Monday, July 31, 2006

Incident: Vehicle Attack (Fatality), Darfur

Tearfund announced that one of its Sudanese drivers was killed during civil unrest in West Darfur. Two vehicles involved in a tree planting program were attacked north of Garsilla. Three staff members escaped unharmed, but Rashid Mohamed Mohamed Adam was killed and another staff member was seriously injured. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Incident: Compound Looting, Gaza

Protesting civilian deaths in Lebanon, gunmen stormed the UN compound in Gaza City, causing extensive damage. Several injuries were reported.

Incident: Office Looting, Lebanon

Outraged over civilian deaths from an Israeli airstrike in Qana, protestors broke into the Beirut office of the UN, destroying equipment and setting a fire. No staff injuries were reported. (AFP/Ramzi Haidar) Update - An interesting first person account by one of the UN staff is here.

Pronunciation Guides

For NGO security officers doing short-term assessments or starting a longer assignment, if you don't speak the language, getting local names of people and places right is always a challenge. While most colleagues and employers understand if you mangle a few words at first, proper pronunciation of names can definitely add to your credibility by showing you've done your homework. If you're going to be working in an area that's getting a fair amount of media coverage, here are a couple of resources to help you get people and place names that are appearing in the news correct the first time around.

VOA Pronunciation Guide – The Voice of America has an online pronunciation guide where you can find the correct pronunciation of people, places and organizations that are making headlines. You can search by name, list or country association. There are even sound files of individual names you can listen to.

AP Pronunciation Guide – As part of its news subscription service, Associated Press provides a guide so broadcasters can accurately pronounce the names of people and places in the news. Unfortunately, AP doesn't freely publish the alphabetic list on the Internet, but if you do a Google search for "AP News Pronunciation Guide" or "associated press" and "pronunciation guide," you'll find unofficial copies floating around. The guide is updated regularly, so try to find a recent version.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Maps of Lebanon

An excellent 1,200:000 scale map of Lebanon (Arabic and English versions) produced by the Ministry of Tourism. Click on a region to zoom in. You can print and tape the zoomed regions together. Great for planning and understanding road systems.

Incident: H5N1 Outbreak, Thailand

According to the Banhkok Post, five new patients in the Phitsanulok and Phichit districts are thought to have contracted H5N1. This brings the number of current suspected cases in Thailand up to 44. At this point, all of the cases appear to be from contact with birds.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Incident: Air Strikes (Aid Trucks), Lebanon

Several reports of Israeli air strikes destroying aid trucks from the United Arab Emirates inside Lebanon. There have also been reports of clearly marked ambulances being targeted. NGO assessment teams heading into the conflict zone overland from Syria will face increased risk from Israeli air operations. The northern route, from Damascus to Tripoli, currently appears to offer less risk than the shorter, more direct Damascus to Beirut route. (AP Photo/Sheryl Mendez)

PR as a Security Issue

Interesting short article on when public relations and good press can cause security problems. "Aid workers have concluded that when word of a successful project gets into the media, the terrorists will sometimes learn about it and target it."

Know Your Israeli UAVs

The Israelis are using a number of different types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) in their military operations in Lebanon. If you're going to be part of the relief efforts, it's useful to have an idea of some of the operational characteristics of UAVs (especially if you're coming in overland from Syria). is one of the best Internet sources of information on Israeli military hardware, and the site has an extensive section devoted to UAVs. For information on U.S. military UAVs, which may also be involved in the conflict, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) maintains a comprehensive and technical collection of information here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Incident: Vehicle Ambush (Fatalities), Afghanistan

ANSO reports an International NGO vehicle in Ghor province was ambushed by gunmen firing AK-47s. Two national staff members were killed. The motive of the attack is unknown. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues. Update - The vehicle and staff belonged to World Vision. A few more details here.

Incident: IED Attack, Afghanistan

ANSO reports that an International NGO staff member in Logar province was wounded by an IED (improvised explosive device) at his house. The bomb was rigged to the entry gate of the victim's home and exploded when the gate was opened. It is unclear whether the staff member was targeted because of his NGO work or if the attack was prompted by a personal matter.

Incident: Cultural Insensitivity, Pakistan

Muslim clerics are calling for all women working for international aid organizations to be expelled from earthquake struck areas in Pakistan by the end of the month. "The clerics accuse the women, including Pakistanis employed by foreign non-government organisations (NGOs), of dressing improperly, mixing with men and drinking alcohol, which is banned in Islamic Pakistan."

This is a classic case of cultural insensitivity potentially leading to security incidents. The clerics haven't stated what actions might be taken if women staff members don't leave, but considering recent protests in Afghanistan, NGO operations could be significantly impacted. Cultural insensitivity in volatile political or social environments simply cannot be tolerated by management. Lax attitudes put individuals and programs at much higher levels of risk.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Incident: NGO Restrictions, Chechnya

New restrictions for NGOs working in Chechnya, including reporting staff movements and getting approval from security services.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

OSAC Kidnapping Guidelines (Haiti)

Some good information passed out at a recent OSAC meeting in Haiti. Although oriented to American business people, also applicable to NGO staff (swap out the U.S. Embassy telephone numbers for the numbers of your own embassy or consulate if you're not a U.S. citizen). More on the recent upswing in violence and kidnappings here.


At home:
· Be aware of people in your neighborhood.
· Know your neighbors.
· Know who is coming to your house.
· Don’t discuss you business in public.
· Don’t throw away receipts (shred or burn them).
· Keep a light burning in front of the house at night.
· If possible, have a few dogs.
· Install a bell or warning system when the gate is open.
· Padlock all doors (with the locks inside) that are not used regularly.
· Keep the telephone numbers (cell and fixed) of several neighbors handy.

In the car:
· Be alert!
· Stay off the telephone while driving!
· Have the car serviced at regular intervals.
· Avoid running out of gas.
· Inspect the tires before getting into the car.
· Keep the doors locked.
· Keep the windows closed.
· Don’t tailgate.
· Avoid back roads (shortcuts).
· If something doesn’t look good – get out of there!
· Leave the house at different times.
· Change routes often.
· Call ahead when returning home.
· Don’t stay out too late –unless you are with a group.
· At night, look before turning on to a dark road.
· If your car is bumped (usually) from behind, do not get out. Get the plate number and go to nearest commissariat.


If you are abducted:
· At the time of the abduction, try to stay calm.
· Do not fight, because you may get hurt!
· Try to get a description of the perpetrators.
· Try to get a description of where you are being taken.
· Have a telephone number of someone you trust to give to the kidnappers.
· Do not give an overseas telephone number!
· Do not give the kidnappers the telephone numbers of friends.
· Do not pressure the family. Things are being done on your behalf.
· Do not tell kidnappers about persons who can give money!
· Keep your options open - if you can escape - do so.
· In case of an operation by police, move towards the police.
· In case of an operation by the police, tell them who you are in a loud voice!

For the family of the kidnap victim

Upon receipt of the kidnappers’ call:
· Do not make an offer.
· Contact DCPJ 250-3630.
· Contact the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services Unit at 222-0200, ext 8673, 8727, or 8631. On evenings/weekends, call Post One (Embassy Marine Guard) at 222-0200, ext 0.
· Contact UNPOL hotline 244-3503.
· Designate someone to be the negotiator for the family, preferably someone strong, level headed and who speaks Creole and English.
· Do not discuss financial arrangements in front of strangers or servants.
· If possible, move the family to another location to avoid intelligence gathering by the perpetrators.

· The initial offer to the kidnappers should always be in HAITIAN GOURDES, and a very low amount, regardless of how much money the kidnappers have demanded.
· Do not offer what is not on hand.
· Do not offer suggestions to kidnappers.
· Have someone ready to make the drop when an agreement has been reached.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Incident: Suspensions/Fatalities, Sudan

According to the UN, international aid operations in refugee camps in the Zalinge area of Sudan's Darfur region have been suspended after three water workers were killed by a mob. Five aid workers have been killed in Darfur this week, including a number of attacks that caused injuries.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Incident: Kidnapping, Haiti

Haiti appears to be heating up again, with renewed violence and kidnappings. Two missionaries from North Carolina (U.S.) were abducted in Port-au-Prince. A ransom of $100,000 has been demanded. According to the U.N., at least 29 people have been reported kidnapped in Haiti so far in July, about a third of them U.S. citizens. From these numbers, and media coverage, the majority of abductions are not being publicized. July 21 Update. The missionaries were released after a ransom of an undisclosed amount was paid. What's interesting about this incident is the FBI's role in negotiations.

Incident: Suspension, Sudan

The German NGO Deutsche Welthungerhilfe suspended operations in southern Sudan due to fighting, evacuating staff members to Khartoum.

DIY Evacuations (Lebanon)

Washington Post article on Americans trapped in Lebanon and some of their "do-it-yourself" evacuations due to the slow U.S. government response. It is very clear the U.S. and other governments did not have decent evacuation plans in place for their citizens. This is an excellent example of an unexpected, rapidly deteriorating situation and why up-to-date and practical evacuation plans for NGO staff are so important. 7/23/06 Update: Some interesting stats on the number of people evacuated (by nationality).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Incident: Suspensions, Afghanistan

Brief article about some aid organizations suspending operations in the southern Afghan province of Helmand due to insecurity.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Incident: Shooting (fatality), Darfur

Hassan Idris, a Relief International staff member, was shot and killed after gunmen stopped his vehicle in northern Darfur. More information here. Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

Incident: Terrorist NGO affiliation, Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government announced a Tamil Tiger fighter, killed during an attack on an army patrol, was employed by CARE International as a field monitor. An investigation is continuing. (Report is here, including the name and photos of the dead staff member - warning, graphic images.)

If this report is accurate, and the CARE ID card wasn't stolen or forged, this could have a significant impact on international NGOs operating in Sri Lanka, with greater government suspicion and controls.

Let's face it. International NGOs are a natural target for infiltration by anti-government movements. The credibility, access and support of a Western organization with political clout all provide an excellent operating cover for someone covertly gathering intelligence.

Although background checks for national staff are a relatively common security procedure, they are usually done in the context of discovering a criminal past. Most NGOs are not thinking about political infiltration (by either government or anti-government personnel). As a security officer, depending on where you're working, this is something you should probably be thinking about. At the very least, management should have contigency plans in place to deal with a situation where a staff member is identified as having a clear affiliation with a known anti-government group.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NGOs in Sudan become target as peace returns

Interesting article on increased threats to NGOs and staff in Sudan as unintended consequences of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. A case in point of what appeared to be a good thing producing negative ripples. In contingency planning, always try to look in your crystal ball for things like this (even though your peers may think you're a pessimist, it's best to be prepared).

Incident: Suspension, Sudan

Oxfam announced it was temporarily closing two of its offices (Saraf Omra and Birka Seira) in the north part of Sudan's Darfur region due to decreasing security. Oxfam reported that increased activities by armed groups, including an incident on May 3 where a driver was abducted with his vehicle was stolen, prompted the decision.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Humanitarian aid agency security management

Jan Davis, RedR-IHE Security Programme Advisor, has written an article on the evolution of security management within the humanitarian sector.
This article has been written for the Dubai Humanitarian Aid Conference.

Monday, July 10, 2006

First Aid in armed conflicts and other situations of violence

ICRC presents here a practical manual presenting the specific knowledge, skills and practices that First Aiders should have to act safely and effectively when caring for people caught up in armed conflicts and other situations of violence, such as internal disturbances and tensions.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Incidents: IDP Camp Crime (Fatality), Darfur

According to this report, the security situation in the Kalma camp in Darfur is deteriorating. A watchman employed by an international NGO inside the camp was killed and two nights later several NGO compounds were robbed. Criminal incidents, including shootings, where IDPs are victims are also increasing.

Incident: Pirate Attack, Malacca Strait

Two UN chartered ships were attacked by pirates in the Malacca Strait, south of the Aceh province in Indonesia. This is an area widely known for pirate activity despite active control efforts.

Over 100 USAID staff killed in Afghanistan

Over 100 national staff members employed by USAID have been killed in Afghanistan over the past three years in hostile incidents. That really is a staggering amount. If a government development agency or NGO lost even a 10th of that number, and they were international staff, you can bet operations would be shut down and evacuations would long be completed. But with national staff, very sad to say, there's often a double standard when it comes to the cost of doing business. Lots of questions with this statistic. Is USAID doing everything possible to ensure the security of its staff members? What type of risk thresholds are being used? Are the USAID programs making a difference, especially considering this amount of loss of life? Do potential USAID national staff members understand the higher levels of risk associated with their employment? Who within USAID is accountable for the security of national staff members (and does he or she sleep at night)? And finally, what is the current USAID staff member body count in Iraq? The more I think about this, the angrier I get.

Incident: Vehicle Ambush (Fatalities), Sudan

A pickup truck belonging to the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) NGO was ambushed outside of Juba, southern Sudan. Five Sudanese teenage boys riding in the truck and an attacker were killed in the crossfire between security personnel and gunman believed to be associated with the LRA. A Kenyan surveyor is missing.

Incident: Convoy Attack, Somalia

A WFP contracted convoy was attacked in Southern Somalia. Gunfire was exchanged with guards and fatalities were reported. Additional information here.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Vehicle Robbery Techniques

ANSO recently reported on a vehicle robbery technique that was gaining popularity in Kabul. The modus operandi is not especially new, and is widely used throughout the world with many variations (for both robbery and kidnapping purposes). Here’s how it goes.

A targeted vehicle has one or more of its tire punctured or slashed while stopped for traffic or parked (the tire sidewalls are considerably more vulnerable than the tread, and are the favored location to flat a tire). Sharpened implements can be attached to a shoe or sandal, so the criminal can unobtrusively puncture a tire by kicking it. There may be a distraction involved to draw the driver's attention away from the tire being punctured.

An accomplice then notifies the driver about the flat tire either verbally or by pointing. The natural tendency is for the driver is to pull over to examine the flat (the driver will feel that the tire is flat as he moves forward) and then change it. At this point the driver, passenger (if present), vehicle, and property inside the vehicle are all vulnerable. A planned attack uses different people, each playing a role (the tire slasher, the person who tells the driver, and the actual thieves or kidnappers). The crime is committed after the driver stops and exits the vehicle, with an escape vehicle waiting or the target location chosen so the perpetrators can quickly and effectively escape on foot. Practiced criminals can pull-off these types of attacks in a very short amount of time.

Like most criminal activities, driver and passenger awareness is key to prevention. If you suspect a tire has been purposely flattened, do not immediately stop to fix it. Drive at least several hundred meters away which should put you outside the target zone. It’s possible to temporarily drive on a flat tire for short distances at low speeds (under 10 miles per hour). Keep in mind that steering will be impacted and not feel very responsive.

As you drive, pay attention if people or vehicles seem to be purposely following you. If so it’s probably a good time to use your radio or mobile phone to call in to the office and report what’s happening. In such cases your goal will be to generally try to get to a safe location.

Locking the doors and rolling up the windows while changing a flat tire is also a good idea, since it can prevent thieves from stealing any property (laptops, mobile phones, briefcases, etc.) that may be laying on a seat while the driver is distracted changing a tire.

Vehicle-related crimes usually follow common patterns, with criminals using techniques that have proven successful in the past. Staying current with crime trends and incidents will help you better assess the potential for these types of events to occur.