in them. The four rounds were separated for proper disposal to protect personnel and the environment. On July 16th, a case of monkeypox has been recorded for the first time ever in Texas. The Dallas resident, who had just traveled to Nigeria, has been hospitalized and isolated. This is the third case recorded in the US, after other two dating back to June, also linked to travelers returning from Nigeria. Authorities reached out to anyone who is believed to have been in close contact with the infected individual, but are confident in the low risk of contagion due to the current COVID-19 protocols in place. At least 26 people were hospitalized after being exposed to a chemical leakage happening at Hurricane Harbor Splashtown in Spring, Texas, on July 17th. The Spring Fire Department initially reported that 29 individuals were going through on-site decontamination thanks to Harris County HAZMAT assistance, but the number continued to climb throughout the day. Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office also reported that affected people were showing minor skin and inhalation irritation. HCFMO HAZMAT continued to monitor air and water, seeking to identify the chemicals involved. While the substance has not been identified in full, Harris County Fire Marshal stated that the chemicals in question are believed to be "hypochlorite solution and 35% sulfuric acid." On July 6th, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved Tembexa (brincidofovir), a new drug to treat smallpox. Smallpox is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal infectious disease. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it eradicated in 1980, there have been longstanding concerns that the variola virus, causing smallpox, could be used as a bioweapon.
At the beginning of the month, two drones attacked the Indian Air Force base in Jammu, located in the long-disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. These UAVs managed to detonate a couple of IEDs within the base perimeter, leaving no casualties but a few injured. Pakistan, whose borders are just a few miles away from the base, is allegedly involved, given the recent fostering in its UAV military program.
Rescuers pulled survivors on July 14th from a ravine in northern Pakistan after an explosion sent their bus over the edge, killing 13 passengers, among them nine Chinese nationals and two Pakistani soldiers. While Pakistan’s foreign ministry blamed a mechanical failure for a “leakage of gas that caused a blast”, China’s foreign ministry decried the incident as a bomb attack that caused injuries and death to its nationals. Three civilians were killed and six more were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand on July 12th. The incident happened at around 8 am local time when a civilian vehicle was struck by an IED in Bolan area Lashkargah city’s District 3. At least other four civilians were killed, and five more were wounded in a blast in Kabul city on July 13th. According to the police statement, the blast occurred about 3 pm local time in the Sar-e-Chawk area on Maiwand Street in Kabul’s PD1. Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it has begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal. According to the official statement, the process is to develop fuel for a research reactor. However, it is no mystery that uranium metal can also be used to produce a nuclear bomb core. European powers, together with the US, condemned such a move, stating that Iran is in breach of its nuclear deal and threatened talks to revive it.
Coronavirus outbreaks involving Olympic teams in Japan have turned small-town hotels into facilities on the frontline of the pandemic battle, charged with implementing complex health measures to protect elite athletes and a fearful public. Infections have hit at least seven teams barely a week out from the July 23rd opening ceremony. Last week, Tokyo reported its highest daily tally of new COVID-19 infections since late January.
Yair Lapid, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister of Israel met on July 12th with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Among the issues on the table, were those of cooperation in science and technology, civil emergencies preparedness and management, resilience, counterterrorism, military medicine, and countering the proliferation of WMDs.
Ever since the May 21st ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian militants have been sporadically launching incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip across the border, causing explosions and uncontrolled fires. The latest attack has been reported on July 11th. Israeli Air Force has responded by striking a suspected Hamas manufacturing site.
The security and humanitarian situations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to be a source of grave concern to the international community. Amid ongoing violence by armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo last May led to large-scale population movements, exacerbating existing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resurgent cases of Ebola. Recent bomb explosions were recorded in the town of Beni, and intercommunal tensions are flaring in Ituri and South Kivu.
An explosion killed at least four people at a sports venue in Port Sudan, a key Red Sea port city. The blast took place on July 10th at the al-Amir club, a busy sporting club. It was not immediately clear who was behind the incident, which also involved an armed attack.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state premiers were under increasing public pressure on Friday 16th to get on top of a fast-growing Delta variant COVID-19 outbreak that poses the country's biggest threat in months. Officials reported hundreds of new cases, the bulk in Sydney, taking total cases since the current outbreak began a month ago to above 1,000. Two people have died, 75 people are hospitalized, with 18 in intensive care. A new lockdown has been imposed on the country’s three larger states, sparking a wave of protests.
Meanwhile, the vaccination efforts languish. So far only 11% of the Australian population has been fully immunized, the majority of which with Astrazeneca jabs, that have proven the least effective in countering SarS-CoV-2 Delta variant.