Category Archives: Evacuations
Via the State Department:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Libya and strongly advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli and all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid, and southern Libya, including border areas and the regions of Sabha and Kufra. Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department’s ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in these regions of Libya is extremely limited. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated March 11, 2013.
In early May, the security situation in Tripoli deteriorated when armed groups seized Libyan government buildings in a dispute over a law regarding officials of the former regime. In response, on May 8, the Department of State ordered the departure of a number of U.S. government personnel in Tripoli.
The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable. Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country. U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens traveling to, or remaining in, Libya should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.
Read in full here.
- Pentagon Explains Use of Forces in Benghazi (blogs.wsj.com)
- French embassy in Tripoli hit by car bomb (timesofmalta.com)
Late today, the State Department updated its January 16, 2013 Travel Warning for Mali. Once again warning against all travel to Mali because of ongoing fighting in northern and central Mali, the new Travel Warning now includes the announcement that it has ordered the departure all family members not employed at the embassy, for up to 30 days.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali because of ongoing fighting in northern and central Mali, fluid political conditions, the loss of government control of Mali’s Northern provinces, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of westerners. While the security situation in Bamako remains relatively stable, the recent escalation of hostilities around Mopti in northern Mali has heightened tensions throughout the country. Mali continues to face challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of factions linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). On January 18, the Department of State ordered the departure of all dependent family members who are not employed at the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali, for a period of up to 30 days.
The Malian government has banned all public demonstrations and Interim President Dioncounda Traore declared a State of Emergency effective January 12. The state of emergency, which will last for 10 days with a possibility for extension, enables the government to take extraordinary measures to deal with the crisis in the north. As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations, have temporarily suspended operations in Mali or withdrawn some family members and/or staff. The U.S. Embassy will continue to monitor this situation closely and update U.S. citizens via Emergency Messages which it will post on the U.S. Embassy Bamako website.
Read in full here.
This is the second post to go on
ordered departure evac within the last four weeks; the first one went on authorized departure, then went straight to suspension of operation in early January (see After reopening in 2005, U.S. Embassy Bangui suspends operations. Again.).
We’re not sure if the evacuated families will be sent back to the D.C. area. As the ordered departure is up to 30 days at this time, we are guessing that they probably will be safe-havened at another post in the region. Which does not make this any easier, but if they are temporarily relocated within the region, at least they will not be going from one weather zone to another in the middle of winter, each with just one packed bag.
- US Embassy Mali Imposes Curfew for Official Mission Personnel (diplopundit.net)
- Islamists closing in on Mali’s capital (timesleader.com)
- Merkel Says Mali Mission Protects Europe, Sends Transport Planes (bloomberg.com)
It’s one of those things that roll like thunder during the holidays, and one absolutely has no control over the universe. Our sympathies to the embassy folks at US Embassy Bangui.
On December 22, 2012 it sent the following emergency message:
Despite a Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) summit held yesterday in Chad which called for a cessation of hostilities, rebels of the Séléka alliance have reportedly advanced towards the central city of Bambari, Central African Republic (CAR).
The Embassy has no plans to evacuate at this time. However, for the purposes of contingency planning only, the Embassy would like to inform U.S. citizens that should an evacuation become necessary, the designated assembly point for U.S. citizens will be the residence of the U.S. Ambassador, located near the Tennis Club of Bangui. Only U.S. citizens would be permitted to gain access to this site, and should bring their U.S. passport for identification purposes. U.S. citizen children would be allowed one non-U.S. citizen escort for evacuation purposes. In the event of an evacuation, the Embassy will contact U.S. citizens via e-mail, telephone, and/or radio to inform them to meet at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. Should communication networks not function, U.S. citizens can meet at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence without waiting for notification. However, in no circumstance should U.S. citizens attempt to travel to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence if the security situation within Bangui is not permissive. In this case, sheltering-in-place is advised.
Two days later, the embassy was on authorized departure for non-emergency staff:
December 24, 2012 | As a result of increased rebel activity in the Central African Republic, on December 24, 2012, the Department of State authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. embassy personnel from Bangui, Central African Republic. U.S. citizens should review their personal security situation and consider taking advantage of commercial flights. Embassy Bangui is able to provide only limited emergency consular services.
On Christmas Day, the embassy authorized the departure of additional personnel and suspended operations until further notice.
December 25, 2012 | As a result of increasing insecurity in the Central African Republic, on December 25, 2012, the U.S. Embassy authorized the departure of additional U.S. embassy personnel from Bangui, Central African Republic. The Embassy is also suspending normal operations until further notice. The Embassy strongly encourages U.S. citizens to take advantage of commercial flights to depart the Central African Republic until the security situation improves. Embassy Bangui is able to provide only limited emergency consular services.
Two days later, the State Department announced the Temporary Suspension of U.S. Embassy Bangui Operations
Press Statement | Office of the Spokesperson | Washington, DC | December 27, 2012
The U.S. Embassy in Bangui temporarily suspended its operations on December 28 as a result of the present security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). We have not suspended diplomatic relations with the Central African Republic.
Ambassador Wohlers and his diplomatic team left Bangui today along with several private U.S. citizens. As a result of this suspension of operations, the embassy will not be able to provide routine consular services to American citizens in the Central African Republic until further notice.
This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR.
On December 28, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for the Central African Republic
December 28, 2012 | The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Central African Republic at this time. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended its operations on December 28, 2012, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in the Central African Republic. U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR should review their personal security situation and seriously consider departing, taking advantage of commercial flights. This replaces the Travel Warning of December 23, 2012, to reflect the deterioration of the security situation.
The U.S. Embassy staff in Bangui cannot provide services to U.S. citizens at this time. U.S. citizens in CAR who seek consular assistance should contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at CARemergencyUSC@state.gov.
WaPo reported that at the State Department’s request, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had directed U.S. Africa Command to evacuate U.S. citizens and designated foreign nationals from the U.S. Embassy in Bangui “to safe havens in the region.” Unnamed U.S. officials told WaPo that about 40 people were evacuated on an U.S. Air Force plane bound for Kenya. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the details of the operation.
An unnamed US official also told AFP that Ambassador (Lawrence) Wohlers and his diplomatic team flew out of Bangui at 0000 GMT Friday (Dec 28).
This is not the first time that the U.S. military has been called to evacuate US Embassy Bangui. On May 23, 1996 then President Clinton ordered the deployment of U.S. military personnel to Bangui, Central African Republic, to conduct the evacuation from that country of “private U.S. citizens and certain U.S. Government employees,” and to provide “enhanced security for the American Embassy in Bangui.” The embassy reopened in 1998 with limited staff.
The embassy was similarly evacuated of all staff in 2002 and resumed operations in January 2005. Who knows how long this one will last.
Protestors in Khartoum targetted the U.S., British and German embassies after Friday prayer last week. Time.com reports that since it was Friday, the weekend in the region, Western embassy staff were not on their compounds. The report adds that while initial reports suggested that there was a widespread breach of the U.S. embassy perimeter, this was not the case. “Some U.S. government property was damaged. But U.S. officials maintained control of the embassy compound and accounted for all mission personnel.”
The Sudan Tribune reports that over 5,000 protesters moved to the well protected US embassy compound located some 20 kilometers south east of Khartoum. The report also says that 250 police officers posted there were able to contain the protesters at a security perimeter, 150 meters from the main gate of the embassy for some time. Two protestors were reportedly killed while 50 policemen were wounded.
Also on Friday, September 14, DOD says that a Marine Corps fleet antiterrorism security team, called a “FAST team” arrived on the ground in Yemen to help with security at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a. Another one is reportedly scheduled to arrive in Khartoum. This is the second and third FAST team, consisting of about 50 Marines (the first FAST team went to Libya) authorized by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to bolster security at U.S. diplomatic installations in the past two days. The move comes a day after protesters also attacked the U.S. Embassies in Sana’a and Khartoum.
On September 15, Al Jazeera reports that Yemen and Sudan have rejected US plans to have marines protect the American diplomaticfacilities, after a wave of violent protests targeting western embassies.
The Sudan Tribune citing the country’s official news agency SUNA says that Foreign minister Ali Karti “has declined to authorise the deployment of these forces affirming Sudan’s ability to protect foreign diplomatic missions in Khartoum and reiterated the State’s obligation to protect its guests members of diplomatic missions.” Apparently, the Marines had already set off for Khartoum but had been called back pending further discussions with Sudan.
Meanwhile, on September 15, the US Embassy in Khartoum issued a U.S. Embassy Emergency Message alerting U.S. citizens that on September 15, 2012, the Department of State ordered the departure of all dependents of U.S. direct hire personnel and all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Sudan, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. The airport in Khartoum is reportedly open and commercial service is available. The Embassy also closed all Consular Services until further notice.
Also yesterday, the State Department updated its The Travel Warning:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Sudan, urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Darfur region of Sudan, the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States, and advises you to consider carefully the risks of travel in other areas of Sudan. On September 15, 2012, the Department of State ordered the departure of all dependents of U.S. direct hire personnel and all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Sudan, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on September 7, 2012.
While the Government of Sudan has taken some steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups, elements of these groups remain in Sudan and have threatened to attack Western interests. The terrorist threat level throughout Sudan, and particularly in the Darfur region, remains critical, and the U.S. Embassy has implemented enhanced security measures to protect U.S. government personnel assigned to Sudan. These measures include requiring U.S. government personnel to travel in armored government vehicles for official business, and to obtain advance permission for travel outside of Khartoum. In addition, family members under age 21 of U.S. Embassy personnel are not allowed to reside in Sudan.
Read in full here.
- State Dept. issues warnings in Sudan, Tunisia (cbsnews.com)
- Sudan rejects US request to send Marines to secure embassy (foxnews.com)
- Protests in Sudan Near US Embassy (blogs.voanews.com)
US Embassy Tunisia: Protesters breach and set compound on fire (video); Embassy now on Ordered Departure
One of our readers (thanks D!) gave us a heads-up on this video of the protesters breaching the US Embassy Tunis compound on September 14. The 8:34 min video was posted in YouTube by www.businessnews.com.tn , based in Tunisia, titled “Les salafistes forcent l’entrée de l’ambassade américaine de Tunis et hissent leur drapeau” (The Salafist force the entrance of the American Embassy in Tunis and hoisted their flag). No translation available for the video content.
It does not look like the embassy outer walls have concertina wires. And while it appears from looking at this video that the protesters breached the compound and one building, and torched some vehicles, it is not clear that they got into the chancery.
Another video here with reporting from Al Jazeera.
The Warden Message issued by US Embasy Tunis says that “Violent demonstrators attacked the US Embassy and the nearby American School in Tunis on the afternoon of September 14, 2012, resulting in severe property damage. Riots and security operations continue. No casualties have been reported. No other reports of violence towards Americans in Tunisia have been reported.”
The Associated Press reports that the protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunis against an anti-Muslim film were met with tear gas and gunshots Friday, leaving two people dead, around 40 others injured and plumes of black smoke wafting over the city.
The Globe and Mail also reports that a Tunisian employee of the embassy with an injured leg was taken out by stretcher to an ambulance.
Today, the Department of State warned U.S. citizens against all travel to Tunisia. It also announced that yesterday, it ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from the country, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. The airport in Tunis is reportedly open and U.S. citizens are encouraged to depart by commercial air. Read the new Travel Warning here.
This follows the September 12 ordered departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Libya, following the attack on the U.S. Diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
- Black Smoke Seen Rising Above US Embassy in Tunis (abcnews.go.com)
- U.S. Embassy in Tunis Attacked as Protests Spread (theatlanticwire.com)
- Reports: Protesters attack US Embassy, clash with police in Tunisia outburst (thehill.com)
- Tunisia’s ruling party condemns US Embassy attack (sacbee.com)
On April 3, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Mali warning US citizens against travel to Mali and announced the authorized departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. It also advised U.S. citizens currently living in Mali to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Excerpt below:
April 3, 2012
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali at this time because of current political instability in the country, an active rebellion in the north, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners in the north of the country. The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. Malian mutineers have refused to return to their barracks, and rival rebel factions are battling each other for control in areas they have seized in the north. The situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens in Mali to consider their own personal security and contingency plans, including the option of temporarily departing Mali. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated March 26, 2012, to update information on current events in Mali.
Senou International Airport in Bamako is currently open for business; however, the availability of flights in the future is unpredictable and depends on the overall security situation. U.S. citizens currently living in Mali are advised to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Persons wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport’s operational status and flight and seat availability before traveling to the airport.
U.S. citizens should note that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has designated northern regions of Mali as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents. Prior to traveling to these areas, U.S. government employees in Mali are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali. This designation is based on an active Tuareg rebellion, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Maghreb (AQIM), as well as banditry in the region. These restrictions are in effect for the regions of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, where separatist rebels now appear to have control.
Read the full Travel Warning here.
Chelsea, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali blogs about her evacuation in Good Golly Miss Mali: Peace Corps and More:
It’s muggy and hot and we’re exhausted—we’re tired of being frustrated, we’re tired of crying, tired of saying goodbye. And this is only the beginning. We haven’t even met up with our fellow PCVs yet. Last night we had the talk that we never thought we’d have. After forty years of uninterrupted service to the people of Mali, Peace Corps is evacuating. It’s surreal. We keep saying, “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” as if it were some freak accident or Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse or something.
The worst part about all of this is that I have to leave Scout behind (Peace Corps does not allow PCVs to evacuate pets.). Honestly, leaving her has been the largest source of my tears over the past week. [...] I left her with my old site mate’s homologue, an amazing man named Abdoullaye whom I know will take care of her. I really hope I get to see her again someday, if anything just to rub her belly one more time and let her know that I didn’t forget about her.
On April 6, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced the temporary suspension of all in country services in Mali, including consular services and the withdrawal of its staff from its Embassy in Bamako. A Foreign Office spokesperson said:
“Given the unstable and unpredictable situation in Mali and the continuing lack of constitutional rule, the UK has decided to temporarily withdraw its staff from its Embassy in Bamako and temporarily suspend all in country services immediately, including consular assistance. Consular assistance will continue to be provided to British nationals from our Embassy in Dakar but the UK’s ability to help British nationals who chose to remain in Mali may become limited. We have recommended since 4 April that British nationals should leave Mali as soon as possible by commercial means.”
Meanwhile, Ansar Dine, an Islamist group which also joined the fight against Malian government forces has reportedly kidnapped seven Algerian Consulate staff in the city of Gao, according to Al Jazeera citing witnesses and the Algerian foreign ministry.
On April 6, Al Jazeera reported that following a coup by army officers in the capital Bamako and advances by Tuareg fighters in the northern towns, the Tuareg rebels have proclaimed the “independence of Azawad.” They have declared the city of Gao as the capital of their new country.
The law of unintended consequences now at play.
- US Embassy Mali Urges U.S. Citizens to Shelter in Place (diplopundit.net)
- British Embassy staff quit Mali after coup (independent.co.uk)
- Mali rebels declare independent ‘Azawad’ (moroccotomorrow.org)
- Mali coup leaders agree to civilian power transfer (abc.net.au)
Amy Tachco is a 36-year-old Foreign Service Officer (FSO) originally from Southern California and Central Ohio who joined the Foreign Service over ten years ago. She was featured this past week in Gadling’s A Traveler In The Foreign Service, in a Q&A with Dave Seminara, a former FSO and apparently her A-100 classmate.
Below are a couple of interesting tidbits from the Q&A. The first one is about “weird” Damascus when she was asked about leaving Syria as the US Embassy was evacuated:
No one wanted to get out of Dodge?
“No. Syria’s a beautiful place. I knew for probably six weeks or so before we were finally evacuated out that the decision was coming. But strangely enough, when it came, I felt like my whole universe just crashed. I cried big time because I felt like I was abandoning the people.”
The local staff and your friends there?
“Them but also the opposition. I was responsible for dealing with the Syrian opposition. On my last day there, I sat with one of the leaders in his office for about 2 hours and two weeks later the regime raided their office and arrested them all. It wasn’t because we left, I don’t think, but there was definitely that feeling. That’s why I asked to be sent to Istanbul, so I could continue doing my job from there. When you work in a country where people are fighting for their lives, you get emotionally involved.”
Were you concerned for your safety in Syria?
“The violence wasn’t in the middle of Damascus. The thing that was weird about Damascus is that you could walk the streets and see people drinking coffee and smoking nargiles in the cafés. Bizarre knowing that three kilometers away people were getting shot.
I took the Ambassador to a few meetings where we were sort of assaulted by regime thugs. On one occasion, we went into a meeting with a member of the opposition and a big group of regime loyalists started chanting at us and they followed us in and were banging on the door. And I got hit with a tomato.”
Did it splatter all over you?
“It didn’t and I was wearing a red dress anyways. They were trying to pelt us though. We ended up getting trapped in the building for more than two hours. We had to call our RSO’s (Regional Security Officers) to get us out of there in some armored cars. They got attacked with rocks and concrete through their windows.”
Then this one about working at the US Consulate in Karachi after it was bombed.
What was it like to arrive at post in the wake of that incident?
“We had a Marine expeditionary unit in the consular section. They had their guns pointed out the upstairs windows to keep people from entering the big hole in the wall. There was a bathroom with a shower right next to my office, so these Marines would come by my office just draped in their bath towels. They had been on a ship for the last six months, so they liked to stop by my office to say hi on the way back from their showers. They hadn’t seen women in a really long time.”
Active link added above. Read the whole thing here.
- A Traveler In The Foreign Service: Meet An Intrepid Diplomat (gadling.com)
- Syria wants guarantees to pull troops from cities- US warns Syria it can’t deceive world over pullout (foxnews.com)
- Syria peace plan doubt as Assad refuses to meet deadline for troop withdrawal – The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)
- Annan decries ‘atrocities’ in Syria, urges ceasefire (ctv.ca)
The State Department suspended all embassy operations in Syria today. Below is the official presser:
The United States has suspended operations of our Embassy in Damascus as of February 6. Ambassador Ford and all American personnel have now departed the country.
The recent surge in violence, including bombings in Damascus on December 23 and January 6, has raised serious concerns that our Embassy is not sufficiently protected from armed attack. We, along with several other diplomatic missions, conveyed our security concerns to the Syrian government but the regime failed to respond adequately.
Ambassador Ford has left Damascus but he remains the United States Ambassador to Syria and its people. As the President’s representative, he will continue his work and engagement with the Syrian people as head of our Syria team in Washington. Together with other senior U.S. officials, Ambassador Ford will maintain contacts with the Syrian opposition and continue our efforts to support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought.
As the Secretary told the Security Council on January 31, we continue to be gravely concerned by the escalation of violence in Syria caused by the regime’s blatant defiance of its commitments to the action plan it agreed to with the Arab League. The deteriorating security situation that led to the suspension of our diplomatic operations makes clear once more the dangerous path Assad has chosen and the regime’s inability to fully control Syria. It also underscores the urgent need for the international community to act without delay to support the Arab League’s transition plan before the regime’s escalating violence puts a political solution out of reach and further jeopardizes regional peace and security.
Inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Syria may also be directed to SyriaEmergencyUSC@state.gov. Callers in the United States and Canada may dial the toll free number 1-888-407-4747. Callers outside the United States and Canada may dial 1-202-501-4444. Note that neither U.S. passports nor visas to the United States are issued in Damascus.
Read the full message here.