Americas: Security forces foil bomb plot ahead of Lula’s inauguration in Brazil

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence; civil unrest

In Brazil, on 24 December an unidentified assailant was arrested after an attempted bomb attack near the international airport in the capital Brasilia. Security forces deactivated the explosives found in a fuel truck after they were alerted by the driver. The detainee was linked to a group of supporters of outgoing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who deny the election results and have camped outside the army headquarters urging the military to overturn president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s victory. On 12 December, a group from the encampment attempted to attack the federal police’s headquarters in Brasilia. The transition team stated that it would increase security and requested that the Supreme Court temporarily suspend the carrying of firearms in Brasilia in the coming days ahead of Lula’s inauguration on 1 January. The risk of political violence will remain heightened, at least until Lula is sworn in.

Asia Pacific: North Korean drone incursions signals defiant and emboldened regime

Sectors: all
Key Risks: nuclear war; war on land; economic risks

In the Korean Peninsula, tensions flared up between the North and South when on 26 December five North Korean drones crossed into South Korea’s airspace – the first intrusion of its kind in five years. Seoul scrambled fighter jets and attack helicopters but failed to shoot any of the drones down due to their relatively miniscule size and over concerns of civilian safety as the drones flew over several South Korean cities. The military drew criticisms over its failure to respond to the incursions with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pledging to secure more anti-drone strike capabilities and expediting the creation of a military drone unit. The incursions came as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un unveiled new goals for its military on 28 December, hinting at increased weapons testing after an already record number of missile tests in 2022. 

Eurasia: IS-K kills senior Taliban security head in Afghanistan 

Sectors: government and security forces; Chinese, Pakistani, Russian and Iranian diplomatic and business interests
Key risks: political violence, civil unrest, targeted attacks

In Afghanistan, on 26 December three people, including senior Taliban security head Abdulhaq Abu Omar, were killed in a car explosion near the regional police headquarters in Faizabad, Badakhshan province. Islamic State regional affiliate – IS-Khorasan (IS-K) – claimed responsibility for the attack that injured two others. According to the Interior Ministry four suspects have been arrested. Omar is reportedly the highest-ranking Taliban security official killed since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. The incident is the latest in a series of attacks claimed by IS-K against Taliban government forces and those perceived allied to it, including an attack on a Chinese-owned hotel and against the Pakistani Ambassador in Kabul. Further attacks are likely and indicate a growing challenge to the regime’s ability to maintain security – a challenge the Taliban is both tackling and exacerbating by showing its strength and control through the tightening of women’s liberties.

Europe: Moscow bans oil exports to countries supporting price cap on Russian oil

Sectors: oil and gas; energy
Key Risks: economic risks; business risks

In Russia, on 27 December President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning the sale of crude oil and oil products to countries implementing a price cap on Russian oil. The move came in response to a price cap of US$60 per barrel introduced by the EU, G7 and Australia on 5 December aimed at curbing Russian state revenues to finance the war in Ukraine. Moscow’s ban on crude oil exports will be in force for five months beginning from 1 February 2023 while the start of its oil product export ban is yet to be determined. Furthermore, on 23 December Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak stated that Moscow may reduce its oil output by 5-7 per cent in early 2023. A disruption in the supply of Russian oil is likely to result in higher oil prices globally.

MENA: New Israeli government moves closer to inauguration

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; political violence

In Israel, on 27 December the Knesset passed a controversial amendment to the country’s basic law that will allow individuals serving suspended sentences to serve in government positions, clearing the way for the appointment of Arye Dery – leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party – as minister despite a recent conviction for tax fraud. Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party attained a majority in the 1 November elections and agreed to form a coalition government with the far-right religious nationalist bloc in exchange for key cabinet appointments. The new administration, the most far-right in Israeli history, is expected to make the development of settlements in Palestinian territories a priority, risking a further escalation of tensions in the West Bank.

Sub-Saharan Africa: The Gambia investigates 21 December foiled coup

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability, political violence 

On 27 December in The Gambia, Banjul established an 11-member inquiry panel to investigate the 21 December foiled coup. The panel has 30-days to report its findings. The panel includes members from the justice ministry, the office of national security, military forces, the police and intelligence agencies. The panel’s establishment came after authorities arrested more suspects in recent days. A second-lieutenant of the Gambian infantry and a captain from the military intelligence and security unit were arrested on an unspecified date and assisted investigators in the inquiry of the attempted coup to overthrow the government of President Adama Barrow. Authorities also arrested opposition leader Momodou Sabally – an ally of former president Yahya Jammeh – after he appeared in a video suggesting Barrow would be deposed before the next local government elections. Political instability will remain high, driven by deep divisions in the military.