RyPul Threat Assessments

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Middle East Threat Assessment Specialist Assist In US Public School Security

RyPul Threat Assessments has partnered with national bullet proof companies, glass protection experts and weapons manufactures to help devise bullet resistant products that can assist in the protection of life on US school campuses, in residential properties and workplaces around the country.

Warren Pulley is the owner of RyPul Threat Assessments LLC, which specializes in assisting clients in learning how to defend and protect themselves on their campuses, workplaces or residences. Pulley believes this is much a needed service in Southern California, the United States and around the world.  As a Certified Worldwide Protection Specialist, trained by the U.S. State Department, Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Military, Pulley has worked in high threat environments around the world. Through RyPul Threat Assessments Pulley has now brought his skills home from the war zone and other high threat areas into our schools, residences and businesses near you. Pulley stated “as our country continues to experience the pains of school shootings, take-over robberies and work place violence involving guns, I decided that I needed to share my experience, training and expertise with anyone ready to take defense of themselves, their students, their homes, their businesses and employees to the next level”.

RyPul Threat Assessments motto is “Detect, Design, and Defend”

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RyPul Threat Assessments has taken on several clients in the United States since opening for business, RyPul has also partnered with bulletproof fabrication companies to help provide cost effective bulletproof products for clients at all levels and financial means.  As the owner of RyPul Threat and Site Assessments, Pulley has also appeared on network television, been interviewed by several regional media newspapers and visited local area schools to speak with students, teachers and administrators about the importance of being aware of security threats that may affect their environment. “

RyPul specializes in conducting School Threat Assessments, Residential Security Planning, Personal Protection Assessments, Site Security Planning, Asset Tagging and Tracking as well as providing physical Risk Mitigation Options.  RyPul Threat and Site Assessments can be found at

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Choctaw Nation To Install Bullet Resistant Door Shields

By Warren Pulley, CEO
RyPul Threat Assessments

Los Angeles, CA. – If corner stores and pawn shops merit safety from ballistics and dynamic shooters, then our schools and kids merit in any event this much, as indicated by Sage Dyer Stafford, a Choctaw attempting to follow up on this idea with her business Safer Schools for America (SSFA).

Minutes subsequent to making this point to a room loaded with Choctaw Nation authorities, police, and security officers, Stafford’s point was punctuated as shots struck—however did not infiltrate—an exhibition entryway. An impenetrable entryway shield, planned by Stafford, effectively halted rounds and shells from guns, pistols, and shotguns.

Her bullet resistant entryway shield is one and only of numerous items offered by the organization as a major aspect of a three-stage arrangement, and Stafford amassed a group of specialists to refine this arrangement.

As indicated by Stafford, at this moment the three-stage procedure can transform the classroom into a sheltered room. Step one is to secure the classroom entryway, which is finished with a moment remote lock framework. Step two is to shield the entryway from being shot down, kicked down, or broke, and is accomplished with the all inclusive entryway shield. Step three is to ensure the classroom’s glass with security cover. Once set up, the three-stage arrangement leaves the classroom secured without changing the look of an ordinary classroom setting.

Warren Pulley, worldwide physical risk evaluation consults for SSFA, said the most critical thing is to have some approach to secure kids when they are within our school structures.

“By the day’s end, once a shooter fires a round, you need to have some approach to stop the round,” Pulley said. “The items I tested for Safer Schools for America do precisely that.”

At present, the Choctaw Nation and SSFA are cooperating to actualize the three-stage program in all Choctaw Nation head start programs and child cares. “With the changing environment and the accessibility of weapons and dynamic shooter situations, I think it would be an injury to our kids to not do this,” Cecilia Armendariz, Director of Facilities Management for the Choctaw Nation, said. “What’s more, with this being a Choctaw organization, what an incredible chance to experience our statement of purpose.”

SSFA makes it less demanding for schools and folks to help secure their youngsters in various ways. Pledge drives are conceivable through Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA), where folks, instructors, and youngsters can offer things like shirts and caps to raise cash. Also, 10 percent of each buy, including buys from organizations and associations, is given to schools not able to manage the cost of execution of the framework.

Arrests Show Arrival of Barrio 18 Gang in Italy

Barrio 18 members arrested in Italy

Italian police arrested 15 suspected Barrio 18 members in Milan and other nearby cities in northern Italy, reported AFP.

The group — which was mostly comprised of Salvadorans but also reportedly included two Italians — is accused of crimes including extortion, drug trafficking, armed robbery and the attempted murder of a rival from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang.

An Italian judge ordered the arrests following an investigation that began in January 2014 after a female Salvadoran accused one of the group’s members of sexually assaulting her, according to AFP.

SEE ALSO: Barrio 18 News and Profile

Central American gangs like Barrio 18 and MS13, which are known as “maras,” have been operating in Italy for years, particularly in northern immigrant communities, the report added.

InSight Crime Analysis

Over the last two years, security forces in both Italy and Spain have noted the expansion of the MS13 in Europe, and these latest report confirms they are not alone — their great rivals in Barrio 18 have also crossed the ocean.

The key question surrounding this development is whether the spread is a result of Central American migrants bringing mara street gang culture with them and setting up autonomous networks, or whether these new European based factions are running criminal operations with maras in Central America, suggesting the gangs have made the leap into transnational organizations.

Both gangs are also well established in parts of the United States and the US government has already designated the MS13 a transnational criminal organization, ranking them alongside criminal groups such as the Mexican cartels. However, despite evidence of cross-border collaboration in criminal activities, the decentralized nature and highly localized and territorial focus of the maras has always cast doubts on this classification.

There have also been reports of the Spanish maras coordinating with their counterparts in the Americas, but even if this level of cooperation were to expand, it is unlikely they would have the capacity to coordinate serious transatlantic criminal operations. If they were to seek to establish control over transnational activities such as drug trafficking in Europe, they also would likely encounter formidable opposition; in Spain drug trafficking and associated activities such as contract killing is largely controlled by offshoots of Colombian cartels, while Italy is the domain of powerful and well-connected mafias such as the ‘Ndrangheta.

Uruguay an Important Weapons Source for LatAm Criminals?

The Santa Bernardina Air Base

The Santa Bernardina Air Base

An ammunition heist from an Air Force base in Uruguay points to corruption in the country’s security forces, and further indicates that the generally peaceful country serves as a prominent source of weapons for South America criminal groups.

Investigations by Uruguayan authorities found that roughly 18,000 pieces of ammunition stolen from the Santa Bernardina Air Base ended up in the hands of criminal groups in Brazil; including Rio de Janeiro’s notorious Red Command (Comando Vermelho), reported El Pais.

The munitions theft — believed to have occurred sometime between November 2014 and February 2015 — was made public on June 21 by Congressional delegate Jaime Trobo.

According to investigations, the stolen ammunition weighed between 650 and 750 kilograms, and was removed from the base through its main gate using a truck. During the months the robbery is believed to have taken place, security cameras, motion sensors, and electric fences guarding the base’s weapons depot were not functioning.

Around 20 soldiers are under investigation. Mid-ranking soldiers and officers are also expected be implicated as investigations progress, reported El Pais. It is also possiblemore ammo was stolen than initially believed.

In 2007, the Uruguayan Air Force experienced a similar weapons theft, which resulted in four soldiers, three civilians, and one prison inmate being charged for stealing and organizing the weapons’ sales to Brazilian criminal groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

The theft of such a large amount of ammunition from an active Air Force base could not have occurred without complicity on the part of corrupt soldiers and officers.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

While such instances of corruption are less common among Uruguay’s security forces, they are not without precedent. In 2012, around 20 police officers came under investigation for removing over 200 firearms from police stockpiles and selling them to Brazilian criminal groups. More recently, in April, three policemen and a businessman were arrested on suspicions they were trafficking guns to Brazil’s Red Command.

According to a 2009 report by the Small Arms Survey, while having the highest per capita civilian gun ownership in South America (one firearm for every three people), Uruguay has a relatively small collection of modern small arms (61,000). However, much of this inventory was found to be useless, owing to reductions in military personnel. The report also documented a surplus of around 80,000 outdated rifles, sub-machine guns, and light machine guns, which serve no function in Uruguay’s national strategy and whose status was unknown.

The existence of such surplus weapons stocks may prove too tempting an opportunity for some corrupt military officials. Neighboring Brazil offers a prime market, where evidence suggests groups like the Red Command have been seeking to obtain ever more powerful weapons. In 2013, 40 percent of weapons seized in Rio de Janeiro were listed as “category A” — including rifles, machine guns, and submachine guns — representing a 33 percent increase since 2009.

Mexican Internal Security Policy Failures

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto touted security accomplishments in his State of Union speech. Some of his claims need some serious scrutiny.

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto’s state-of-the-union address

In his third State of the Union address the President acknowledged the last 12 months have been a “difficult year” for Mexico. He spoke of the 43 students disappeared in Iguala, Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman’s escape from prison and accusations of corruption at many levels of government, including the Executive Branch.

“These situations are all very different from each other, but they all hurt the spirit of the Mexican people and their trust in public institutions,” Peña Nieto said.

Defending his leadership through all this, the President presented a series of figures as proof of crime and security accomplishments. They included falling homicide andkidnapping rates and some of the lowest crime statistics in 17 years.

Additionally Peña Nieto highlighted the capture of 92 figures on Mexico‘s 122 most dangerous people list along with improved coordination and intelligence sharing to combat organized crime.

“We’re not just capturing them, we’re undermining their organizations and financial capacities,” he said.

Looking to the next three years of his term, the President put forth a 10-point plan centered around improving security and the rule of law while also jump starting the economy.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to Animal Politico, Peña Nieto’s claim of the second lowest crime rates in 17 years hinges on comparing two distinct categories of crime: “high impact crime” (mostly consisting of violent crime) vs total crime.

Aside from statistical shenanigans, official crime figures may not reflect the facts on the ground, as evidenced by a recent Mexico victimization survey, known as Envipe, which pointed to large differences in the amount of crimes occurring and the number reported to authorities.

If crimes do reach authorities there’s no guarantee they’ll be handled properly, according to a separate report by Animal Politico. Two out of three Mexican states reportedly had to revise their crime statistics this year. Some of the more egregious cases coincided with Mexico‘s major crime hotspots. For example, in May Sinaloa state announced it would add more than 10,000 preliminary investigations which had somehow not been registered over the last three years. Meanwhile in Atlantic-facing Veracruz state authorities admitted to failing to register nearly 300 homicides in 2013.

Further complicating the matter are Mexico‘s issues with forced disappearances. In February the Mexican government took issue with a United Nations report which statedforced disappearances (often involving security forces) are widespread and met with near total impunity. Many of these victims ended up in mass graves in which identifying the victim, and thus recording a crime, becomes difficult.

Looking at the President’s boast of capturing 92 of Mexico‘s 122 most dangerous people, it’s worth noting that a number of those arrested were reportedly caught during the previous administration.

The list itself has also been called into question after Mexico‘s Attorney General’s Officeremoved 10 names from it. Those removed included Sinaloa cartel underboss Juan Jose Esparragoza, alias “El Azul,” and Juarez cartel leader Juan Pablo Ledezma.

With Mexico‘s economy stagnating and Peña Nieto’s approval rating at an all time low, it’s to be expected the President would try and spin crime and security statistics in his favor. What is of real concern is his plans for the next half of his presidency.

The President’s recent appointment of Renato Sales as Mexico‘s new national security commissioner raises doubts. Outlining his agenda Sales put forth prison reform and increasing trust in Mexico’s Federal Police as top priorities. This leaves open questions on how Peña Nieto’s administration plans to make gains against Mexico‘s fragmenting and evolving organized crime groups which may not be as susceptible to Mexico‘s previous strategy of targeting criminal leaders.

US awards $4.6m to UNICEF for safer schools programme

ISLAMABAD: The United States of America has awarded $4.6 million to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for the four-year Safer Schools Program in Pakistan. The program aims to ensure children affected by humanitarian crises have access to a quality education by making schools safe from all forms of disasters—natural or man-made.
Assistance provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will increase resilience in affected communities and build the capacity of children, teachers, and parents to prevent, reduce, and cope with challenging situations that impact children’s education. With USAID funding, UNICEF will manage educational services for 53,000 children displaced from North Waziristan. Over 10,000 children, nearly half of whom are girls, have already been identified and enrolled in Temporary Learning Centres and established host communities. Approximately 100 teachers have been trained in psychosocial support, health and hygiene promotion, and techniques for teaching in challenging environments.
“It is important that the educational and social well-being of the innocent children belonging to temporarily displaced families not have their education impacted by this misfortune,” Pakistan’s USAID Mission Director, Gregory Gottlieb said. “Whether these children reside in camps established for the internally displaced population or with communities hosting them, a secure learning environment for a sustainable, quality education is imperative to not just the children but also their communities.”
“We are grateful to USAID for the provision of these funds as they ensure restoring educational services for children of the affected families,” said Angela Kearney, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. “With these funds, we are currently providing quality education to these children, many of which have never been to school before. It is imperative that their education continues without any disruption when they return to their native areas.”
This program is part of a comprehensive education strategy that United States is implementing in partnership with the government of Pakistan. Other education related activities under this partnership include building or renovating 989 schools serving over 300,000 students, training over 7,000 new teachers, providing more than 1,595 scholarships to aspiring Pakistani teachers, 70 percent of which is committed to women. Since 2005, the United States has also awarded over 3,000 scholarships through the Fulbright and Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Programs.
Counter terrorism: Civil Defence training starts in Girls Colleges. RAWALPINDI, Jan 15 (Online): On the directions of Punjab Government, 2 days civil defence training has started in girls colleges in Rawalpindi. Training would impart by civil defence instructors to some of the students and teachers from 50 colleges to cope and take necessary measures in case of any untoward incident. After two days of training an exam will be taken and certificates would be awarded to the passing candidates. The passed candidates than would impart training to other students and teachers of their respective colleges.
Meanwhile, Punjab Minister for Labour and Manpower and head of Monitoring Committee, Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, inspected 10 public and private institutions located in Rawalpindi city and cantonment areas on Thursday. The provincial minister inspected necessary security arrangements as indicated in the Standing Operative Procedures SOP’s forwarded to the heads of public and private educational institutions regarding adopting precautionary measures to avert any untoward situation after Army Public School Peshawar incident.

Worldwide Travel Caution JANUARY 2015

The Department of State is updating the Worldwide Caution to provide information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated October 10, 2014.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. On September 22, 2014, the United States and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. In response to the airstrikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Kidnappings and hostage events involving U.S. citizens have become increasingly prevalent as ISIL, al Qa`ida and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance their operations through kidnapping for ransom operations. ISIL, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities. Kidnapping targets are usually Western citizens from governments or third parties that have established a pattern of paying ransoms for the release of individuals in custody.

Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.

U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Extremists have targeted and attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation, and maritime services. In the past, these types of attacks have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid, Glasgow, and New York City.

EUROPE: Current information suggests that ISIL, al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. and Western interests in Europe. Authorities believe the likelihood of a terror attack in Europe is increased as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  In the past several years, organized extremist attacks have been planned or carried out in various European countries. European governments have taken action to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.

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MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA: Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.

No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence.  The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable as a civil war between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country.  There is an increased threat of terrorism from groups such as ISL, al-Nusrah, as well as other extremists whose tactics include use of suicide bombers, kidnappings, use of small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March 2011, the United States has received reports of numerous foreigners kidnapped in Syria, many of whom are still in captivity.  The majority of the victims are journalists and aid workers. U.S. citizens and other Westerners have been murdered by ISIL in Syria. Violent extremists from various countries operate in Syria and may be planning attacks against the United States and other Western targets.

A number of extremist groups also operate in Lebanon and the potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists because of periodic terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country. As a result of spillover violence from the Syria crisis, Sunni groups are active and Hizballah, a group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, has been present and active for many years.

U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persists in many areas of the country. ISIL and its allies control Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and have captured significant territory across central Iraq and continue to engage with Iraqi security forces in that region.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitun remain active and operate in southern Algeria and southwestern Libya in the wake of French and African intervention in northern Mali. In September, a French tourist was kidnapped and murdered by an Algerian-based terrorist group. Terrorists have targeted oil processing plants in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In Libya, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests. Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

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AFRICA: Vestiges of extremist elements, including AQIM, MUJAO, and al-Murabitun continue small scale operations in northern Mali mostly related to planting land mines on lines of communication used by UN peacekeeping troops. Terrorist groups have stepped up their rhetoric calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on westerners and others, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.

Additionally, the terrorist group AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (an area that stretches across the African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea to include Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea). It has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, and the murder of several Westerners throughout the region.

Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking, and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas are frequent in Somalia. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and non-military targets such as international donor offices and humanitarian assistance providers. Al-Shabaab retains its demonstrated capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory in Somalia and in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Djibouti.

Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. The first months of 2014 have seen a continued increase in Boko Haram attacks and clashes with Nigerian government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has also targeted women and children for kidnapping, reportedly kidnapping women in northern states for marriage as “slave brides,” and kidnapping more than 200 school girls from a private school in Borno state. Boko Haram is known to descend on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking police and military installations, and setting fire to private homes. U.S. citizen missionaries in northern Nigeria have received specific written threats to their safety and well-being, although none have yet been harmed.

U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed attacks, robberies, and kidnappings for ransom by pirates. The threat of hijacking to merchant vessels continues to exist in Somali territorial waters and as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya in international waters. There has also been a recent rise in piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, including hijackings.

U.S. government maritime authorities advise mariners to avoid the port of Mogadishu and to remain at least 200 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. In addition, when transiting around the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, or in the Red Sea, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys and maintain good communications at all times. U.S. citizens traveling on commercial passenger vessels should consult with the shipping or cruise ship company regarding precautions that will be taken to avoid hijacking incidents. Commercial vessels should review the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.

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SOUTH ASIA: The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. government facilities, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests. The presence of al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, indigenous sectarian groups, and other terror organizations, many of which are on the U.S. government’s list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens in the region. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.

The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets. Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations and airports. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom.

No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and crime, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time. Elements of the former Taliban regime and members of other terrorist organizations hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign nationals remain active in every province of the country.  Furthermore, travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices. U.S. citizens are increasingly targeted for kidnapping. The threat situation in Afghanistan is still considered critical and is expected to remain so through the current political and military transition.

India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly. Anti-Western terrorist groups active in India include Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba. Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas. Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time.

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CENTRAL ASIA: Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in Central Asia. These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. government interests.

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EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC: Information from credible sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region.

There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao.

Over the past year there have been several kidnappings-for-ransom targeting foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines. In addition to incursions on the coastal and island resorts themselves, criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists in the area.

Indonesian security forces have disrupted a number of terrorist cells, including Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization that carried out several significant bombings in Jakarta and Bali over the past decade. Although Indonesian counterterrorism efforts have been successful in preventing terrorists from conducting large-scale attacks in recent years, extremists in Indonesia may demonstrate a willingness and ability to carry out small-scale violent attacks with little or no warning.

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Before You Go

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  When you enroll in STEP, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.  Enrolling will also make it easier for the Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency.  You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important when you enroll or update your information to include a current phone number and e-mail address.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.  For additional information, please refer to Traveler’s Checklist.

U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.  These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

As the Department of State continues to develop information on potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, including Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Country Specific Information, and Emergency and Security Messages, all of which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at  Stay up to date by bookmarking ourwebsite or downloading our free Smart Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).

Actor Stephen Collins admits to sexual abuse of underage girls

Actor Stephen Collins speaks onstage on Aug. 1, 2010 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty)
Actor Stephen Collins speaks onstage on Aug. 1, 2010 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Actor Stephen Collins admits to sexual abuse of underage girls

12/17/14 09:20 AM—UPDATED 12/17/14 10:15 AM

Actor Stephen Collins, who is best known for his role as the wholesome reverend on the former TV show “7th Heaven,” has admitted exclusively to People Magazine that he engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with three young girls during a 20-year span.

Collins, 67, told the publication in a 1,000-word statement that there were three victims, all minor girls, in five separate incidents from 1973 to 1994.

“Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret. I have been working to atone for it ever since. I’ve decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then-wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist’s or my knowledge or consent,” he reportedly wrote to People. Collins and Grant are in the process of finalizing their divorce.

In the statement, Collins wrote that he twice exposed himself to a pre-teenage girl in 1973, and had another inappropriate encounter with the same individual inside his home, the “Today” show reported on Wednesday.

“When the girl and I were watching TV alone, I moved her hand in such a way that caused her to touch me inappropriately,” Collins wrote, according to the “Today” show report. “It was a completely impulsive act, and it’s haunted me ever since to think of what I put her through.”

Collins also admitted to exposing himself to two teenage girls in 1982 and 1994.

He said he directly apologized to one of the women, 15 years after the incident occurred.

Collins came under fire in October after celebrity gossip website TMZ released the audio recordingthat his wife allegedly secretly taped. It reveals a man identified as Collins confessing during a therapy session to molesting three young girls. The New York Police Department also received the recording. The Los Angeles Police Department previously said officers couldn’t verify the tape, given to them in 2012.

“The publication of the recording has resulted in assumptions and innuendos about what I did that go far beyond what actually occurred. As difficult as this is, I want people to know the truth,” Collins added.

On Oct. 9, a victim, who was 13 years old at the time of the incident, reported a child-molestation allegation connected to Collins. Days later, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the accusation.

Collins added that nothing inappropriate occurred on the set of “7th Heaven.” The TV series premiered in August 1996 and was broadcast originally until May 2007. He was cut from several upcoming planned TV and movie appearances following the recent allegations.

Collins, who remained out of the public eye since the recording surfaced, has not been charged with a crime. The victims have not identified themselves publicly.

His full statement will be available in the most recent edition of People, out Friday.

The news comes amid spiraling allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted multiple women in the past. The comedian has never been charged criminally.

Terrorists Among Us

As they have been intermittently since 9/11, Americans are again terrified about terrorism. Those who think a domestic terrorist attack is “likely” in the next few months increased by 10 percentage points from March to September, while the percentage who think the country is “less safe” than before 9/11 rose by 19 points over the past year. This change in perception occurred precisely as the Islamic State intended with the dissemination of its horrific beheading videos of two U.S. citizens in late August and early September, which 94 percent of Americans saw or heard about — the highest percentage of any news event in the last five years. Despite this spike in fear, as several U.S. officials declared soon after: “We have no credible information that [the Islamic State] is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.”

But the consequences of the Islamic State’s graphic videos were swift, significant, and, apparently, unshakeable. And that new-old fear of terrorism appears to have shifted a “war-weary” country’s attitude on taking military action.

Polling conducted shortly before and after the videos were released demonstrated that support increased for U.S. airstrikes from 52 percent to 78 percent, for deploying U.S. ground troops from 19 percent to 44 percent, and for providing arms to Syrian rebels from 25 percent to 62 percent. This is unsurprising because people exposed to threatening television news coverage are far more likely to support hawkish foreign policies.
And, as it turns out, there’s untapped militarism in America’s strategic reserves. Since the Islamic State released its highly effective provocative videos, U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized the expansion of bombing into Syria, the Pentagon has deployed 475 more troops (“advisors”) to Iraq, and Congress has approved funding to train, equip, and sustain 5,000 “appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.” Within two weeks, the White House, Congress, and the American people were overwhelmingly enthusiastic to start an open-ended military intervention against a 30,000-strong terrorist organization — an intervention that Pentagon officials acknowledge will last “in terms of years” and Obama warned will require “a generational change.”
Contrast this unprecedented heightened fear of terrorism originating from Iraq and Syria with three brutal and malicious terroristic activities that recently occurred in the United States. Contrast this unprecedented heightened fear of terrorism originating from Iraq and Syria with three brutal and malicious terroristic activities that recently occurred in the United States.
On Sept. 18, just after 3:30 p.m. at his mobile home in Bell, Florida, Donald Spirit shot and killed his daughter and all six of her children (ages 11, 9, 8, 5, 4, and 3 months) with a .45-caliber handgun that he had illegally obtained as a felon. Spirit then called 911, informing the dispatcher of the murders he had committed and telling her, “I’ll be sitting on my steps, and when you get here I’m going to shoot myself.” He then sat on his back steps, and when sheriff’s deputies arrived, Spirit kept his word.

In the prior eight years, the Florida Department of Children and Families had conducted 18 child protective investigations into the family for abandonment, abuse, and neglect. Spirit, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had been involved in six of the incidents and was an alleged perpetrator in an additional three of them, and a 2013 review recommended that he “have no unsupervised contact” with his grandchildren. Thirteen years earlier he had fatally shot his son in the head in what was determined to be a hunting accident, for which he received a three-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm.
On Sept. 25, Alton Nolen was suspended from his job on a production line at a Vaughan Foods distribution center in Moore, Oklahoma. His co-worker, Traci Johnson, had filed a complaint with the human resources department concerning an altercation she had with Nolen “about him not liking white people.” After being suspended, Nolen drove to his apartment to retrieve a large-bladed knife. He returned to the distribution center at 4:15 p.m., entered the front offices, grabbed an employee, Colleen Hufford, from behind, and “immediately began cutting her across the throat with the large knife, with a back and forth sawing motion [and] severed the victim’s head from her body,” according to the criminal affidavit. (Moore later told police that Hufford was not among his three intended victims, but that she had gotten in his way.) Nolen then cut Johnson’s throat and face before an off-duty Oklahoma County reserve officer shot at Nolen three times with a rifle, hitting him once and wounding him.
In 2011, Nolen had apparently converted to Islam while serving two years in state prison for the assault and battery of an Oklahoma state police trooper, during which he shouted Arabic phrases. Moreover, though the Cleveland County district attorney said, “There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings,” he emphasized that the murder and attack “seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day.” Nolen was charged with three felonies, and the district attorney announced he will seek the death penalty.
On Sept. 26 at 5:06 a.m., Brian Howard, a field technician for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contractor, entered an air route traffic control center in Aurora, Illinois, pulling a black suitcase containing several knives, four gallons of gasoline, towels, and a lighter. After a half-hour, he posted a warning on Facebook of what he was about to do at the center. Howard said that the “immoral and unethical acts” of the U.S. government were why “terrorists and 3rd world nations hate us, because our tax dollars go to more unrest than rest. So we deserve the retribution from people who do not have the same ability for education, work and way of life.” Minutes later, Howard selectively severed data and communications cables, destroyed computer equipment, and wrapped gasoline-soaked towels around additional cables and set them on fire. When paramedics arrived, they found Howard on the ground with his wrists slit and in the process of slicing his throat. His work colleagues theorized that Howard had possibly become despondent about an impending transfer to Hawaii.
Howard’s actions were devastating to hundreds of commercial airliners that had been relying on the severely damaged facility. Pilots and air-traffic controllers could not make radio contact, and the radar locations of the affected aircraft were suddenly frozen in place on air-traffic controllers’ screens. It was only after air-traffic controllers at nearby FAA facilities relocated the planes and provided the pilots with emergency flight routing instructions that all the flights landed safely. The FAA administrator described it as “an act of sabotage where someone willfully and knowingly damaged key infrastructure for our national airspace system.” In the four days following the attack, there were 3,900 flight cancellations, with an estimated loss in economic activity of $123 million, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
It is a certainty that if any of these incidents were directly tied to the Islamic State they would have resulted in an overwhelming national outcry to do something, including the still further expansion of military objectives abroad and constraints of civil liberties at home. However, we have become fairly inoculated to such horrors, even those identical to what terrorists groups aspire to accomplish, when the perpetrators are Americans with obvious mental health illnesses and criminal backgrounds. Bizarrely, we are less afraid of the devastation of terroristic acts than we are of the motivations of the people behind such acts. Bizarrely, we are less afraid of the devastation of terroristic acts than we are of the motivations of the people behind such acts.
These three terrible crimes will not be labeled “domestic terrorism,” apparently because they do not include the three mandatory characteristics listed in the U.S. government’s Code of Federal Regulations: intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government, or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. Yet, in many ways, such extreme violence and sabotage are worse than acts labeled “terrorism” because while terrorism has some degree of logic and strategic purpose that can be countered by well-known and widely accepted counterterrorism policies, countering random sadism and sabotage would require true and deep examination of many domestic policies and of ourselves.

We treat “terrorism” in the common vernacular differently because it is ascribed to foreigners who are unlike us, whereas similarly savage behavior conducted by fellow Americans is a reflection of us. That terroristic acts conducted by Americans occur so frequently within the United States and receive such little public scrutiny or policymakers’ attention suggests that this sorely needed self-scrutiny will never occur.

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