US Embassies Issue Possible Terrorist Attack Warnings in Tunisia, Pakistan, Indonesia

Posted: 5:34 pm EDT

 

Tunisia

Pursuant to the recent Security Message for U.S. Citizens in Tunisia that was published on Thursday, December 17, 2015 we wish to advise you that a report of unknown credibility indicates the possibility of a terrorist attack at the Tunisia Mall in Berges du Lac on Sunday, December 20, 2015.  We advise you to avoid the area. Also see the Security Message for U.S. Citizens, published December 17, 2015.

Pakistan

The American Embassy in Islamabad has received threat information regarding possible terrorist attacks against locations in Islamabad in late December, especially during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period.  Possible targets include places of worship and shopping centers.  U.S. government personnel are under additional movement restrictions in coming weeks, including religious venues and large shopping centers.  We advise private U.S. citizens to exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.  U.S. citizens are reminded to review the active travel warning for Pakistan, and minimize the number and duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, hotels, places of worship, and other locations where large numbers of people congregate.  U.S. citizens should monitor Pakistani media reports regarding these and similar threats.

Indonesia

[F]urther to the Worldwide Travel Alert published on November 23, 2015, we advise U.S. Citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling in Indonesia during the Christmas and New Year holidays due to continued threats from extremists to conduct attacks in the country. Gatherings at places of worship in such places as Poso and Solo have been, and may still be appealing targets for terrorists. The Indonesian National Police, through multiple news media outlets, have announced that they will be providing additional security to stop ISIL type attacks in Indonesia. During this holiday period, we advise U.S. citizens to remain aware of their surroundings when gathering at nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and places of worship in Indonesia, as terrorists have previously planned and carried out attacks on these venues, and could do so again.

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US Embassy Turkey Cancels Public Services For Dec 14 and 15 Due to Security Threat

Posted: 1:56 am EDT

 

Due to a possible security threat against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the Embassy will have limited consular services available on Monday, December 14 and Tuesday, December 15, 2015.  Public services, including visa appointments and non-emergency American Citizen Services appointments for December 14 and 15 are cancelled and will be rescheduled for a later date. Please note the Embassy’s operating status may be subject to change as the security situation evolves. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Embassy on those dates.  U.S. Consulate General Istanbul, U.S. Consulate Adana and Consular Agency Izmir will operate normally.

We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.

The cancellation of services follows the previously announced security threat against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Sunday, December 13 where Embassy Ankara urged U.S. citizens to avoid the Embassy until the afternoon of Monday, December 14, 2015. ‎

Previously on December 5, Embassy Ankara also warned of a possible security threat against posts in Turkey.

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#BrusselsLockdown Response: Keep Calm and Tweet a Cat; Also No Consular Services on 11/23

Posted: 3:32 pm PDT

 

During an ongoing police operations in Belgium on Sunday, Brussels Police requested the public to observe radio silence on social media.  Crisis Center Belgium also asked the people to remain calm and to strictly follow all the instructions of the security forces.

 

 

The Belgians and Twitter responded by tweeting cat photos.  We recently lost our cat companion of 18 years, so don’t blame us too much if we get enamored with these cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on November 22, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels announced the closure of the Consular Section on Monday, November 23 as well as the continued elevated threat in the capital city and the rest of Belgium:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that the current threat level remains at Level 4 (serious threat of imminent attack) for Brussels, and Level 3 (high) for the rest of the country.

All public schools in Brussels will be closed on Monday, November 23. The International School of Brussels, Brussels American School, and St. John’s International School will also be closed. For other schools please consult their administrations.

All Metro stations will be closed on Monday. Other public transportation options, like trams, are operating on a limited basis. Regional trains and airports are operating but authorities urge vigilance.

The Belgian government continues to caution citizens to avoid public places such as major pedestrian walkways and shopping centers. The Belgian government will again reassess the threat level on Monday. We will provide further information as available.

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section will be offering emergency services only. All scheduled appointments are cancelled. Information on rescheduling these appointments will be available on our website.

In this time of elevated threat, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels reminds U.S. citizens to exercise caution in public transportation systems, sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations. U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.

Read in full here.

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Multiple Terrorist Attacks Rock Central Paris, State of Emergency and Border Closures On

Posted: 8:51 pm PDT

 

Paris has been rocked by a string of deadly attacks today, leaving reportedly 120 people dead in six or seven locations around the city. President François Hollande has declared a state of emergency, and has ordered all borders closed.
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The U.S. Embassy in Paris issued the following message concerning the multiple terrorist attacks in France:

November 13, 2015: The U.S. Embassy in Paris advises official U.S. personnel and U.S. citizens to shelter in place due to the terrorist attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements (districts) and the ongoing hostage situation at the Bataclan Theatre located at 50 Voltaire Boulevard in the 11th arrondissement.  U.S. citizens should heed local authorities and maintain security awareness.  France has declared a state of emergency which includes mobilization of security forces and closing its borders. People in France who are safe should be contacting family members. Anyone with travel plans should be contacting their airlines directly.

ParisEmergencyUSC@state.gov

1-888-407-4747 (From the United States and Canada)

+1-202-501-4444 (From all other countries)

@USAmbFrance is the official Twitter account of Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. Ambassador to France.
@USEmbassyFrance is the official Twitter account of US Embassy Paris.

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US Embassy Cairo’s Security Message Baffles Egyptian Foreign Ministry

Posted: 12:39 pm EDT

 

On November 2, the US Embassy in Cairo issued a security message to U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Egypt:

As a precautionary measure, the United States Embassy has instructed its employees not to travel anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula pending the outcome of the investigation into the tragic crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt on October 31. The Embassy will issue another message when this measure is lifted.

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US Embassy Cairo, like all posts and bureaus, is required to adhere to the State Department’s  ‘no double standard policy (pdf).  So thumbs up for them for doing this.  The security message is part of the agency’s consular information program and is not/not an internal memo.  What this means is if the Department shares information about potentially dangerous situations with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.

The decision to issue a Travel Alert, Travel Warning, or a Security or Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens for an individual country is based on the overall assessment of the safety/security situation there. By necessity, this analysis must be undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Accordingly, posts must not allow extraneous concerns to color the decision of whether to issue information regarding safety or security conditions in a country, nor how that information is to be presented.

In related news, various media is now reporting that hundreds of British tourists are stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh: .

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US Embassy Dhaka Restricts Movement of USG Staff/Families in Bangladesh

Posted: 1:39 am EDT

 

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Excerpt from the Security Message issued by Embassy Dhaka on September 28:

There is reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh.  Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners, including U.S. citizens.

In light of the increased threat, U.S. citizens should consider limiting their attendance at events where foreigners may gather, including events at international hotels.  U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness and should exercise caution in public places including restaurants, hotels and other places frequented by foreigners.

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.  Terrorists have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.

Until further notice, all official U.S. government personnel are prohibited from attending large gatherings in Bangladesh, including events at international hotels, unless they have obtained Regional Security Office permission.

The Embassy advises U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Bangladesh to remain vigilant regarding their personal security and to be alert to local security developments.

A follow-up message notes that following the fatal attack on an Italian national in Gulshan September 28, the U.S. Embassy instructed its personnel to shelter in place until Tuesday morning September 29. American International School in Dhaka (AISD) will be closed on September 29. The Embassy will be open on September 29, including providing consular services. U.S. government personnel and their families will be limiting their movements.

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Related posts:

Post Closures, Travel Suspension, 9/11 Security Reminders

Posted: 2:07 am EDT
Updated: 11:11 am EDT

 

Post closures:

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Non-essential travel suspension:
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9/11 Anniversary reminders:

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Security Message on Terrorist Threat to U.S. Interests in South Africa

Posted: 1:08 pm EDT

 

The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a security message today alerting American citizens of a terrorist threat to United States interests in South Africa. Note that the message provides the contact information for the U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban for American citizens requiring assistance.  The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not have a consular section and does not provide consular services.  The U.S. Mission to South Africa is currently headed by Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, a political appointee who previously served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.

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The US Mission in South Africa is the second largest in the Bureau of African Affairs in total staff, and the third largest in terms of Department staffing, behind Nigeria and Kenya. With consulates general in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, it is apparently, the only mission in Africa with three constituent posts. Twenty-eight offices from 12 independent agencies maintain a presence at the mission, the largest being the Department, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2011 OIG report recommended that USCG Durban “be significantly downsized or closed.”

Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Crime and Safety Report rates South Africa as “critical” in crime and “medium” in terrorism:

South Africa serves as an important transit and facilitation point for global extremists. Though there has been no indication that operational cells are present, a nexus for recruiting, funding, and safe haven for international terrorists does exist.

The last significant domestic terror campaign occurred in the Western Cape. The Western Cape-based group “People against Gangsters and Drugs” (PAGAD) conducted an urban terror campaign of bombings, assassinations, and vigilante murders from 1997 to November 2001. These activities targeted government facilities and personnel, moderate Muslims identified as threats to the radical Islamic movement, and Western-themed businesses (Planet Hollywood, Hooters, and Hard Rock Cafe) seen by PAGAD as symbols of the anti-Islamic West. The successful investigation and subsequent prosecution of PAGAD members by the government was credited with the suspension of further violence. No significant anti-Western attacks have occurred since 2001.

The smallest post in the mission is USCG Durban. It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s largest container port (Durban) and commodity port (Richards Bay), making the province one of the prime commercial centers on the continent. According to the latest crime/safety report, KZN is also a frequent host to ANC political rallies and large gatherings that sometimes disrupt the city. Most protests, marches, and rallies pass in front of the building housing the U.S. Consulate General and end across the street in front of Durban’s City Hall, preventing Consulate staff and visitors from accessing or departing from the building.

The report also notes that while the SA police forces are well intentioned, they have limited effectiveness due to a lack of equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies.

As an side, this is one more example where post’s social media arms are not integrated into a whole-mission approach. Its Facebook page features a job vacancy and “20 years after the Beijing Declaration.”  On Twitter, @USEmbassySA makes no mention of the security message and has the following instead:
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We’re going to boldly bet that the social media platforms are run by Public Affairs and the security message is run by the Consular Section. And they have not bumped into each other yet.

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US Embassy El Salvador Warns of Increased Frequency and Intensity of Security Incidents

Posted: 1:45 am EDT

The 2015 Crime and Safety Report from the Regional Security Office released in May this year, notes that crime in El Salvador can run the gamut from credit card skimming to homicide and is unpredictable, gang-centric, and characterized by violence directed against both known victims and targets of opportunity. The effect and threat of violent crime in the capital city of San Salvador, including the neighborhoods in which many U.S. citizens live and work, leads to greater isolation and the curtailment of recreational opportunities. Crimes of every type routinely occur. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid travel into the downtown area of San Salvador “unless absolutely necessary” and travel outside the cities and to Guatemala or Honduras should only be done during daylight hours and with multiple vehicle convoys for safety. Excerpt:

The threat from transnational criminal organizations is prevalent throughout Central America. There is some evidence that the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas may have infiltrated El Salvador, although only in extremely low numbers. El Salvador has hundreds of gang “cliques,” with more than 20,000 members. Violent, well-armed, U.S.-style street gang growth continues, with the 18th Street (Barrio 18) and MS-13 (“Mara Salvatrucha”) gangs being the largest. Gangs concentrate on narcotics and arms trafficking, murder for hire, carjacking, extortion, and violent street crime. The gangs have collaborated with Mexican drug cartels to carry out murders and have sold the cartels weapons and explosives left over from the war and/or from the military. Recognizing the threat posed by MS-13, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the MS-13 a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) in their list of Specially Designated Nationals. Gangs and other criminal elements roam freely, targeting affluent areas for burglaries, and gang members are quick to engage in violence when resisted. Many of the gangs are comprised of unemployed youth who do not hesitate to use deadly force when perpetrating crimes.

A contributing factor to crime is the presence of impoverished shanty communities in the midst of high-income residential and higher-end commercial areas in the capital. There are few if any areas immune from violent crime. However, the presence of armed security and the use of security features at homes have proven to be successful in combating home invasions. In 2014, armed robberies continued to be the greatest security threat facing diplomats, tourists, and business persons. Home invasions/burglaries during daylight continue to be prevalent in residential neighborhoods in San Salvador. Some home invasions occur when individuals posing as delivery men or police officers gain access to a home.

Extortion persists as a very common, effective criminal enterprise. Hitting a peak in 2009, the number of extortions has dropped from 4,528 reported cases of extortion in 2006 to 2,480 reported cases in 2014. Many of the extortion calls originate from prisons.

There were 2,480 car thefts and 1,331 carjackings reported in 2014. Not tracked however, are the significant numbers of smash-and-grab-type of auto burglaries pervasive throughout the urban areas of El Salvador.

El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and the Department of State updated the Travel Warning for El Salvador in November 2014 to notify U.S. citizens about travel safety concerns and challenges. Police statistics show an increase in annual homicides during 2014, attributed primarily to the cessation of a controversial 2012 truce between local gangs. Crime statistics showed that the 2014 annual homicide rate — 68.6 per 100,000 inhabitants — was significantly higher than the previous year’s 43.7 per 100,000 rate. In 2014, authorities recorded 3,912 homicides, a 55.7 percent increase from the 2,513 in 2013.

Rape remains a serious concern; in 2013 and 2014, an average of 376 rapes per year were reported. Services for victims of rape are very limited, and many victims choose not to participate in the investigation and prosecution of the crime for fear of not being treated respectfully by the authorities. Many murder victims show signs of rape, and survivors of rape may not report the crime for fear of retaliation.

El Salvador is not a danger post for allowances purposes. It is a 15% COLA and 15% hardship differential  post according to the latest bi-weekly update from state.gov.

The Crime and Safety Report is an annual product of the Regional Security Office (RSO) of every U.S. embassy. Read the full report here.

elsalvador_map_2010worldfactbook_300_1

Image from CIA World Factbook 2010

 

On July 29, the US Embassy in El Salvador issued a security message to American citizens residing in El Salvador on the increased risk of crime and violence in the country:

In recent weeks, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of security incidents in El Salvador, including multiple attacks on transportation workers and security forces.  The U.S. Embassy is aware that criminal elements in El Salvador have threatened to escalate the level of violence by attacking hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other public venues.  The grenade attack at a major hotel on July 25 demonstrates both a will and a capability to carry out such plans.

The Embassy is not aware of any threat specifically directed against U.S. citizens in El Salvador.  However, the violence of recent weeks, coupled with this new information, demonstrates the need for sustained caution and high security awareness at all times. Review your personal security plans, avoid outdoor seating (as at restaurants and bars), and monitor local news stations for updates.  Take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security. Please see the below excerpt from the Travel Warning for El Salvador:

U.S. citizens should remain alert to their surroundings, especially when entering or exiting their homes or hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces.  Whenever possible, travel in groups.  U.S. Embassy security officials advise all U.S. government personnel not to walk, run, or cycle in unguarded streets and parks, even in groups, and recommend exercising only in gyms and fitness centers.  Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, and do not carry large sums of money or display cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables.  Avoid walking at night in most areas of El Salvador. Incidents of crime along roads, including carjacking, are common in El Salvador.  Motorists should avoid traveling at night and always drive with their doors locked to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested downtown streets.  Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and not recommended.  The Embassy advises official visitors and personnel to avoid using mini-buses and regular buses and to use only radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.

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Terrorist Attacks Rock France, Tunisia, Kuwait: Three Countries. Three Continents. All Soft Targets.

Posted: 4:41  pm EDT

 

Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait today. At least 37 people including British, Belgian and German nationals were killed by gunmen at a beach resort in Tunisia, one person was reportedly decapitated in France at a US-owned factory, and at least 25 people were killed at a suicide bombing at a mosque in Kuwait. Three countries, three continents and  all soft targets.
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The US Embassy Paris released the following security message on 

The U.S. Embassy in Paris informs U.S. citizens that a terrorist attack took place at approximately 10 AM today at a U.S.-owned factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, Isere, France, southeast of Lyon, at a large industrial park. One person was killed and two others were reported injured. None of the deceased or injured was a U.S. citizen. The motivation for the attack is unknown, and one suspect is in French government custody.   The Government of France maintains a threat rating system, known locally as “Vigipirate,” similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory System. Following the January 2015 terrorist attacks, the Government of France raised the “Vigipirate” level and continues to evaluate its security posture on a regular basis. Up-to-date information is available on the “Vigipirate” website in French.

 

Under this system, the government routinely augments police with armed forces and increases visibility at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, major tourist attractions, and government installations. Over the last few years, there have been arrests of suspected militant extremists allegedly involved in terrorist plots. French authorities have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions for terrorist attacks in Europe.

 

U.S. citizens in France are encouraged to remain vigilant. Immediately report unattended packages observed in public places, or any other suspicious activities, to French law enforcement authorities. French authorities are proactive and will respond immediately. If there is a security incident or suspicious package, do not linger in the area to observe.

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The  US Embassy in Tunis released the following  message:

The U.S. Embassy wishes to alert U.S. citizens to a terrorist attack in Tunisia around the Kantaoui area at the Imperial Riu Marhaba and Soviva hotels in Sousse.   The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Kantaoui area and surrounding vicinity. The U.S. Embassy reiterates our standing guidance that U.S. citizens in Tunisia should exercise caution when frequenting public venues that are visited by large numbers of foreigners, such as hotels, shopping centers, and tourist sites and restaurants.

U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility of kidnapping.  U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution and avoid areas where large gatherings may occur.  Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens should monitor local events, report suspicious activity to the local police, and take appropriate steps to bolster their own security.

Travelers contemplating trips to the interior of the country should assess local conditions and routes when making travel plans.  In particular, all travel south of the designated military zone in the south must be coordinated in advance with Tunisian authorities.  Also, travel to either border should be avoided if possible given the periodic security incidents along the border regions.

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The US Embassy in Kuwait issued this: Explosion at Mosque in Al-Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait City – Security Notice for U.S. Citizens 2015

There has been an explosion at a mosque in the Al Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait.  There have been reports of deaths and injuries.  U.S. citizens should avoid the area.  Please stay current with media coverage of local and regional events. U.S. Mission personnel have been advised to continue to practice personal security awareness and we advise the U.S. citizen community to do the same.

The embassy also released a statement calling the explosion “a senseless terrorist attack on worshipers in the Al-Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque”, condemning the attack and says that “the United States stands ready to assist our friend and ally Kuwait in any way possible.”
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Below is the WH statement on the three attacks:

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