CBRNe World News Briefs


AMERICAS

In New York City, federal researchers and local agencies are partnering since October 18th to conduct a large-scale threat air sampling study. The aim is to understand how live agents disperse in urban environments so to enhance cities’ response capabilities and preparedness in case of hazmat events. The researchers are releasing small quantities of non-toxic materials in both open-air and underground environments to evaluate airflow and transport models, as well as how the subway and street-level environments interrelate. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, in its role as the Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) for Chemical and Biological Defense, is currently investing in research to develop innovative medical countermeasures. In particular, MCMs known as “resurrectors” may indeed one day be included in antidotes for nerve agents and organophosphate pesticides. The target is to expand the currently short time available to treat organophosphate nerve agent (OPNA) poisoning. The Board of EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based NGO devoted to the protection of animals, environment, and people from emerging infectious diseases, has made a call on September 30th to remove Dr. Peter Daszak as president of their organization. This call follows Dr. Daszak’s removal from The Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission after light was shed on his controversial relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

EUROPE

On October 18th, NATO Kicked off its annual deterrence exercise in southern Europe, with dozens of aircraft from across the member states practicing the defense of NATO’s European Allies. The exercise is a routine, recurring training activity and it is not linked to any current world events. It is hosted by a different NATO country each year. Operation Steadfast Noon involves training flights with dual-capable fighter jets, as well as conventional jets, backed by surveillance and refueling aircraft. No live weapons are used. This exercise helps to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective. On October 10th, Russian officials stated that they will suspend test-firing rocket engines in the Voronezh facility, in Western Russia, in order to save oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients. On October 2nd in Austria, the Deutsche Welle reported that a German man was killed by an unexploded piece of ammunition from World War II he found in a popular swimming lake. According to the local authorities, the 59-year-old man was killed on Friday while manually handling the object. On October 9th, the UK’s funding for land mine clearance in Lebanon, Iraq, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, and Vietnam was scrapped. According to the Mines Advisory Group’s (MAG) statement, UK’s funding of mine-clearing efforts will be reduced by approximately 80% due to the British Government’s decision to cut on overseas development aid.

AFRICA

On October 18th, four terrorists linked to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa have been reportedly killed following their attempt to infiltrate a Nigerian Army base. The terrorists’ truck blew up following a crash with a V-IED. On October 18th, an explosion killed at least five civilians in southern Somalia, blowing up their Tuk-Tuk on the road connecting the villages of Balad and Garasweyne. On October 16th, an explosion struck in a police station in the Somali town of Ferfer, near the Ethiopian border. The blast killed at least four people, including the township mayor, and wounded more, including the district police commander. The explosion may be linked to the terrorist group Alshabab, active in the area.

MIDDLE EAST

On October 20th, two IEDs attached to a military bus blew up as it passed under a bridge in central Damascus. As Syrian state media reported, it killed at least 14 people. Both Iran and the IAEA have recently voiced their intention to resume talks about the JCPOA. On October 19th, IEAE Director General Grossi stated that the Agency is confident to be able to travel to Iran soon, following Iranian President Raisi’s statement on his will to resume “result-oriented” talks. On October 15th, two soldiers have been killed and five wounded in an explosion caused by a landmine targeting a Turkish military convoy near Idlib, in northwest Syria. The blast reportedly damaged several armed vehicles, too. On October 10th, a car bomb allegedly targeting the governor’s convoy killed at least six people and wounded seven during a terrorist attack carried out in Aden, an important port city in southern Yemen.

ASIA

North Korea launched a ballistic missile from Sinpo, as reported on October 19th by South Korea Joint Chief of Staff. This news is of serious concern because the port of Sinpo is North Korea’s submarines fleet base. Pyongyang confirmed such a launch on October 20th. Ballistic missiles can be equipped with nuclear weapons, and the last one tested by North Korea in 2019 had an estimated range of 2000 km. If North Korea can deploy its nuclear arsenal on ballistic missiles launched by submarines, it will put the whole APAC region at risk. South Korea has parallelly inaugurated its largest defense expo ever, ADEX 2021, showcasing the latest aircraft and ground defense equipment. On October 18th, a large blast hitting a police truck caused by an IED wounded almost twenty people and killed at least one in Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan. According to the provincial counterterrorism department, the IED was attached to a motorcycle and remotely activated when the police vehicle passed by. On October 18th, a bomb exploded Myanmar’s capital city Naypyitaw, hitting a ward-level administrator office and leaving no casualties. The explosion has been the second in the city in less than a week. On October 15th, a big explosion hit a Shiite Mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The blast is believed to have been caused by a suicide attack carried out by Islamic State affiliates. On October 15th, an Italian-made landmine, allegedly a Valmara 69, exploded in the Kurdistan region between Iran and Iraq killing one. Bomb-making materials, such as hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate and a thousand improvised blasting caps, were seized by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the Cavite province, Philippines, on October 14th. The operation led to the arrest of two suspects, found in possession of the material. On October 12th, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) successfully recovered an unexploded device – an old Mark 82 bomb – in a joint effort with Choul Kiri District police force in the village of Prey Kry Tbong, Kampong Chhnang.

OCEANIA

One major point of the recently announced AUKUS pact, involving Australia, the UK, and the US, is the Australian acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. This trilateral agreement represents a key step in countering the expansion of China in the APAC region. On October 11th, after 106 days, Sydney finally exited its long-lasting lockdown. In addition, with infection rates in the area of New South Wales dropping to less than 500 daily cases and the state reaching its 70% vaccination rate goal, the city is now lifting some of the measures it has previously implemented. As of October 19th, New Zealand has recorded its highest number of Covid-19 daily cases since the start of the pandemic as a result of the Delta variant outbreak within its tight borders. As such, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden decided to re-direct the country’s approach from eliminating the virus, to ramping up vaccination efforts.