This is the 23rd issue of the feature called the IBC Threat Assessment (IBC-TA) that was initiated in November 2014. It is intended to inform our readers about ongoing and emerging CRBNe-threats that need the attention of policymakers, experts and ordinary citizens. If left unattended these threats may result in grave consequences for different sectors of our societies and/or the security of ordinary citizens. As the threat environment is constantly changing existing regulations, crisis plans or security protocols are often insufficient and in need of adaptation or review. Every TA will cover a threat for each CBRNe category. The TA’s are based on open sources.

Topics covered in this assessment:

  • The US issued a package of sanctions directed against Syrian officials and entities by itself as Russia blocked a UN Security Council resolution following the findings of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM)
  • Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice presents its National Security Profile 2016, an all hazards overview of potential disasters, threats and crises
  • Dutch National Security Profile 2016 assesses radiological risks as very unlikely
  • As the Kim Jong Un regime reportedly resumed operations at a plutonium reactor in Yongbyon the new US Trump administration tries to define a new North Korea policy
  • The year 2016 was the deadliest in the history of suicide terrorism

End date of collection: January 31, 2017

Chemical

The US issued a package of sanctions directed against Syrian officials and entities by itself as Russia blocked a UN Security Council resolution following the findings of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM)

  • As Russia blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Syrian sanctions following the conclusions of the final JIM report, the US issued a new package of sanctions by itself.
  • Early January, the Syrian government has provided detailed documentation about the terrorist use of chemical weapons that has been investigated by the OPCW.
  • During a counterterrorism offensive in Aleppo government forces found storages of chemical missiles and agents indicating a continued existence of a terrorist capability to use chemical weapons.

Late October 2016, the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) released its fourth report that claimed that the government of he Syrian President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons at least three times in Syria throughout 2014-2015. The findings of the report were the basis for a draft resolution of the UN Security Council aimed at issuing sanctions against Syrian officials and entities. The resolution wanted to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist eleven Syrian military commanders and officials. It also sought to blacklist ten government and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them. The JIM report identified the main persons linked to the chain of command, including president Assad and his brother. As Russia blocked passage of the resolution the US decided to issue its own package of sanctions on January 12. This package is focused on eighteen persons but excluded the Syrian president and his brother.

In early January the Syrian government handed over detailed documentation about a mustard gas attack by Daesh. An unexploded shell was recovered to substantiate the contents of the documents. The 240 mm shell reportedly was found near the village of Maarat Umm Hawsh on November 16. It is believed that it was used in a September 16 attack on the village in which over 40 civilians were injured. Similar unexploded projectiles containing chlorine and white phosphorus were found in a district of Aleppo. In late September, Daesh reportedly fired mortars containing toxic gases in the towns of Harbal and Um Hosh, north of Aleppo.

In its latest monthly report on Syria, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) presented the results of a fact-finding mission that looked into the charges of the Syrian government that chemical weapons were used in eleven instances. The mission found that some people in Syria were exposed to Sarin gas.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has identified 139 incidents in which chemical weapons were used in Syria and has constructed an interactive map and time-line of the attacks during the period of December 2012 to September 2016. It also collected visual documentation in the form of 392 verified videos related to these attacks, including videos related to the nine specific incidents investigated by the JIM. The SNHR database on incidents is more extensive than the IHS Conflict Monitor that collected information on 52 chemical attacks in Syria and Iraq.

Assessment

Despite UN resolutions and sanctions by the US, reporting continues on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government and terrorist organizations against civilians in Syria. Recent counterterrorism offensives have degraded existing terrorist capabilities significantly. The organizations involved, however, had sufficient warning time to move chemical weapons and agents to safer places. It can be assumed that a terrorist capability to use chemical weapons continues to exist.  Their arsenals include industrial-grade toxic chemicals as well as pure chemical warfare agents. Continued reporting on alleged chemical attacks justifies a renewal of the mandate of the JIM.

Sources:

https://syrianarchive.org/p/blog/cw_database_2016/

http://www.shafaaq.com/en/En_NewsReader/7ba9cf11-0fc6-4a15-9be4-208f0a71b117/ISIS-Used-Chemical-Arms-at-Least-52-Times-in-Syria-and-Iraq–Report-Says

http://news.trust.org/item/20170113161316-kt7zo/

http://europe.newsweek.com/united-nations-syria-syria-gas-attacks-france-britain-535005

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201601051032698549-syria-chemical-weapons/

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201701131049571328-syria-terrorists-chemical-weapons/

https://sputniknews.com/world/201701171049671240-south-korea-syria-chemical/

http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/397018.html

http://en.alalam.ir/news/1901942

http://en.alalam.ir/news/1898843

http://sana.sy/en/?p=97203

https://www.rt.com/news/370653-syria-chemical-aleppo-militants-opcw/

Biological

Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice presents its National Security Profile 2016, an all hazards overview of potential disasters, threats and crises

  • In December 2016 the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice presented the National Security Profile 2016 (NSP), a quadrennial overview of all hazards that could disrupt Dutch society.
  • The NSP establishes a baseline for decision-making on the development of capacities to mitigate and reduce the possible consequences of future disasters, threats or crises.
  • The NSP covers biological threats and presents four scenarios, two for human infectious diseases and two for animal infectious diseases.

In December 2016, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice presented the National Security Profile 2016 (NSP), a quadrennial all hazards overview of all risks of disasters, threats and crises that could disrupt Dutch society. The NSP is part of the National Security Strategy and is produced by the Analyst Network National Security (ANNS) on orders of the Steering Group National Security. The ANNS consist of a core of six major organizations (RIVM, TNO, AIVD, Clingendael, ISS, WODC) and a wider circle of other research institutes, security regions, government agencies, companies and consultancies.

The NSP contains thematic analyses, technological developments and international developments that may have an impact on risks for the medium term. The NSP also describes developments and trends that may result in changes of current risks or may result in new risks.

Chapter four deals with threats to health and environment and covers four risk categories: environmental disasters, food crises, anti microbial resistance (AMR) and infectious diseases (human, animal and zoonoses). The infectious diseases category is divided in human diseases and animal diseases and zoonoses. For each of these two categories a most likely and a worst-case scenario is developed based on the building blocks of existing and available scientific knowledge. For the human infectious diseases the two developed scenarios deal with a severe flu pandemic and a moderate flu pandemic. For the animal diseases the scenarios deal with an outbreak of avian influenza and a moderate outbreak of mouth and claw disease. Based on the available knowledge a risk diagram is constructed based on the severity and the likelihood of the respective crises.

The likelihood of a flu pandemic is assessed as high. On the basis of recent developments it cannot be expected that the likelihood can be reduced significantly. Due to climate change in combination with globalization (international transport and trade) ‘exotic infectious diseases’ could be brought to the Netherlands. Also huge interconnected nature parks in Europe may result in higher risks of infectious diseases (via vectors like mosquitos).

On the one hand urbanization may reduce risks as people have less contact with nature and vectors that spread diseases. On the other hand urbanization increases the risk of spreading diseases. With the current population distribution trend (a higher number of elderly people) there will be a bigger vulnerable category of people. This may result in  a higher number of hospital entries and deaths during a flu pandemic.

Assessment

The NSP is a useful document that will be used for current and future decision-making on various governance levels to set priorities and develop capacities for mitigating the consequences of emerging and possible disasters, threats and crises.

As an attempt has been made to collect information from all possible knowledge sources in the country from various agencies and institutes, an important baseline has been established that can be adapted depending on new information and emerging scientific knowledge. By using building blocks likely and worst-case scenarios for a number of hazards were developed for the medium term.

By integrating the results of these various scenarios in a risk diagram policymakers have an important tool to set priorities and make important choices to develop capacities and take measures to mitigate and reduce the consequences of future disasters, threats and crises. The Dutch NSP document may serve as an example for other countries to follow and prepare a document based on their own national characteristics and available expertise.

Sources:

https://www.nctv.nl/binaries/Nationaal Veiligheidsprofiel 2016_tcm31-232083.pdf

Radiological

Dutch National Security Profile 2016 assesses radiological risks as very unlikely

  • In December 2016 the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice presented the National Security Profile 2016 (NSP), a quadrennial overview of all hazards that could disrupt Dutch society.
  • The radiological risks for the Netherlands are covered in the chapter on severe accidents and the two developed scenarios assess the risk of severe accidents in the coming five years as very unlikely.
  • The Netherlands has a very well established crisis management infrastructure but the NSP emphasizes the need for specialized knowledge and a sufficient number of crisis managers.

In December 2016, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice presented the National Security Profile 2016 (NSP), a quadrennial all hazards overview of all risks of disasters, threats and crises that could disrupt Dutch society. The NSP is part of the National Security Strategy and is produced by the Analyst Network National Security (ANNS) on orders of the Steering Group National Security. The ANNS consist of a core of six major organizations (RIVM, TNO, AIVD, Clingendael, ISS, WODC) and a wider circle of other research institutes, security regions, government agencies, companies and consultancies.

The NSP contains thematic analyses, technological developments and international developments that may have an impact on risks for the medium term. The NSP also describes developments and trends that may result in changes of current risks or may result in new risks.

The radiological risks for the Netherlands are covered in chapter five on severe accidents that also deals with severe chemical and transport accidents.  In the Netherlands there are three locations with nuclear reactors (so-called A-locations): the nuclear reactor in Borssele, the high-flux reactor in Petten and the Higher Education Reactor of the Reactor Institute Delft. In addition there are several locations where radioactive materials are produced or handled like URENCO (production of LEU) in Almelo, COVRA (storage of nuclear waste) in Nieuwdorp, and several laboratories and hospitals using various radioactive materials. Finally, there are transports of radioactive materials (via railway, road, air sea).

Accidents with nuclear reactors in neighboring countries may have an impact on Dutch society. A distinction can be made between nuclear plants right across the border in Belgium (Doel, Thiange) and Germany (Emsland plant in Lingen). In case of accidents they may have a direct impact on the Netherlands. In addition, there are reactors further away in Europe that may have an indirect impact on the Netherlands in case of accidents (e.g. security measures related to the food chain).

The NSP concludes that nuclear energy levels in the Netherlands and Europe will remain fairly stable for the coming period. It does not expect that newly emerging technologies (e.g. small thorium reactors) will be implemented in the coming 15 years. The NSP describes the organizational changes in the field of Dutch nuclear security and presents the current crisis management infrastructure in case of accidents and/or disasters.

The NSP emphasizes the need for specialized knowledge and a sufficient number of experts and crisis managers. Based on the building blocks of existing knowledge the NSP developed two scenarios. The first is a severe radiological accident in the reactor in Borssele and the second is a severe radiological accident further away in Europe. The likelihood of these two scenarios for the coming five years is assessed as very unlikely. In both scenarios the NSP describes the territorial, physical, economic, ecological and social-political consequences.

Assessment

The NSP is a useful document that will be used for current and future decision-making on various governance levels to set priorities and develop capacities for mitigating the consequences of emerging and possible disasters, threats and crises.

The NSP does not reflect the recent intensified debates in Europe about the role of nuclear energy and the enormous shift to solar and wind energy. It also does not reflect the recent concerns about the security of Belgian nuclear reactors which have led to protests and political pressure to close unsafe reactors.

Nevertheless, the NSP remains an important document with a useful baseline that can be adapted depending on new information and emerging scientific knowledge. The scenario of an accident further away in Europe could be compared by assesments made by agencies in other European countries.

Sources:

https://www.nctv.nl/binaries/Nationaal Veiligheidsprofiel 2016_tcm31-232083.pdf

Nuclear

As the Kim Jong Un regime reportedly resumed operations at a plutonium reactor in Yongbyon the new US Trump administration tries to define a new North Korea policy

  • Recent satellite imagery indicates that North Korea may have resumed operations at a plutonium reactor in Yongbyon.
  • After a failed policy of strategic patience of the Obama administration, the new Trump administration has to define a more effective policy that is likely to include stepped up sanctions.
  • Differing American and Chinese strategic interest on the peninsula complicate the adequate enforcement of sanctions.

Recent satellite imagery indicates that operations at the 5 MWe plutonium reactor located at the Yongbyon  Nuclear Scientific Research Center have likely resumed. During the New Year’s Day address, Kim Jong Un announced that the country has entered the final stage of preparation to test and fire an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. There is a rising concern that the country could soon perfect the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and mount it on an ICBM. During 2016, the country conducted 20 missiles launches and two nuclear tests. Expert assessments indicate that North Korea could be able to strike the US mainland with a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade. It could also gradually expand its nuclear arsenal with reprocessed plutonium and enriched uranium.

While President Trump has vowed to take strong actions to combat Pyongyang’s nuclear threat it is not clear where his focus will be. He fueled speculation of possible US military action to pre-empt North Korean weapon development. After his inauguration he sent the new Pentagon chief general Mattis to countries in the region, including South Korea and Japan. The US needs to cooperate with other countries in its attempt to prevent North Korea from achieving its stated objective. The US will soon deploy a Terminal High-Altiture Are Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea, despite objections from China.

During a recent congressional hearing experts made proposals to minimize the risk of miscalculation on both sides. They include the appointment of a serious and trusted special envoy.

Assessment

Due to the failed policy of strategic patience of the previous administration the current Trump administration is convinced that diplomacy alone will not be sufficient and that it has to do more to convince Pyongyang to relinguish its nuclear program. Among the options being discussed are the increased use of sanctions, the ramping up of missile defense in the Asian Pacific, increased cooperation with allies in the region and boasting the flow of information into the repressive regime to erode its stability. There are different views on the degree of stability of the North Korean regime. It is of yet uncertain whether the Trump administration will make regime change an explicit policy goal or whether he will be willing to initiate pre-emptive military action.

Sources:

http://38north.org/2017/01/yongbyon012717/

http://www.ibtimes.com/north-korea-war-kim-jong-uns-next-step-will-be-provoking-donald-trump-confront-china-2484488

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/mattis-departs-first-trip-asia-u-s-stance-north-korea-unclear/

http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=3029284

http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2017/01/31/assessing-u-s-policy-options-toward-north-korea/

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/lawmakers-lament-bipartisan-failure-north-korea-policy/

http://www.voanews.com/a/north-korea-analysis-is-collapse-imminent/3699107.html

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/think-tank-says-satellite-images-indicate-north-korea-has-restarted-plutonium-production-nuclear-1603559

http://38north.org/2017/02/rcohen020117/

Explosives

The year 2016 was the deadliest in the history of suicide terrorism

  • Istishhad and inghimasi attacks by Salafi jihadi terrorist organizations have made the year 2016 the deadliest in the history of suicide terrorism.
  • The most affected countries by suicide terrorism in 2016 were Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan and Cameroon.
  • Western Europe has become a more active theater for suicide bombings in 2016 and the use of women to execute suicide attacks has spread to countries where they had not previously operated.

In January the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) of Tel Aviv University released its latest annual report on suicide terrorism. Yoram Schweitzer and his research team collected information on 469 suicide attacks in 2016 (compared to 452 in 2015), carried out by 800 perpetrators (compared to 735 in 2015) in 28 countries (compared to 22 in 2015) and causing the death of 5,650 people (compared to 4,330 in 2015) and injuring 9,480 others (compared to 8,800 in 2015).

The main affected countries by suicide terrorism in 2016 were Iraq (146), Syria (55), Afghanistan (52), Nigeria (37), Yemen (34), Somalia (29), Libya (28), Turkey (21), Pakistan (20) and Cameroon (15). Western Europe became a more active theater for suicide bombings in 2016, mainly in France, Germany and Belgium. Daesh affiliates for the first time executed suicide bombings in Afghanistan (13) and Pakistan (3).

Daesh was the leading perpetrator being directly or indirectly responsible for approximately 70 percent (322) of the attacks recorded by the INSS. Other major perpetrator organizations were the Boko Haram, Taliban, al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, PKK, TTP, Jamaat ul-Ahrar and AQIM.

The involvement of women in suicide bombings in 2016 was again significant in 2016, with 44 attacks carried out by 77 women in eight countries around the world. The INSS researchers found that the use of women as suicide terrorists expanded in 2016, primarily in theaters in which they had not previously operated: France, Austria, Morocco, Libya, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Most of these operations were foiled by security forces.

In its own propaganda Daesh has claimed almost four times more suicide attacks than included in the INSS report. Schweitzer and his research team decided not to include these attacks as these attacks were neither reported in detail in the media nor supported by independent sources or evidence from the field.

While the INSS reported 322 suicide attacks by Daesh, the organization claimed to have executed a total of 1,112 ‘martyrdom operations’ in 2016. An infographic released by the organization specifies the targets of the attacks, the type of attacks, the location of the attacks and the monthly numbers. From the infographic it can be deducted that most attacks occurred during the intense counterterrorism offensives by the Syrian and Iraqi military in 2016. In Iraq most attacks occurred in Kirkuk (20), Baghdad (69), Salahuddin (136), Anbar (193), Nineveh (311). In Syria most attacks occurred in Homs (33), Raqqa (36), Deir Ez Zor (36), Hasakah (49), and Aleppo (150).

Most suicide attacks were directed against the Iraqi military and Peshmerga ((761). Other major targets were the Syrian regime (133), PKK (135), Syrian opposition and Turkish army (83). The car bomb was by far the most popular delivery method (797). The statistics indicate that the suicide bombing was a preferred tactic to cause attrition and delay for approaching military forces.

Assessment

The statistics and analysis provided by the INSS research team indicate that the tactic of the suicide bombing is still a major feature of the operational strategy of terrorist organizations, the vast majority of which belong to the Salafi-jihad movement. For these organizations self-sacrifice or martyrdom (istishhad) remains a principle of faith.

Also the tactic of the so-called complex attack (inghimasi), the use of multiple attack teams approaching from different directions, using different tactics including suicide to enter a hard military target, remains popular in current jihadi theaters. The INSS report nor the Daesh infographic do specify how many of the recorded suicide attacks were part of inghimasi attacks. News reporting indicates that the tactic has been used against UN peacekeeping bases and military bases in several jihadi theaters with devastating and lethal results.

The ongoing military offensives against Daesh in Iraq and Syria are expected to degrade the capabilities of the organization to execute suicide attacks, especially car bomb attacks. As it loses territorial control and its main strongholds the organization is expected to be more strongly motivated to execute revenge attacks for these losses and could turn to more vest and belt attacks. Fighters may move to other jihadi theaters to join affiliated organizations and reorganize. This may result in a lower number of suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria in 2017 but an increase in other theaters. In the near future terrorist organizations may also turn to newly available technologies. Daesh already has demonstrated the successful use of UAVs for the delivery of IEDs.

Sources:

http://www.inss.org.il/index.aspx?id=4538&articleid=12773

http://www.timesofisrael.com/2016-was-deadliest-year-ever-for-suicide-bombings-worldwide/

https://jamestown.org/program/entering-era-unmanned-terrorism/

https://www.academia.edu/1113578/Suicide_Bombings_in_Operation_Iraqi_Freedom

http://www.secureamericanow.org/inghimasi_isis_s_deadly_tactial_approach

SHARE
Previous articleNY water tests find no industrial chemical contamination
Next articleExplosives detection: the world’s first sniffer drone
Berto Jongman (1955) majored in western sociology at the University of Groningen in 1981. He began his academic career at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in Sweden. From 1982 to 1987 he worked as a researcher at the Polemological Institute of the University of Groningen where he participated in a project on early warning of armed conflict and political violence. In 1987 he moved to the University of Leiden where he acted as data-manager of the Project on Interdisciplinary Research on the Root Causes of Gross Human Rights Violations (PIOOM). In 2002 he moved from academia to government. From early 2002 to late 2012 he worked as a senior terrorism analyst for the Dutch Ministry of Defence. During this period he participated in a number of Advanced Research Working Groups of NATO, e.g. on radicalization, cyber crime/terrorism and the use of Internet by terrorist organizations. A large part of his work at the Ministry involved terrorist threat assessments, including the quarterly assessment of the terrorist threat to the Netherlands for the NCTV. He left the Ministry of Defense in late 2012 and is currently active as a consultant in the area of CBRNe.