This month's security bulletin focuses on:
- Returning to travel
Returning to Travel
As COVID-19 cases pick up around Europe, various countries are using differing methods to deal with travellers. From mandatory quarantine for all, to lists of those countries requiring quarantine or not, to airport testing, to a blend of airport testing and quarantine - it is becoming increasingly clear that we really do need to live with the virus in some manner, rather than continuing along the rather blunt instrument of lock downs and blanket restrictions. It’s great to know that we are working to help get travel moving again, with with the announcement yesterday that we are supporting CommonPass - a digital health pass for travellers to securely document certified COVID-19 test status - to enable safer airline and cross border travel by giving both travellers and governments confidence in each traveller's verified COVID-19 status.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a region internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, has long been a contentious area. Administered by the Republic of Artsakh, it is a minority Armenian enclave that has been the subject of peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994. However, tension, limited small scale flare ups and even fatalities have continued since the cease-fire marked an end of overt hostilities.
On 27 September, clashes occurred when strikes were reportedly carried out on towns in the region, including the regional capital Stepanakert, by Azerbaijani forces. This led to retaliation by Armenian-backed separatist forces of the Republic of Artsakh and in turn, what Azerbaijan termed a counter-offensive. Fighting has continued since. Both sides have allegedly used heavy weapons and as at 5 October the death toll stands at over 220.
Continued fighting in the area is likely and incidents along the rest of the Armenian – Azerbaijan border cannot be ruled out. There is also potentially a wider regional aspect to add to the mix with Turkey and Russia backing Azerbaijan and Armenia respectively.
Whilst I doubt there is any real prospect of the situation expanding and pulling in more countries (not least because Russia sells arms to both sides), it is another interesting reminder of the tensions that exist between Russia and Turkey and certainly worth watching over the coming months.
Further fuel to the fire is France adding to the criticism of Turkey’s support for Baku. France - one of the co-chairs of the Minsk peace talks– (along with Russia and the USA) is also a NATO ally of Turkey. This again highlights the evolving dynamic and place that Turkey is carving out for itself as President Erdogan pushes his agenda domestically and internationally for Turkey.
For a number of years there has been an Islamist insurgent movement in Northern Mozambique, centred around the Cabo Delgado. Ansar al-Sunna is the group operating in the area – initially a religious movement which appeared following the death of Kenyan Cleric, Aboud Rogo. Initially the group settled in Tanzania before moving to Mozambique and claiming that Islam, as practised in the country, had become corrupted.
Since 2017 the group has conducted violent raids, killing locals and destroying homes and churches. The scale of its activities has increased in scope over the years, and this year, it has repeatedly attacked and captured the port town of Mocímboa da Praia before either retreating or being driven out by the security forces. Most recently it took the town on 11 August following fierce fighting that resulted in the deaths of over 100 Mozambican soldiers. Subsequently on 11 September the group captured the islands of Mecungo and Vamizi and the insurgent forces declared Mocímboa da Praia as the capital of their province.
This situation has been, to a large extent, ignored by mainstream media – Islamic State (in the Central African Province guise) are now seen as the unifying presence – although there is believed to be considerable divergence between individual operational cells. Mozambique is not well placed to combat this kind of problem, and as the extremists become more entrenched there is the risk that foreign fighters will flock to the cause in greater numbers creating more and more problems. What further impacts this could have more regionally are worth considering as we see how the situation develops.