CBRNe World News Briefs

AFRICA

On 5 March, a suicide car bomb killed 20 and injured 30 outside a restaurant near the port of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. The blast sent plumes of smoke and triggered gunfire. On March 14 one unnamed person was killed while several others were injured, including a senior military official in a roadside bomb attack. In vaccine developments, Dijibouti is now the second country in the region to receive COVID-19 Vaccines through the COVAX facility. The first shipment will enable health care workers and people over 50 years old as well as people with pre-existing conditions to get their first jabs, as stated on a WHO report press release on 6 March. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the first country to put the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out on hold, the DRC has received 1.7 million doses of the vaccine through the COVAX scheme. Tanzania and Madagascar have stated they have no plans to acquire the jabs whereas Burundi has expressed they do not need any vaccines. On 17 March, South Africa approved the emergency use of the Pzifer/Biontech Vaccine, the country has ordered 20 million additional doses, but doesn’t know when the shipment will arrive.

AMERICAS

On March 1 UNCRI and Global Affairs Canada signed a multi-year agreement for the implementation of the CONTACT- Southeast Asia-Enhancing capacities to prevent the trafficking of radiological and nuclear material in Southeast Asia, project. The project aims to foster regional cooperation and improving Member States capabilities to devise, plan and carry out various intelligence operations. On 3 March 2021, a military bombing in South-east Colombia killed ten FARC dissidents, injuring three. The bombing took place in the municipal of Calamar in the jungle of northern Colombia. On March 9, the police in Penticton were investigating a series of explosions of IEDs around the city. The first explosion occurred on 7 March while the two additional ones took place the next day, 8 March. The first explosion had minimal damage to property while the latter two had no impact on property and no one was reported to be injured. On 10 March, a man was charged with attempted murder after an explosive device detonated under the victim's truck in Schaghticoke, New York. The explosive planted was described as a low-energy improvised device which detonated early in the morning on 1 March. On 18 March a science advocacy group reported that nuclear reactors are no safer than conventional nuclear plants, although this is not believed to be the case by the decision and policy makers in Washington. The science group believes that these new, advanced nuclear reactors actually pose a greater proliferation risk than the more traditional ones. In COVID-19 vaccine news; 29 Latin American and Caribbean countries have now authorized the emergency use of various COVID-19 vaccines; Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Urugay and finally Venezuela. Chile has emerged as one of the top runners in the world with its speed in vaccinating its population. More than 25 percent of Chile’s population have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. Regionally, Chile is the champion in the region, and globally its tracking behind Israel, The UAE and the UK. In other vaccine developments, 65 percent of American seniors have received at least one jab of the vaccine, as reported by Financial Times on 16 March. Furthermore, Moderna will start testing the COVID-19 vaccine on young children as a push to get the vaccination drive fort them up and running as cases and deaths are again starting to rise. Moderna is planning to enroll c.a., 6, 750 pediatric participants in the KidCove study, evaluating the safety, tolerability, reactogenicity and effectiveness of two doses given 28 days apart. In additional positive developments, the Oregon Health Authority stated on 17 March that all adults who want to be vaccinated are eligible to get the jab against COVID-19 by 1 May. Whereas Canada and Mexico have asked U.S. for COVID-19 vaccine help. Whether the request will be granted is remains unknown.

ASIA

On 2 March, Azerbaijani experts are still carrying out demining activities in the Fuzuli district that was only recently liberated in the Karabakh second war. The clashes over Karabkh started in late September 2020 and went on for a little over a month and a half. Whereas on 11 March, the demining efforts in the Aghdam district, liberated from Armenian occupation, are still ongoing. According to the First Deputy Head of Mayor’s Office, Allahveran Aliyev, of the Aghdam district stated that 2, 671 hectares had already been cleared of mines, as were the roads. The U.S. is closer to achieving its goal of a mine-free Sri Lanka. The project, carried out by Mines Advisory Group, is part of the U.S. government mine clearance aid, USD5.5 million, advocating for the safety and security of local residents. Mid-March, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre’s demining officers had removed three large, deactivated, bombs weighting (UXOs) over 230 kilo grammars respectively in Phnom Penh, Kandal and Tbong Khmum provinces. These UXO’s were late identified as MK82’s, dropped by American fighter jets during the 1970’s civil war. On March 12, one soldier was wounded and at least two suicide bombers killed in two car bomb blasts in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak province. March 13 also marked the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Although the disaster took place 10 years ago some survivors’ lives are still on hold with 400 00 people still displaced. The crises demonstrated the importance of early warning systems, disaster preparedness and crisis communication, community engagement and international cooperation. On March 15, the Korean International Agency Cooperation signed an agreement to provide $10 million in mine clearance aid to the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority. The project titled, Clearing for Results Phase IV, is set to run from 2021 to 2025, as reported by the Phnompenhpost. Japan Mine Action Service also donated nearly 700, 000 to the Cambodian Mine Action Center as well in early March. In vaccine developments, Thailand and Indonesia have halted the use of AstraZeneca, after several European countries reported fatal blood clots in vaccinated people. Malaysia has started the rollout of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, with the country reporting 1,213 new cases on 18 March. A new vaccine partnership between the U.S., Japan, India and Australia is projected to distribute at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to Asian and Pacific island nations by 2022 in an effort to counter China’s total influence over the region.

EUROPE

A blast in front of a COVID-19 testing center on 3 March, which shattered windows and left various metal remains behind, in Amsterdam was found out to be an intentional act of violence. On March 4, the Army bomb Disposal team of Irish Defence Forces carried out a controlled explosion in Dublin on the grounds of St James’ Hospital. This explosion came as a precaution as suspicious hazardous chemical materials were discovered on the grounds. On 5 March, U.S. Air Force personnel in the 786th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight demonstrated their abilities during an event in Germany, part-of-an ongoing cooperation between the Dutch EOD forces working on rendering WWII UXO safe during the ongoing pandemic. On March 5, the German Government agreed to pay nuclear operators $2.86 billion in compensation for forcing the plants to shut down early in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. On 7 March, authorities were conducting a disposal of an unexploded (UXO) World War II bomb in Lyon, France. The UXO was found during construction work on rue Transversale, in the 9th arrondissement. A 23-year-old Cyprian man was arrested for attacking a bank in Limassol with Molotov cocktail. The act took place last year in December when an improvised explosive mechanism was thrown against a Hellenic Bank in Agia, after a bomb was simultaneously launched against a branch of CYTA. Britain warned that a successful biological, a.k.a. dirty bomb attack by adversaries is highly likely in the next 10 years. Hence Britain is raising the number of nuclear warheads to a maximum of 260, although in the past decade Britain has been doing the complete opposite, i.e., reducing its nuclear stockpile. Britain is set to expand its Nuclear Warhead Stockpile by c.a., 40 percent as the global threat levels rise. There have also been talks about creating a new counter-terrorism center to improve the country's preparedness to any CBRN threats. In vaccine roll-out news; Europe is already tracking behind in the vaccine roll-outs and yet another block on the road came when 10 countries halted the use of AstraZeneca, including Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. Nevertheless, the UK is still on track to meet its vaccine target the government set out, despite the latest order of vaccine supplies being delayed as 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses were ordered to be retested. The UK is expecting a momentary delay in the rollouts, but it is projected to pick up speed again in May, June and July.

MIDDLE EAST

On 4 March, the UN Disarmament Chief reported limited progress in closing Syria chemical weapons file. It’s already been seven years since the mandate to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program, however limited developments in the effort of implementing resolution 2188, passed unanimously in 2013, have been made. The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (Masam) has cleared 1, 428 more mines in Yemen. A total of 220, 352 mines have already been extracted since the start of the project, in 2020 the contract was extended until 2021 at a cost of $30 million. Libya’s 5+5, made up off five Libyan governments senior military officers and five chosen by Gen. Haftar, Joint Military Commission convened to discuss the ongoing mine and war remnants clearance efforts in the coastal road linking Sirte to Misrata on 15 March. In vaccine developments, Israel has managed to inoculate the majority of its elder population with millions more already having received their first jabs. New infections are down, and hospitals are at good capacity, as reported by Financial Times on 16 March. In contrast, West Bank hospitals are way over capacity, by 110 percent. As of 18 March, the occupied territories have recorded almost 216,000 cases ever since the beginning of the pandemic, as reported by Middle East Eye. Whereas the Palestinians will be receiving 60,000 vaccine doses through WHO Program, 38,000 doses of Pfizer and 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca, as reported by Arab News on 16 March. Syria is also on track of receiving its first deliveries of COVAX vaccine in early April, as reported by the Middle East Monitor on 17 March. Whereas Iran is on track starting its human trials for its third domestic COVID vaccine. Iran has already imported 1.2 million jabs in an effort to get their population of 80 million inoculated, as reported by Aljazeera on 16 March.

OCEANIA

On 9 March, the Chemical Engineer reported the mounting concerns over a stockpile of hazardous waste at Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point aluminum smelter. A report by RNZ in late February also addressed the concern, stating that an aluminum smelter at Bluff had stockpiled over 100,000 tonnes of cyanide-laced hazardous waste not too far from an eroding beach. On 17 March Australia requested AstraZeneca and the European Union to give access to one million vaccines in order to help with an alarming surge of cases in Papua New Guinea. Australia wants to revert their order to the badly hit Papua New Guinea. Australia is also looking to have 20 percent vaccine coverage across the Asia Pacific region with the government’s ambitious plan of distributing up to 1 million COVID-19 jabs in its first major regional vaccine-roll out. These doses are to be drawn from stockpiles manufactured by CSL in its Melbourne plant.