Friday, May 31, 2013

Egypt: Six Mexican Tourists Killed in Tour Bus Accident in Sinai, 25 Injured

According to The Associated Press, A bus carrying Mexican tourists overturned earlier today (May 31) in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula before bursting into flames, killing at least six, according to the state news agency MENA. Additionally, 25 other passengers were injured in the accident.

Those at the scene described excessive speed as the causation of the accident.

The bus was carrying tourists from the peninsula's Saint Catherine's monastery to the Red Sea resort of Dahab.

COMMENT: In all of my years of living and working in Egypt, my biggest concern is the high risk of road fatalities and the delays in transporting the injured in a timely fashion to medical facilities. 

Egyptian medical facilities fall far short of facilities in developed nations.

Road accidents are commonplace in Egypt, due to badly maintained roads and poor enforcement of traffic laws. 

According to a 2012 World Health Organization report, road accidents kill about 12,000 people each year in a population of about 90 million.

As I have sad so often in the past, it is essential that foreigners traveling in developing countries subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage, as those injured are often expected to pay for service before being treated. Such coverage is worth every penny, as daily coverage can be obtained for as little as US$8 per day.

Global Impact: Conflicts Encountered As Chinese Tourists Travel the World, Beijing Offers Guidance

According to http://www.travelerstoday.com, and following an incident reported in The Telegraph, whereby a Chinese teenager defaced a 3,500 year-old Egyptian sculpture, the Chinese government has issued guidelines on Chinese tourists who travel abroad. 

The Chinese National Tourism Administration, according to Xinhua, has posted advice on littering, protecting cultural relics and showing courtesy, particularly after a 15-year-old Chinese tourist from Nanjing spray-painted his name on a sculpture at a temple in the Luxor. 

Before reading on, I would suggest that our Chinese readers review my posting of March 13, 2013, entitled, "France: Much of What China Daily's Li Xiang Says About Paris is Valid," which includes a list of do's and don't's for Chinese nationals traveling abroad.

COMMENT: According to the World Trade Organization, the group has predicted  that Chinese nationals will be traveling in the millions in coming years, which is a message for the global tourism industry.

The Chinese government's new guidelines are intended to denounce behavior such as that of the teenager, including spitting, littering, vandalism, jaywalking and cutting in line. 

They also recommend that Chinese tourists only photograph relics when local regulations allow it. 

Additionally, they are promoting seven behavioral norms, including maintaining a clean environment, complying with public orders, protecting ecology, protecting public infrastructures and utilities, respecting other people's rights, showing courtesy when with others and seeking appropriate entertainment.

Earlier this year, authorities urged travelers from the eastern province of Jiangsu to take less cash and to keep valuables out of sight after 23 Chinese tourists were robbed in a Paris restaurant shortly after arrival in France.

Thailand: Victim Compensation Programs Can Avoid Insolvency by Preventing Incidents Before the Fact

According to The Pattaya News, and still facing considerable media attention from an April 2013 speedboat accident that injured 18 foreign tourists and 2 guides, Thai politicians report that a fund set up to compensate injured and victimized tourists must be overhauled before it becomes insolvent.

At a May 22 administration board meeting, Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho said the by-laws governing the Pattaya Tourist Support Fund should be amended and the program transformed into an association that can solicit donations to stay afloat.

Sakchai said that the municipality of Pattaya paid three victims of the April 21 collision of two tourist boats off Koh Larn 20,000 baht (US$662) each, leaving only 500,000 (US$16,550) baht in the city's compensation fund. Obviously, that may not be sufficient to cover the rest of the fiscal year, given the high rate of criminal victimization.

Consequently, Banglamung District Chief Sakchai said Pattaya’s tourist compensation fund needs prompt help not only to address victims of serious crimes, but to increase eligibility before incidents have an adverse affect on tourism.

Currently, tourists with non-disabling injuries can receive a maximum 20,000 (US$662) baht each. Those disabled by injuries can receive up to 50,000 (US$1,655) baht and the fund will pay families of tourists killed in Pattaya 100,000 (US$3,310) baht.

In the case of the South Korean tourists, fund administrators made an exception to allow payment to the three South Korean accident victims, one of which lost a leg. The national government also picked up the cost of hospitalization of the three and medical evacuation back home.

COMMENT: Unlike the majority of countries that have nationally-funded crime victim compensation programs, Thailand has no such program, although municipalities that have a large number of tourists do budget for local compensation programs.

Ideally, the central government in Bangkok should authorize appropriate funding to the five groups of 76 provinces and provide appropriations to provinces and municipalities that are major tourist centers.

Unfortunately, Sakchai's proposal is to create a private association in Pattaya that would enable such an association to solicit donations from the tourist industry, but implementing such a program no doubt would be very problematic in terms of it being equitable.

Unfortunately, the Thai government alternatively should reorganize the Royal Thai Police and direct them to be far more proactive and preventative than is the case at the moment.

Needless to say, most provincial police districts "wait for something to happen to a tourist," rather than preventing incidents to begin with. This reality is partly the fault of permitting tourists to do what they want, rather than rigorously enforcing laws and enacting laws that pose risks to the public and specifically to tourists.

As most of our readers know all too well, I have urged that the Thai government use plainclothes saturation patrols to prevent crimes before they occur and crack down on rental operators who rent two-wheeled motorized vehicles to operators with no experience and enforcing current traffic laws on impaired tourists before they kill themselves or others. 

Additionally, motorcycle/motorbike helmets are not required in Thailand, which is a must, as countless tourists have been killed in Thailand because helmets are not mandatory.




Spain: Update--Murders of Ingrid Visser, Lodewijk Severein in Murcia

According to EFE, and as a follow-up on my various postings of late on this case, the investigation into the disappearance and death of Dutch volleyball star Ingrid Visser, 35, and her boyfriend, Lodewijk Severein, 57, has entered a new phase, now focused on reviewing the evidence gathered and connecting the dots between the various statements of the accused.

For those reading this posting for the first time, I suggest you read my earlier postings first for sequential background.

As has been reported earlier, evidence suggests that Visser and her boyfriend, Lodewijk Severein, were brutally tortured over a period of days, murdered and dismembered by Juan Cuenca Lorente, 36, and two Romanian hit men he had hired, Ion Valentin, 59, and Constantin Stan, 47, all of whom are in police custody, pending judicial appearances.

Police have also gathers considerable documentary and forensic evidence from the homes of the accused. The remains of the Dutch couple were found by police on May 27.


COMMENT: Given the condition of the remains of the couple, forensic analysis will be detailed in every respect, which may take a few more days to complete.

In a statement to EFE, Miriam Van de Velde, spokeswoman for the families of Visser and Severein, have reportedly been very displeased with the Spanish media releasing information concerning the fact that Ms. Visser was reportedly pregnant.


Nevertheless, after next-of-kin have been notified by authorities, rarely does the media seek clearance from families before going to press.

It should be noted that the media earlier had factually reported that Visser and Severein had an appointment with a fertility physician that they missed because of their confrontation with Lorente, Valentin and Stan on the outskirts of Murcia.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Zealand: Czech Tourist, 32, Has His Vehicle Burned Out on North Island, Left with Only Backpack

According to The Taranaki  Daily News, Czech tourist Jiri Vasicek, 32, arrived on Wednesday (May 29) hoping to explore the region's pride and joy, Mt Taranaki.

After a night at Maketawa Hut, Vasicek returned to the North Egmont Visitor Center to check the weather on the mountain. Those at the center were waiting with news that his possessions had been stolen and his car set on fire. 

"I'm absolutely shocked. I've only got one backpack that has one spare undies, socks, a jacket, and what I'm wearing," Vasicek said. Luckily, his backpack contained critical possessions such as his passport and wallet. 

Mr. Vasicek was particularly distraught over the theft of his laptop being stolen, which contained photos from his trip of some thirteen months.

COMMENT: To make matters worse, the Czech tourist had planned to sell his car to pay for his ticket back home. 

Reportedly, someone cut the locks leading to the national park on Tuesday (May 28).

As I have said so often in the past, New Zealand is hardly a low-risk destination, with its own crime problem, particularly against foreigners, that includes the crimes of larceny, armed robbery, assault, rape and even homicide.

Fortunately, New Zealand has a generous crime victim compensation program that foreign visitors are eligible for:

https://www.ncjrs.gov/ovc_archives/reports/intdir2005/newzealand

Mount Taranaki, or Mount Egmont, is an active, but quiescent strato-volcano in the Taranaki region on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. The 2,518-meter (8,261 feet) high mountain is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. There is a secondary cone, Fanthams Peak, 1,966 meters (6,450 ft), on the south side. Because of its resemblance to Mount Fuji, Taranaki provided the backdrop for the movie "The Last Samurai."

Tunisia: US Embassy "Deeply Troubled" by "Slap on the Hand" for Assailants in 2012 Embassy Attack

According to The Associated Press, The US Embassy in Tunisia said earlier today (May 29) that it is "deeply troubled" that the 20 people convicted of attacking the embassy on September 14, 2012, only received suspended sentences.

A mob of some 2,000 people, mostly religious conservatives, attacked the US Embassy compound and destroyed destroying cars, property, burning the American flag and a nearby American school, ostensibly in response to a video clip released in the US that failed to be untrue. Four of the 2,000 protesters were killed during hostilities.

In actuality, the attack on the embassy was part of a much larger conspiracy to attack US diplomatic facilities throughout the Middle East.
"We are deeply troubled by reports of suspended sentences," the embassy said. "The verdicts do not correspond appropriately to the extent and severity of the damage and violence that took place." The sternly worded statement said Tunisia's government must show there is no tolerance for those resorting to violence to achieve their goals and that the court's "decision fails in this regard."

COMMENT: The leader of the ultra-conservative Ansar al-Shariah organization, Seifallah Ben Hassine, is being sought in connection with the attack, but he remains at large after slipping through a police cordon at the time.

The violence was deeply embarrassing to the Tunisian government, which is run by moderate Islamists, and it marked the hardening of the state's position to the rising power of the ultraconservative Muslims known as "salafis."

Seventy-three people were arrested in connection with the attack on the embassy, but only only 20 were prosecuted. The one-session trial was unusually brief for such cases.

Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 2,256,320 as of 2011; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants. 

Situated on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf (the Gulf of Tunis), behind the Lake of Tunis and the port of La Goulette (Halq al Wadi), the city extends along the coastal plain and the hills that surround it.

Niger: US Department of State Issues Updated Travel Warning on Terrorist Threat

COMMENT: The US Department of State has issued a travel warning for US citizens contemplating travel to Niger, effective May 29, 2013.

For the complete text of the travel warning, please see below:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5978

Kenya/UK: Briton Who Hacked Lee Rigby to Death Released in 2010, Tips for All Citizens

According to The Guardian, Wycliffe Makasembo, a Kenyan lawyer who in 2010 represented Michael Adebolajo, 28, a man suspected of participating in last week's hacking death of British Army drummer Lee Rigby, 25, along with Michael Adebowale, 22, on a London street, has said that he was freed at the time on the basis of a recommendation of the British High Commission in Nairobi.

Michael Adebolajo was arrested in Kenya in 2010 for allegedly attempting to join the Somalian Islamist militant group, al-Shabaab. According to Makasembo, Kenyan anti-terrorism police detained Adebolajo and six others (all Kenyans) when they tried to travel north to Somalia in a speedboat.

COMMENT: When contacted by Kenyan authorities, the British High Commission confirmed that Adebolajo had no criminal record or any connection with any criminal or terrorist organization in the world," considering that "suspicion" alone is no reason to hold or prosecute a suspect. 

Subsequently, Adebolajo was deported back to Britain and the other six were also released without charge.

The British Foreign Office has only said that they provided consular assistance to Adebolajo, although Britain's ITV News channel reported that Adebalajo, who went by the nickname Mujahid, or "warrior" (after embracing Islam as a teenager) and his family were approached by both MI5 and MI6 who attempted to recruit him as an informant.

It is entirely possible that after being considered as a possible informant, British intelligence should have thoroughly investigated Adebolajo as a potential threat, yet it is unknown as to whether that was addressed or not. This might well be an issue to be examined by the management of all security services  from the standpoint of documenting lessons-learned.

There have now been three unprovoked attacks on citizens of the UK and France. Thus, it is essential that UK and French authorities determine whether there are any common threads between these three attacks from the standpoint of determining whether they are related or suggest a new emerging tactic in Western Europe.

Unfortunately, French President François Hollande may have spoken too quickly in making his comment that the incidents in Paris and London were not related. Clearly, it is too early to make such a statement.

Sadly, many citizens of both the UK and France may be wondering whether there are more such stabbing attacks to come.  As a result, the following guidance is offered to all nations that have witnessed this new terrorist tactic:

1. Pedestrians should deliberately observe people they encounter on the street, taking note of their focused interest in a possible target and their possible possession of bladed instruments;

2. Inasmuch as most of the victims of this new tactic have been alone, and until we have a better idea whether there will be similar attacks in the future, pedestrians should consider walking with friends or colleagues;

3. I have made it very clear in the past that a preoccupation with political correctness can put law-abiding pedestrians at risk, which is why it is important to focus on the fact that most assailants of this new tactic may well be from other countries, even if naturalized citizens;

4. Carry a mobile phone at all times;

5. Ensure that the local police emergency number can be quickly inputted from your mobile phone;

6. Uniformed police and military personnel may well be targeted in the future, which is why it is so important for them to be alert to imminent threats;

7. Be particularly observant in public areas where heterogeneous groupings of people gather; and

8. Report any suspicious activity to police immediately.



 



 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thailand: Court Ruling Holds Thai Military Responsible for Death of Italian Photo-Journalist

According to Reuters, Fabio Polenghi, 48, an Italian photo-journalist who was shot dead in Bangkok while taking pictures of a military crackdown on an anti-government protest on May 19, 2010, was killed by a bullet fired by a soldier, a Thai court ruled earlier today (May 29).
 
Polenghi was shot and killed when troops moved in to disperse "red shirt" supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, 63, who had been camped in the center of the capital for weeks, demanding an early election.

"The court ruled that orders given by Prime Minister Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep that day led to the journalist's death," Karom Ponthaklang, a lawyer for the journalist's family, told reporters. 

Karom added that he would ask the Department of Special Investigations, part of the Justice Ministry, to press charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban. Abhisit is now leader of the opposition and the government is led by Thaksin's sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 45, who won an election in July 2011.

The ruling could spell further trouble for Abhisit and Suthep, who were charged last year with giving orders to use live ammunition that led to civilian deaths and have a number of similar cases pending against them. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty or life in prison. Abhisit has defended his order to use live ammunition, saying the protesters' refusal to negotiate had left his government with few options.

COMMENT: More than 90 people, including two journalists and members of the security forces, died during the two months of unrest in Bangkok. Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto, 43, was also killed by a high velocity bullet to his chest during clashes between government troops and protesters on April 10, 2010.

All travelers to Thailand should AVOID all public demonstrations that require police or military action, as rarely do Thai security forces exercise non-lethal force.

All journalists covering public demonstrations that have the potential for violence should ensure that they are equipped with ballistic resistant vests and helmets. Otherwise, they are at risk of being seriously injured or killed.






Spain: Update--Dutch Couple Violently Tortured Before Death, Dismembered, Answers Elusive

As a follow-up to my posting of May 28, and according to Spain's La Verdad, it is believed that Dutch citizens Ingrid Visser, 35, and her boyfriend, Lodewijk Severein, 57, were brutally tortured over a period of days, murdered and dismembered by Juan Cuenca Lorente, 36, and two Romanian hit men he had hired, Ion Valentin, 59, and Constantin Stan, 47.

It is believe that the couple was murdered some time during May 14-25, although forensic analysis should pinpoint the time of death in coming days.

According to La Opinion de Murcia, Ms. Visser was reportedly three months pregnant at the time of her death.

According to Levante-EMV, Severein had loaned a large sum of money to Lorente and reportedly had gone to Murcia to recover it, apparently thinking he had been duped.

Local news accounts indicate that Mr. Severein's teeth had been pulled out while he was still alive and his jaw shattered.

COMMENT: Our condolences and sympathies are extended to the families of both Mr. Severein and Ms. Visser and hope they find some closure in the fact that those responsible for their deaths will be punished, hopefully for life.

Unfortunately, rather than reporting the dispute to police or retaining an attorney, both Visser and Severein met the three assailants in a secluded farmhouse in Molina de Segura, some 20 kilometers from Murcia, not knowing that the trio had planned to murder them.

At a minimum, Severein should have met the men in a very public place with lots of people, but for some strange reason he and Visser agreed to meeting the men in a place they totally controlled.

All three assailants were arrested by Spanish police in Valencia, some 230 kilometers north of Murcia.

What is most interesting in this case is the fact that Ms. Visser played volleyball on Lorente's team in Murcia for a number of years, yet she failed to successfully interpret Lorente's true self. 

The fact that he had hired two hit men and had the resources to do so, suggests that Visser never really knew him. As I have said in the past, we must all, first and foremost, survive and prevail, and always have a suspicious nature of people we really do not know.








France: Update--Stabbing of French Soldier Deemed Work of Muslim Extremist

As a follow-up to my postings of May 26 and 27, and according to Reuters, evidence gathered by French authorities suggests that a convert to Islam was responsible for the May 25 stabbing assault on a French soldier who was patrolling La Defense business district west of Paris.

The alleged assailant in the attack was taken into custody earlier today (May 29). Prosecutor François Molins told a news conference that the suspect was seen on a video surveillance camera "saying a Muslim prayer" minutes before the attack, which followed the May 22 hacking murder of a British soldier on the streets of London.

COMMENT: Although the citizens of many Western nations don't believe their country is "at war," it is essential that such nations, particularly those who have had incidents of Islamist terrorism in recent years, educate their citizens to report all suspicious behavior to police.

Additionally, all nations that have been targeted by Muslim extremists at home should responsibly disseminate via radio, television and print media public information on this emerging tactic and what specific action they should take if they observe abnormal behavior on the part of citizens or non-citizens.

In the interest of saving precious lives, all Western nations need to acknowledge that there are many radicalized Muslims that firmly believe that it is their responsibility to see sharia law instituted in all nations.

Clearly, keeping citizens and residents safe from political terrorism is far more important than being politically correct. 

  


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spain: Volleyball Star Ingrid Visser, 35, Partner, 57, Murdered in Murcia Over Business Dispute


According to the BBC, on May 26, Spanish police found the bodies of Dutch volleyball star Ingrid Visser, 35, and her boyfriend, Lodewijk Severein, 57, following the arrest in Valencia of Juan Cuenca Lorente, 36, former director of Murcia's volleyball team, for which Ms. Visser played during 2009-2011.  

Two other suspects in the case, both Romanian citizens, were also arrested. 

The couple's bodies were found in a shallow grave in a lemon grove two weeks after they disappeared on May 13, and shortly after they checked into a Murcia hotel.

The couple had an appointment to meet with a fertility physician on May 14, but when they failed to make the appointment, local authorities were alerted. Their rental car was found on a city street more than a week later.

Volunteers also plastered the walls of the city with posters appealing for information about the missing couple.

The police investigation led them to a house in Molina de Segura, a town outside Murcia, and the shallow grave nearby. 

COMMENT: It is believed that Cuenca Lorente orchestrated the couple's murder over a major business dispute. Details to follow.

Murcia is the seventh largest city in Spain, with a metropolitan population of 693,000. It is located on the Segura River, in the Southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, well known for a mild climate and relatively low precipitation.

New Zealand: "Accidents" Continue in Adventure Tourism, Operator Charged with Manslaughter

COMMENT: Below is a link to continuing evidence that New Zealand's adventure tourism industry is in need of mandatory laws and protocols that ensure the safety and welfare of participants.

A recent victim was Australian Chelsea Callaghan, 38, who was killed on a Riverlands Adventures quad bike tour last October [2012]. Ms. Callaghan suffered fatal head injuries in the north Waikato accident; her life support was turned off a day later. Subsequently, Percy Kukutai, the owner of Riverland Adventures, appeared in the Pukekohe District Court last month, charged with her manslaughter.  

Police investigating the crash said Kukutai was charged after they found "hundreds" of safety deficiencies.

Riverland Adventures' website states that no previous quad biking experience is necessary for those on its tours. It provided only a 15-minute session on how to ride a quad bike before participants embark on a tour. 

In July 2012, another woman suffered head injuries after her quad bike rolled on a Riverlands Adventure tour.

Sadly, Prime Minister John Key has failed to initiate best practices designed to ensure that tour operators are drug-free and adhere to the same equipment safety standards employed in developed nations.

In the interim, tourists and travelers to New Zealand are urged to exercise caution before participating in any high-risk, discretionary form of adventure tourism.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/8718069/Manslaughter-charge-for-quad-bike-tour-owner

México: Sixteen Killed on Bus After Tire Blows, 19 Injured, Passengers Should Visually Inspect the Bus

A tourist bus spun out of control after a tire blew out yesterday (May 26) and turned over, killing 16 people in central México and injuring 19 others.

The accident occurred Sunday afternoon as a group of tourists was returning to Mexico City from a weekend trip to the thermal baths in the town of Santa María Amajac. The nationalities of those killed and injured were not released.

COMMENT: According to media reports, the bus flipped over after the driver lost control of the bus. The vehicle was described by witnesses as a 1970 vintage vehicle in poor operating condition. 

The dead included seven men, seven women and two children died.

As I have said so often in the past, it is essential that tourists and travelers learn to be very cautious when selecting bus travel, particularly when it comes to non-essential or discretionary travel. 

Asking a bus driver to turn the engine on will offer some indication of the condition of the vehicle. Passengers should also ensure that there is a secondary escape from the bus, that  fire extinguishers are present and that all tires have reliable tread.

Another important facet is to determine whether the driver is equipped with a mobile phone, although all travelers should carry such a phone at all times that permit them to make both local and international calls with ease. 

All travelers should be mindful of the fact that tour bus accidents are a common occurrence throughout Latin America where safety standards are not a priority.


México: Federal Missing Persons Unit Created, Readers Should Not Expect Immediate Results

According to EFE, the federal government in Mexico City announced on Monday (May 27) the establishment of a Missing Persons Search Unit aimed at ending the “bureaucratic labyrinth” facing thousands of citizens in the search for their loves ones.

Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam said that the creation of the unit seeks to provide continuity to the investigation of missing persons cases and answers regarding the whereabouts of the 26,121 people who have disappeared in México.


It is unknown as to whether the 26,121 includes non-Mexicans.

COMMENT: The unit will initially be staffed with twelve officers from the Federal Public Ministry, although it is uncertain whether the twelve officers will all be based in Mexico City, which defeats a more rational approach of having each state propose a competent and honest investigator with experience in missing persons from each of the 32 states, including the DF.

Representatives from the states is critical in that they know the local culture, laws, terrain and have trusted contacts they can reach out to.

Unfortunately, the database that the Federal Public Ministry will rely on is controlled by the Interior Ministry, which will no doubt further complicate a determination of what happened to 26,121 people.

One missing persons case in particular that may fall outside the realm of missing Mexicans is the disappearance of Canadian citizen Trevor Roseborough, 53, who lived on a boat near Puerto Vallarta, but hasn’t been heard from in over 16 months.  

According to THE PROVINCE, Roseborough settled in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, on the Bahia de Banderas, near Puerto Vallarta, roughly two years ago to live a life in the sun. When family and friends stopped hearing from him, they contacted authorities in both México and Canada who determined that Roseborough has not used his bank account or email since January 2012. 

If anyone has seen Roseborough or has any information of his whereabouts, contact RCMP Cpl. Sue Tupper at 604-969-7568, email: nvcoldcase@rcmp-grc.gc.ca or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

Additionally, it is estimated that as many as 80 US citizens have also disappeared in México in recent years.

It is essential that any foreigner traveling to México ensure that family and friends have a copy of their planned schedule, including the phone numbers of where in México they will be staying.

With only 12 officers assigned to the missing persons unit, seeking to close 26,121 missing person cases, it is very doubtful that we will see any real success from the newly created unit.




 




Malaysia: British Woman, 25, Dies in Diving Accident, Friend Injured, Outside Safety Zone

According to The Australian, Briton Madeline Jayne, 25, was struck by a passing boat's propeller while diving off a group of popular resort islands in the South China Sea off Peninsular Malaysia's east coast.  Additionally, Australian Simon Rogers, 22,who was diving with Jayne was also injured, but survived.
 
Jayne suffered serious injuries to her lower limbs and torso in the accident early on Monday (May 27) off Pulau Perhentian Kecil and died on the way to hospital.

Rogers was injured in both legs and stomach and was taken to the University Sains Malaysia Hospital in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, on the mainland.

COMMENT:  Initial conclusions by police suggest that the two  victims were diving in an area which is off-limits to swimmers and were not wearing inflatable safety jackets as required by local law.

Investigators stated that the incident occurred as boat operator Mohd Azwan Mohamad, 23, was passing through the area to bring tourists to the island resort. According to police, the boat operator was operating lawfully and hit the two divers accidentally.

From a lessons-learned standpoint, foreign divers and swimmers should always ask knowledgeable locals which areas are off-limits to snorkelers and divers. Additionally, even if snorkeling, it is prudent for divers to post a diving flag in the area they are operating in.

The Perhentians are a sprinkling of idyllic islets off northeastern Malaysia popular with tourists because of their beautiful waters and coral reefs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Colombia: Fisherman Killed by Jaguar Near Turbo, 2nd Attack Since April

A local fisherman, Matias Escarpeta, was killed by a jaguar on Thursday (May 23) in a rural area outside of Turbo, a city in northern Colombia, the second attack of its kind in the area since April, according to El Colombiano.

Escarpeta was attacked and killed while checking his nets in Bocas del Atrato, a village on the Gulf of Uraba.

COMMENT:  Foreign travelers to northern Colombia should be keenly aware that jaguars are relatively common and continue to survive and flourish, despite the fact that their natural habitat, palm plantations, are being destroyed.


A jaguar also killed a heavy machine operator in Bocas del Atrato in April 2013.


Additionally, for travelers who believe that all wildlife is "cute," Colombia includes predators such as jaguar, puma, various forms of colorful poison dart frogs (don't touch!) and an ample supply of poisonous snakes and spiders. 

Consequently, it is not a bad idea for all off-trail visitors to give all wildlife a wide berth and to carry a walking stick and a sharp knife for nominal protection. Additionally, all wildlife with young should be rigorously avoided.




UK: PM, Family Enjoys Spanish Getaway While Terror Crisis at Home is Uncertain

According to The Mirror, and as a follow-up to my posting of May 26, PM David Cameron, his wife, Samantha and their children were photographed enjoying a getaway on Ibiza as authorities arrested four other suspects in the unprovoked terror attack on Drummer Rigby which occurred on the streets of London on Wednesday (May 22), as his family mourns the soldier's being hacked to death.

COMMENT: While Mr. Cameron was in Ibiza, his grieving family and supporters traveled from Manchester to the streets of ­Woolwich in southeast London to pay tribute to the soldier who was a victim of Islamist terrorism by Nigerian-born naturalized Britons.

Sadly, Britons who participated in the march voiced their disappointment that the PM was too busy to march with them.

Unfortunately, many heads of government and heads of state are never where they should be at a time of national crisis, drawing public attention on their imprudence, disrespect, bad timing and lack of sensitivity.

Admittedly, all heads of government and heads of state deserve time off to relax as we all do, yet the PM's untimely vacation also gave the Parliament's opposition an opportunity to criticize. 

Labor MP John Mann added: “This reinforces the message that this is a part-time government. It’s inappropriate to jet off so soon after what has happened. He should be at his desk, doing his job."

In today's technological world, the reality is that cabinet ministers carry on with the government's business, as leaders respond to emails and phone calls, yet from a standpoint of political optics, it is clear that the trip to Ibiza was ill-timed, particularly considering that the PM did not know whether further attacks are expected.

Nine suspects have now been taken into custody over Rigby's murder, including assailants Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, both of whom were arrested following the attack. Three of the nine have been released.

Kenyan police confirmed Adebolajo had previously been arrested close to the border with Somalia, where the al-Qaeda linked militant group, al-Shabab, is based.



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Global Impact: Unprovoked Attacks on Military Personnel in US, UK a Call for Enhanced Strategies

According to Reuters, British counter-terrorism police on Saturday (May 25) arrested three persons suspected in the involvement of the intentional hitting of a British soldier with a motor vehicle and subsequent execution of the victim with meat cleavers and knives.

Before, during and following the attack on the soldier, two of the soldier's assailants were quoted as shouting Islamist slogans.

Eight people have now been detained in connection with the murder on Wednesday (May 22) of Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, who previously served with British Army coalition forces in Afghanistan. Rigby had served as a member of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are under armed guard in a local hospital after being shot and arrested by police on suspicion of murder on Wednesday. Adebolajo and Adebowale attacked outside Woolwich Barracks in southeast London, and then attacked him with bladed instruments, before being shot by police. The pair told bystanders they were acting in revenge for British wars in Muslim countries.

COMMENT: French police have also been investigating whether the stabbing of a soldier patrolling a business district west of Paris on Saturday (May 25) was a copycat crime. The soldier was injured and his assailant fled.

A source close to the investigation told Reuters earlier this week that both men suspected to have attacked the soldier were known to Britain's MI5 domestic security service. However, neither man was deemed to pose a serious threat. The question is...why were they not perceived to be a threat? In the interest of public safety, and protecting one citizen from another, why couldn't Adebolajo and  Adebowale have been put under surveillance?

At a minimum, countless physical attacks in a number of Western nations, many resulting in death, seems to represent a call for enhanced public safety strategies against radicalized Islamists, regardless of our preoccupation with political correctness.

The brutal attack by a radicalized Islamist, active-duty Major Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, at Ford Hood (Killeen, TX) on November 5, 2009, has conveniently been categorized as a "workplace violence incident" by the Obama Administration, rather than calling it what it is, an act of terrorism. It should also be noted that Hasan is a licensed psychiatrist and continues to paid his military salary, some four years after the attack, which resulted in the deaths of 13 and the injury to 30 others.
 
Days after the shooting, reports in the media revealed that a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) had been aware of e-mail communications between Hasan and the Yemen-based American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been monitored by the NSA as a security threat, and that Hasan's colleagues had been aware of his increasing radicalization for several years. The cleric was later killed by an armed drone.


What I personally find fascinating albeit alarming is that that there were so many precursor indicators of Hasan's growing radicalization as an extreme Muslim going back to the mid-to-late 1980s, not to mention his email exchanges with Anwar al-Awlaki. Sadly, Hasan's shooting rampage at Fort Hood might well have been prevented if the US Government's addiction to being political correct had focused more directly and appropriately on Hasan's loyalty to the US.

It seems reasonable to conclude that all Western nations have a lawful and appropriate responsibility to investigate any person, native-born or naturalized, if they pose a threat to another citizen and to take action in protecting the public.

As background on both Adebolajo and  Adebowale, see:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woolwich-attack-terror-suspect-michael-adebolajo-was-arrested-in-kenya-on-suspicion-of-being-at-centre-of-alqaidainspired-plot-8632398

The public safety strategies of the US and British governments must quickly shift as terrorists modify their tactical options.

What is so similar in both the Boston Marathon attack and the attack on Drummer Rigby is that US and British authorities had previously interviewed the respective assailants and seemingly discounted them as being a clear and present danger.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pakistan: Update--No Word on Fate of Two Kidnapped Czech Tourists Abducted by Taliban

As a follow-up to my previous postings concerning the March 13, kidnapping of Czech tourists Hana Humpálová and Antonie Chrástecká , both 24, while traveling by van from Iran through Pakistan's troubled province of Balochistan, virtually no information has been released by Pakistani or international media concerning the abduction of the two women 2.5 months ago.

If the Czech Foreign Ministry, foreign governments or media outlets have current information on specifically where the two women are being held, they are keeping it to themselves, as media reports on the kidnapping have seemingly dried up.

What is known is that a Taliban unit from Afghanistan is believed to have kidnapped the two young Europeans and spoke to the women in English. Additionally, the kidnap team of upwards of ten gunmen were very detailed and ensured that the luggage belongings to the two women was placed into their 4x4 vehicle.


It is believed that the Taliban unit that seized a Swiss couple, Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 29, in 2011, and held them for eight months, may very well have been the same group that kidnapped Humpálová and Chrástecká. Och and Widmer were abducted while traveling by camper van in Pakistan's volatile south-west region and had been held on the Afghan border.

COMMENT: Although Och and Widmer claimed to have escaped from the Taliban, based upon my handling of a number of kidnappings over the years, it seems very unlikely that kidnappers would successfully hold foreign captives for eight months, moving them from place to place, feeding and caring for them and avoiding capture by security forces, only to make a mistake and enable them to escape. In all likelihood, a substantial ransom was paid for the release of the Swiss citizens, albeit covert.

On January 5, 2012, British physician Khalil Rasjed Dale, who was working for the ICRC (International Committee for the Red Cross), was kidnapped while driving near his office in Quetta, only to be found beheaded four months later. His body was found in southern Baluchistan province, with a note attached which said he had been killed because a ransom had not been paid to his captors.  Dale had been a Muslim convert for more than 30 years.

Another prominent kidnap victim is Warren Weinstein, a US contractor who was kidnapped by al-Qaeda from his residence in Lahore on August 13, 2011. Three guards and his driver are being held in connection with his abduction, nearly two years ago.

What is so interesting about the Weinstein kidnapping is that Dr. Weinstein was scheduled to permanently leave Pakistan and return to his family home in Maryland the day after his kidnapped. Thus, it is clear that those who participated in his abduction clearly knew the details of his movements and travel plans. In September 2012, a "proof-of-life" video clip was received by US authorities. 

Roughly 25 years ago, the US Department of State used to state in all US passports the countries to which travel by Americans was prohibited. Obviously, in response to travelers' criticism of such restrictions, the practice was abolished.

Yet, in today's world, with so many countries engaged in military hostilities or conflicts involving rebel groups who challenge central governments, we have seen over and over again foreigners being abducted for months on end with some often being murdered. I could easily offer a list of the kidnappings of foreigners, yet it would be a very lengthy list.

The point that I'm attempting to get around is that the majority of foreign travelers who visit high-risk countries experiencing war-like conditions often have little comprehension of the threats they face.

In Humpálová and Chrástecká's case, they traveled from Iran into Pakistan largely to save on travel costs. Had they traveled by commercial air they very likely would not be experiencing what they now face.  

According to previous statements by the Czech Foreign Ministry, the ministry confirmed that the two female Czech tourists who were abducted from Chagai Balochistan in Pakistan have been shifted to Afghanistan by the Taliban.

Note: Balochistan is situated in the southwest of Pakistan and covers an area of 347,190 square kilometers (134,050 sq mi). It is Pakistan's largest province by area constituting 44% of Pakistan's total land mass.

Hearing nothing from kidnappers for weeks or even months is normal in developing countries, it just means that those responsible derive some pleasure in tormenting the family and friends of kidnap victims so as to increase fear and anxiety over how their loved ones are being treated. 

As I have said previously, tourists in Pakistan should restrict their activities to ONLY major cities, but they still need to be cautious and careful. They should also take steps to NOT dress as tourists.

Regarding the kidnapping of the two Czech tourists, shortly after they were kidnapped, Daud Khattak, senior editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty authored an experience-laced piece that is a "must-read" for those concerned for the welfare of these two young travelers. Please see Daud's piece below. He can be reached at KhanD@rferl.org:

http://www.praguepost.com/news/15747-no-mans-land

Having traveled extensively in Pakistan, I can offer the following ten points to foreigners traveling to the country:


1. Travel to and from Pakistan ONLY by commercial air;

2. Read the travel warnings your government's foreign affairs agency has issued regarding travel to Pakistan BEFORE you initiate travel and follow the advice implicitly;

3. Register your travel itinerary with your Embassy. If they have a mobile phone app, download it so you can receive security updates;

4. Have a dependable mobile phone that will enable you to communicate locally and internationally on a 24/7 basis;

5. Pakistan is slightly less than twice the size of California. It is a vast country where foreigners are uniformly disliked;

6. Assume that in Pakistan you are both a terrorist and criminal target. The way in which Pakistanis view you will confirm this reality;

7. Avoid setting a pattern in your day-to-day activities. Do NOTHING at the same time each day;

8. Staying healthy in Pakistan is directly related to your personal security. Therefore, be medically prepared for any foreseeable event;

9. Avoid traveling at night, unless it is a very short distance;

10. Identify the few people you trust without reservations and place their phone numbers in your speed-dialer. Without a local support network, you are at risk. 

Finally, if you are required to work or travel in a high-risk area within Pakistan's borders, particularly in Balochistan, you should request special security support from your employer, which may very well include driving in a ballistic-resistant vehicle with an experienced and trustworthy driver.

If you are not working in Pakistan, AVOID Balochistan.