A top-secret communications system used by criminals to trade drugs and guns has been ‘successfully penetrated’, says the National Crime Agency, which worked with forces across Europe on the UK's ‘biggest and most significant’ law-enforcement operation. Major crime figures were among over 800 Europe-wide arrests after messages on EncroChat were intercepted and decoded. Over two tonnes of drugs, several dozen guns, and £54m in suspect cash was seized after an investigation initiated and led by French and Dutch police which also involved Europol - the EU agency for law enforcement cooperation. Wil van Gemert, of Europol, told a press conference that the hacking of the network had allowed the ‘disruption of criminal activities including violent attacks, corruption, attempted murders and large-scale drug transports’. The operation lasted three months: 171 were arrested in the UK, including two law enforcement officers. See also the Europe article on the Netherlands.

Boris Johnson is expected to draw up plans to phase out Huawei from Britain’s 5G phone networks now that US sanctions have undermined the Chinese telecoms equipment maker’s ability to supply the UK market with exactly what it promised. Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said that GCHQ can no longer guarantee Huawei’s security. Mr Dowden’s department has yet to deliver its conclusions to Mr Johnson, who has said he does not want the country to be ‘vulnerable to a high-risk state vendor’. Huawei has stated that it remains ‘open to discussions’. China's ambassador to the UK warned that if the UK got rid of Huawei it would send out a wider message about its openness to foreign investment. MPs are currently discussing the implications of a potential ban.

Forest fires have ravaged several villages in Luhansk in areas held by Russian-backed separatist forces. Water-bombing planes, the national armed forces and hundreds of firefighters are battling high winds and soaring temperatures that are spreading the fires. The governor of Luhansk region suspects the fires were started by arsonists. He hopes that separatists nearby are not attacked as they tackle the blazes but ‘cannot give any security guarantees’. Luhansk is currently divided between Ukrainian control and the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) amid an ongoing conflict in the east of the country. More than 13,000 people have been killed so far. Also, recent heavy flooding hit nearly 300 towns and villages in the west of the country. Climate change, illegal logging, and deforestation have all been blamed.

Six men were arrested in the Netherlands following the discovery of seven shipping containers converted into cells and torture chambers after French police cracked encrypted phones used by criminals. Dutch police said the containers were found before they were used, and potential victims were now in hiding. Officers found handcuffs attached to the floors and ceilings of the structures, which had also been soundproofed. They also discovered police clothing and bulletproof vests, pruning shears, scalpels, and balaclavas. Police also found another criminal base in Rotterdam. Two of the suspects were also detained for possession of weapons. The arrests are among 800 made across Europe related to gang warfare in drugs and money- laundering activities after EncroChat messages were intercepted and decoded. EncroChat, based in France, had an estimated 60,000 subscribers. See also UK article ‘Criminal chat network cracked’.

November 2020 will be the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts. They left England to escape religious persecution and establish the freedom of self-government, in the New World. The Declaration of Independence and the constitution were laid down by the founding fathers. The USA became a blessing to desperate and hopeful people from the nations, because of the culture of freedom and faith in God. American missionaries invested their lives in the spiritual restoration of the Old Continent, and until now have continued to impact the nations of Europe with the Kingdom of God. However, the strategy of the enemy is to destabilise, create conflicts in society, and gain control of governments. In 2020 the tragic death of George Floyd, BLM riots, and an out-of-control pandemic are threatening a divided electorate prior to November’s elections and the 400th anniversary of God’s freedom in the new world.

‘Annexation’ is actually Israel extending its civil rule over areas that are under its military rule. Whether Israel does this over a small area of what is in President Trump's peace plan, or over all of it, makes no substantive difference to nations and international organisations who are angry about what Israel might do. As this process drags on, it gets more confusing and the headlines become more depressing. Lord, guide Israel to know how you want them to pray and act so that You alone receive the glory (Psalm 115:1-3). The IDF and Israel's other security forces are preparing for an increase of violence over annexation. It is not known if this will lead to another intifada with many deaths, or just a brief display of anger followed by a let's-go-back-to-work attitude from the Palestinians. Currently the security forces are stopping an average of three terror attacks a day.

This prayer update is based on input from a contact of International Prayer Connection who is living in the region (for the full letter click the ‘More’ button). ‘Covid-19 spreads like wildfire and it looks as if the whole country is penetrated by this virus. We received reports that it has now reached the mountainous areas, whereas previously it was mostly contained in the larger cities. Many are dying because of lack of medical facilities. People are poor and cannot afford to buy oxygen cylinders. Many brothers and sisters, expats and locals, have become quite seriously ill. Some are suffering from tiredness, anxiety and depression.’ The UN said the new coronavirus outbreak is casting ‘a huge shadow’ over Afghan daily life. Under the government’s leadership, the UN is supporting a coordinated response that includes setting up a nationwide network of laboratories and the provision of personal protective equipment.

Although emigration is increasing because of the new national security law, many people will leave not because of communism or a lack of unfettered democracy, but due to never-ending disruption to their lives and careers and their children’s future. In October 2019 an annual survey of attitudes towards migration found 42.3% of Hong Kong respondents wanted to emigrate - mostly to Canada, Australia or Taiwan. It was 33% in 2018. Decades of political and economic uncertainty, combined with entrenched unresolvable divisions between people pleased to be rejoined with the mainland and those who still hanker for former colonial rule, has caused uncertainty and unrest. Hong Kong’s population planners concentrate on birth and death rates, but a meaningful force for population change has been migration. With little hope of earning enough to buy a family home, many may decide they have little to lose. Hong Kong’s property cartel is pushing inequality to the brink.

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