Americas: Ecopetrol reports first major attack on Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline in 2021

Sectors: oil and gas
Key Risks: terrorism; targeted attacks against oil infrastructure

In Colombia, state-owned oil firm Ecopetrol’s Cano Limon-Covenas (CLC) pipeline was hit by the most relevant attack so far reported in 2021. On 22 January Ecopetrol’s transport and logistics subsidiary Cenit reported that the pipeline was targeted with explosive devices in rural Saravena municipality, Arauca department, causing a fire that forced pumping to be halted. Although no group claimed responsibility, ELN guerrillas and dissident former FARC rebels operate in the area. Ecopetrol’s assets in Arauca have reportedly been targeted four times so far in 2021, with the firm also recently reporting that oil theft from its pipelines, particularly from the CLC, increased by 46 per cent in 2020, causing total annual losses of around US$50m. Oil theft and attacks against the country’s main pipelines, namely CLC and the Transandino pipeline, will remain the sector’s main security concerns in 2021.

Asia Pacific: Anti-government protest continue in Nepal; minor Sino-Indian border clash reported

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; war on land

In Nepal, anti-government rallies continued in the capital Kathmandu to protest against Prime Minister Sharma Oil’s dissolution of parliament and the ordering of snap elections scheduled to take place in April and May. The latest rally also drew support from three former prime ministers from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, with the Supreme Court currently hearing petitions challenging the move to seek early elections. Elsewhere in the region, Indian and Chinese troops reportedly engaged in a ‘minor’ clash on 20 January near Naku La area in the state of Sikkim. An unknown number of soldiers from both sides were injured during the skirmish. The area is perceived to be particularly sensitive since a number of confrontations also broke out in Skimi’s Nathu La during the 1967 border war that killed hundreds of Chinese and Indians soldiers.

Eurasia: Navalny protests in Russia; Nord Stream 2; US Afghanistan review incoming

Sectors: oil and gas; all
Key Risks: sanctions; political stability; violent unrest; political violence; war

In Russia, significant numbers attended nationwide anti-government protests following the jailing of Alexei Navalny. Protests were more violent than usual and were stirred more by a heightened anti-government sentiment than by Navalny’s plight or the rule of law. However, while protests are likely to recur sporadically, the likelihood of a major movement emerging or of a significant weakening of the Kremlin’s hold on power remains low. The fate of Russia’s Nord Stream 2, work on which recommenced on 24 January, may be dictated by the US response to this, amongst other issues. Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced the expected review of the Afghanistan strategy, including its February 2020 deal with the Taliban. While the militant group has not reduced violence or cut ties with al-Qaeda, international forces risk direct attacks if they remain in the country beyond May 2021.

Europe: Italy’s PM about to step down; Estonia’s new government; France close to new lockdown

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability

In Italy, local media reported that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is likely to resign in the coming week in hopes to form a new government with a larger majority. The government has been in crisis since Italia Viva withdrew from the coalition over disagreement with a proposed economic recovery package. Conte survived two no-confidence votes last week, but his government remains too weak to pass large legislation convincingly. Elsewhere, in Estonia a new government was agreed after Juri Ratas resigned as prime minister over his cabinet’s implication in a corruption investigation. Prime Minister-designed Kaja Kallas will lead her Reform Party as the dominant partner in a coalition with the ruling Centre Party. In France, President Emmanuel Macron is considering imposing a fresh lockdown as a nationwide 18.00 local time curfew has done little to lower the COVID-19  infection rate.

MENA: Protest repression in Tunisia; violent protests in Israel; IS attacks in Iraq on the rise

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; violent unrest

In Tunisia, protests have been ongoing against the crippled economy due to COVID-19 and lack of government support. The most recent protest took place on 23 January following new COVID-19-related restrictions which included a ban on demonstrations. The fresh restrictions are considered to be a form of protest repression and tensions are expected to rise. Similarly, in Israel, there have been continued clashes between police and ultra-Orthodox communities amid frustrations over lockdown restrictions, including riots and protests in Jerusalem, Ashdod and the ultra-orthodox city of Bnei Brak. Elsewhere, in Iraq, Islamic State (IS) activity is on the rise with double suicide bombing attacks in central Baghdad on 21 January and a thwarted missile attack on Baghdad International Airport on 23 January. As the US troop drawdown from Iraq continues, concerns are rising that IS could make a resurgence.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopian troops attack Sudanese security forces in disputed al-Fashqa area

Sectors: all
Key Risks: violent clash; war

Ethiopian security forces reportedly fired mortar shells at a Sudanese patrol in the disputed al-Fashqa border area in the eastern al-Gedaref state. No casualties were reported. The attack came amid escalating tensions between Addis Ababa and Khartoum over the territorial dispute in the al-Fashqa region, after Khartoum reported Ethiopian militia killed six people in an attack on 11 January. Ethiopians have farmed in the area for years, which has given rise to spiralling flare-ups between the two groups. Relations have been aggravated by strains between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt that have failed to agree on the terms of negotiation for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Khartoum has indicated it has no intention of provoking war in the al-Fashqa region but warned it would respond to Ethiopian aggression. There is a persistent risk of military confrontation in the al-Fashqa region.