Tag Archives: Travel Warning

US Embassy Juba Suspends Operations, Now on Ordered Departure for Non-Emergency Staff

– Domani Spero

Today, the State Department suspended normal operation at the US Embassy in Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non-emergency staff from post.  It also issued a new Travel Warning for South Sudan.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in South Sudan depart immediately. U.S. citizens who choose to stay in South Sudan despite this warning should review their personal security situation and seriously reconsider their plans to remain. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on October 22, 2013, to reflect the current lack of security and risk of remaining in South Sudan.

On December 17, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from South Sudan because of ongoing political and social unrest. The Embassy is also suspending normal operations until further notice and cannot provide routine consular services to U.S. citizens in South Sudan.

Related posts:

@USMissionJuba on Twitter says that U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should contact us: +211-955-456-050 or SouthSudanEmergencyUSC@state.gov.

It also tells social media followers that the embassy “will provide information on evacuation options in the morning. We do not have further details on such options at this moment.” And advises that “Until we have been able to communicate evacuation options, please remain indoors, respect the curfew, and monitor us for updates.”

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US Embassy Beirut and US Consulate Adana (Turkey) Now on Departure Orders for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

– By Domani Spero

Update @ 10:21 am — US Consulate Adana:  We have been informed that the US Consulate in Adana is on “authorized departure” with leaving post voluntary for the non-emergency personnel and family members. Note that neither the US Embassy in Ankara nor the USCG in Istanbul is on this order.  So the “draw downees” from Adana, if there are any, potentially will not depart the country but will be evacuated to Ankara or Istanbul (evacuees from Lahore were sent to Islamabad after the recent closure of the consulate general in the city).

We understand that post did not request this departure status.  The concern we’re hearing is that because of Benghazi and the “abundance of caution” mandate, “we have people who have likely never been to Turkey, making decisions for post.”  Our source points out that Adana is not only home for the US Consulate but also home to Incirlik Air Force Base, a Turkish air base which hosts the 39th Air Base Wing to “support and protect U.S. and NATO assets and people throughout Turkey while providing a full spectrum of capabilities to the warfighter.” The US presence at Incirlik includes hundreds of Air Force personnel and family members. The base is located  a little less than 5 kilometers from the American Consulate. As of this writing, neither DOD or USAF has made any announcement about the departure of its non-emergency personnel and family members from Adana.  – end update

The State Department on September 6 issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey recommending that American citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey and announcing the departure of non-emergency staff and family members:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the U.S. Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel.  The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey.

On September 6, the Department of State permitted the drawdown of U.S. government non-emergency personnel and family members from the U.S. Consulate General in Adana, Turkey.  U.S. citizens seeking to depart Turkey are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations.

U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens.

Update @ 10:22 — US Embassy Beirut: As of this week, a reliable source told us that the State Department is deferring sending previously scheduled newly-assigned personnel to Lebanon. Unlike Adana which is on “authorized departure” Beirut is on “ordered departure” with leaving post mandatory for affected personnel and family members.  – end update 

The State Department also issued a new Travel Warning for Lebanon urging American citizens to avoid travel to the country and announcing the departure non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. On September 6, the Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to potential threats to U.S. Mission facilities and personnel. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on April 1, 2013.

The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains.  Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly.  Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent.  Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may be severely limited. 

The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to U.S. scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year remain suspended because of the security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.

Embassy Bierut’s September 6 Security Message to U.S. citizens also says that  “the Embassy does not offer “protection” services to individuals who feel unsafe.  U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining in Lebanon given their condition and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon who choose to remain should be aware that the U.S. Embassy’s ability to reach all areas of Lebanon is limited.”

While the Security Message also notes that there are “no plans to conduct a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation at this time” it suggests that “U.S. citizens concerned for their safety should consider making plans to depart by commercial means”  as the Beirut International Airport is open and commercial flights are operating.

The US Embassy Lebanon evacuation in 2006 is still the largest U.S. government-facilitated evacuations in recent memory.  The Security Message points out that USG-evacuation for private Americans “occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.” Also that “evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs.”

We note that both these announcements are now using the term “draw down” to describe the reduction of personnel and family members at two posts.  A draw down can be both “authorized departure” (staff and family members have option to leave or stay) or ordered departure (leaving is mandatory).  Since commercial flights are still operating in both these cases, we are presuming, although we could be wrong, that the draw down for both posts are “authorized” at this time.

We anticipate that more posts will be evacuated sorry, will go on draw down as the march to bombing another country heats up.

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US Consulate General Lahore Now on Ordered Departure For Non-Emergency Personnel

Domani Spero

On August 8, theState Department issued a new Travel Warning for Pakistan warning U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to that country and announcing the ordered departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan.  In addition to USCG Lahore and the embassy in Islamabad , we have consulate generals in Karachi and Peshawar.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated April 9, 2013, to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

On August 8, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan. The Department of State ordered this drawdown due to specific threats concerning the U.S. Consulate in Lahore.

The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a potential 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. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom.

Protests against the United States are not uncommon and have the potential to turn violent. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly advised to avoid all protests and large gatherings.

Recent Attacks

There have been many terrorist attacks in recent years targeting civilians and security personnel. On March 3, 2013, a bomb attack in a predominately Shiite area of Karachi destroyed several buildings and killed over 50 people. In January and February 2013, two bomb attacks in Quetta targeted members of the Hazara community; each killed over 80 people. On September 3, 2012, unidentified terrorists attacked a U.S. government vehicle convoy in Peshawar, injuring U.S. and Pakistani personnel. On April 24, 2012, an explosion at the Lahore Railway Station killed three people and injured at least 30.

The Governor of the Punjab province and the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs were assassinated in Islamabad in January and March 2011, respectively.   Targeted killings continue unabated in Karachi as a result of ethno-political rivalries. Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel continue throughout the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan Provinces. Suicide bomb attacks have occurred at Islamabad universities, schools, rallies, places of worship, and major marketplaces in Lahore and Peshawar.

Members of minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy, a crime that carries the death penalty in Pakistan. Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, on valid missionary visas have encountered increased scrutiny from local authorities since early 2011.

Travel Restrictions for Government Personnel

U.S. government personnel travel between the Embassy and Consulates might be restricted based on security or other reasons. Movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General are severely restricted, and consulate staff cannot drive personally-owned vehicles.  Embassy staff are permitted to drive personally-owned vehicles in the greater Islamabad area.

U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays. Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off limits to official personnel. Official U.S. citizens are not authorized to use public transportation and are sometimes asked to restrict the use of their personal vehicles in response to security concerns.

Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border, the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, and the area adjacent to the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed territory of Kashmir, is restricted by local government authorities for non-Pakistanis. Travel to any restricted region requires official permission from the Government of Pakistan. Failure to obtain such permission in advance can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities. Due to security concerns, the U.S. government currently allows only essential travel within the FATA by U.S. officials. Travel to much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Balochistan is also restricted.

Read in full here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5926.html

No diplomatic posts in Pakistan were closed as a result of the August 4 or the August 5-10 closures.  It is not clear if this is related to the previously announced closures or if this is an altogether different threat stream.  Nina Maria Fite who succeeded Carmela Conroy assumed charge as the US Consul General in Lahore on September 20, 2011.

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Photo of the Day: Kids Get Picked Up From School By Armored Vehicles

—By Domani Spero

Something you might add to the “You might be in the Foreign Service” list … if your kids get picked up from school by a motorcade of armored vehicles, and they all looked calm:

Via State/DS:

“On February 1 (2012), Saharan nomads known as Tuaregs captured the city of Menaka in Northern Mali. It was the latest prize in their most recent rebellion, which began in mid-January. On February 2, in the capital Bamako, approximately 1,000 protesters expressed their anger about the government’s handling of these Tuareg incursions. The mob’s activity blocked bridges between the U.S. Embassy and two schools attended by the U.S. Mission’s children. Three dozen children sheltered in place until they could be retrieved safely by a motorcade of armored vehicles organized by DS agents at the Embassy.”

Due to violent protests in the capital of the West African nation of Mali, a U.S. Embassy Bamako assistant regional security officer (right) returns the school children of Mission personnel to post in a motorcade of armored vehicles. (State Department photo)

Due to violent protests in the capital of the West African nation of Mali, a U.S. Embassy Bamako assistant regional security officer (right) returns the school children of Mission personnel to post in a motorcade of armored vehicles. (State Department photo)

A quick backgrounder: on April 3, 2012 the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Maliwarning US citizens against travel there and announced the authorized departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. See US Embassy Mali Goes on Authorized Departure for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members.

The U.S. Department of State extended the Authorized Departure status for an additional thirty days starting May 2, 2012. On  May 7, 2012, the embassy reopened. On August 29, 2012, it lifted the Authorized Departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel.

On January 18, 2013, the Department of State again 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.

On February 18, the Department of State renewed a 30-day ordered departure for all family members of official personnel (except for spouses working at the Embassy), a  decision that it said will be reassessed after another 30-day period.

On March 20, 2013, the Department of State partially lifted the ordered departure status in effect for family members of official personnel.  The departure status renewed a 30-day ordered departure for school-age children of official personnel, but instituted a 30-day authorized departure for adult family members and children not in school.  The Department of State renewed the same status on April 19, and again on May 19, 2013.  It said it will reassess this decision after another 30-day period.

Based on the notice the embassy posted, the AO has not been lifted as of this writing.

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US Mission Egypt Now on Authorized Departure But July 4th Celebration Still On

— By Domani Spero

On June 28, the State Department announced the authorized departure of “a limited number” of non-emergency USG personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing unrest.  Since we’re now in the summer season and school is out, hopefully a good number of family members have already left the country. The Travel Alert dated May 15, 2013 has now been replaced with a Travel Warning that U.S. citizens defer travel to Egypt at this time.

The embassy had previously announced that it will be closed to the public on Sunday, June 30 and later announced closure also for Monday, July 1.  (See US Embassy Cairo: To Close on June 30, Be Prepared to Shelter in Place).  But as of today, we understand that the Embassy Front Office has yet to cancel post’s July 4th celebration for next week.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Egypt to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest.  On June 28, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members.  U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Alert issued for Egypt dated May 15, 2013.

On June 28, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.

Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt’s 25th January Revolution, is likely to continue in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the President’s assumption of office.  Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well. While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el Sheikh, continues to be calm. Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault.

Read the June 28 Travel Warning here.

In related news,  Ahram Online is reporting that a 21-year old American has become a second casualty amidst clashes in Alexandria.  The report citing  Amin Ezz El-Din, head of Alexandria’s security directorate said that the young American had been taking pictures with his mobile phone near one of the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which President Morsi hails, when he was stabbed to death.  Neither the US Embassy Cairo or USCG Alexandria has confirmed the death. Then there’s this side story from McClatchy Newspapers’ Middle East Bureau chief:

Screen Shot 2013-06-28

Update @ 10:04 pm PST:  The American killed in Alexandria has been identified by Kenyon College as Andrew Pochter.  Pochter, 21, of Chevy Chase, Md., died during clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi.  He was an intern at AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.  There is troubling report that the victim was asked if he was an American prior to stabbing. If true, this would be the second incident in a few weeks that appears directed at U.S. citizens.  Until May 9th this year, security advisories from the embassy were still saying that “in general, anti-American sentiment is not directed at individual U.S. citizens in Egypt.”

The ongoing protests leading up to the mega-protest organized for June 30 while directed at President Morsi and his party are taking on an increasingly anti-American tenor.

The Tamarod (Rebel) Campaign collecting signatures for an early presidential election has listed its reasons online including one why it rejects its sitting president: “We reject you… Because Egypt is still following the footsteps of the USA.” More about the Tamarod campaign here.

The protesters are saying it with banners, too; all posted on Twitter and cc’ed to @USEmbassyCairo.  The banners are made with specific messages; as well, there are photos circulating of the U.S. ambassador’s photos spray painted with red X marks.  That looks like a lot of anger just waiting to burst …

Twiiter_patterson

Twiiter_patterson2

Twitter_Obama

Meanwhile, CNN’s Barbara Starr said that U.S. Marines stationed in southern Europe have been put on alert as a precaution in advance of expected large demonstrations and potential unrest in Egypt this weekend:

About 200 combat capable Marines in Sigonella, Italy, and Moron, Spain, have been told to be ready to be airborne within 60 minutes of getting orders to deploy, according to two administration officials.

The units have several V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft that would carry troops and infantry weapons to Egypt to protect the U.S. Embassy and American government personnel and citizens if violence broke out against Americans.

The officials both emphasized this is contingency planning in advance of the expected demonstrations to ensure American military assets, including rescue forces, can act if needed. In the event Americans had to be evacuated from Egypt and could not get to the airport due to the unrest, there are about 2,000 additional Marines on board three Navy warships in the Red Sea, officials said.

A third official said the decision to keep the warship in the Red Sea was “very precautionary.”

Continue reading:  Out of precaution, Marines on ready to go to Egypt to protect U.S. Embassy, citizens.

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A New Travel Warning for Egypt? No Comment or Howabout “There Are No Guarantees In This Business”

The NYT reported on May 11 that Egyptian security forces have arrested three militants with ties to Al Qaeda who were planning terrorist attacks in Egyptian cities and against a foreign embassy.  An unnamed western official told the NYT that the Egyptians had privately identified the embassy as the US Embassy in Cairo. Egyptian officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said at a news conference that the suspects had been arrested with 22 pounds of explosive materials and instructions on how to make bombs and build rockets and model airplanes to use in the attacks.

He said the suspects were ‘‘on the verge’’ of attacking an embassy when they were arrested.

The State Department would not comment on the Egyptian allegations. ‘‘We don’t discuss the specifics of our operations nor the exchanges we have with foreign officials,’’ said Jennifer R. Psaki, a department spokeswoman.

As of this writing, there is no USG Travel Warning issued for Egypt.  There is a Travel Alert dated March 29, 2013 that talks about “the continuing possibility of political and social unrest, incidents of which have led to recent violence.” Also that “There have been no reports of U.S. citizens being targeted specifically because of their nationality; however, in isolated instances, Westerners and U.S. citizens have been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations.”

That March 29 alert made no mention of al-Qaeda or terrorism in Egypt. The Embassy’s Messages to U.S. Citizens do not appear to include any details about the October 2012 incident where an al-Qaeda cell was caught in Cairo’s Nasr City. At least, we could not find anything on the embassy or OSAC’s website.

We have several contacts in Egypt and one of them shared with us the security advisory sent by an international organization to its 1,000 plus personnel in Egypt on May 11. Below is an excerpt:

Egyptian security forces reportedly apprehended three militants with alleged ties to al-Qaeda in Alexandria and Cairo on May 11. Initial reports indicate militants planned to execute suicide bombings in central locations in Cairo and Alexandria in the coming days, including in Metro stations. Mohammed Ibrahim then added that their target was a “foreign embassy”, which other reports claimed was the French Embassy in Cairo’s Giza district.

The minister further stated that the cell is related to a previous cell that was apprehended in Nasr City on October 24, 2012. In that incident, forces raided a suspected militant hideout in Cairo’s Nasr City District, killing one suspect said to have been linked to the deadly September 11 Consulate in Benghazi.

The security advisory on its assessment says that the arrests highlight the continued presence of Islamist militants “throughout Egypt and their connection with transnational extremist networks.”

The advisory also notes that the militants of the Nasr City cell who were apprehended in October last year were arrested on suspicion of possessing weapons, engineering attacks in Cairo, planning assassinations of government leaders, and smuggling weapons from Libya to support the rebels in Syria. It warns that “A suicide attack in the immediate term highlights militants’ ability to advance beyond the preliminary stages of planning attacks, which coincides with the ongoing security and intelligence vacuum that emerged following the January 2011 revolution.”

Apparently, there were reports claiming that the target was the French Embassy. The advisory addressed this but appeared convinced that “there remains a high likelihood” that the US Embassy Cairo may have ben the target due to the “notable rise in Anti-US sentiments” since the Arab Spring:

In case the French Embassy was not the intended target, we assess there remains a high likelihood that other Western missions in Cairo may have been targets, primarily the U.S. and Israeli embassies. This is due to a notable rise in anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiments in North Africa since the 2011 upheaval.

Also — the security advisory points to the potential risk for reprisal attacks in the aftermath of the arrests:

As details emerge regarding the background of the detainees, we assess that the risk for reprisal attacks in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt will increase.  This threat is likely to include, but is not limited to, the targeting of security installations as well as foreign interests. Furthermore, in case the planned attack was indeed related to the situation in Mali, this threat applies to Western-affiliated interests in the Middle East and Africa regions as a whole, and not solely in Egypt. 

Via Google Earth

Google Earth

Okay then –

We’re going to have to ask a delicate question – which will annoy folks at Embassy Cairo’s front office.

Did post management know that there is this threat? Does it know about the threat to the mission now?

If the answer is “no” — does that mean their local and intel contacts are plainly useless? But … but …see, apparently “Egyptian officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target.”

Well, then if that is true, then the answer had to be a “yes.” In which case the policy of “No Double Standard” kicks in. That’s the part where if/when the Department shares information with the official U.S. community (as in travel warnings/alerts/consular info program), 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 (see 7 FAM 052.1).

So far we haven’t seen anything from US Embassy Cairo.  This is a curious case that’s bugging our OCD plenty.

Update on May 12@9:50 am:  Wait — we posted this past midnight last night and  this morning, a blog pal kindly knocked us on the head on this — telling the blog that it is “easy” to get around the No Double Standard policy.  See, you only need to tell the public, if you’re alerting the official community.  So, really —  if you carry on as before, and you don’t change official behavior or advice, you don’t need to tell anyone.

Oops …. but… but … oh, dammit!!

If you missed our blog post on US Embassy Cairo on May 11th, see  US Embassy Egypt: From the Real Post Reports, the New Cairo; Plus Western Embassy Targeted.  That post merit at least a triple curse!

 

– DS

 

 

 

 

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US Embassy Libya Now on (Partial?) Ordered Departure

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.

 

– DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State Dept Issues El Salvador Travel Warning: Critical Crime and Violence

On January 23, 2013, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for El Salvador detailing the crime and violence in the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America.  For a while there, El Salvador had the highest murder rate in the world. It was  dislodged from the #1 spot by Honduras in 2010. In 2011, there were 82.1 murders per 100,000 people in Honduras.

The Crime and Security Report for 2012 issued by the embassy’s Regional Security Office says that “El Salvador is considered one of the most violent countries in the world. The effect and threat of violent crime within San Salvador, including the neighborhoods in which many Americans live and work, leads to greater isolation and the curtailment of recreational opportunities.”  Part of that report described the robbery at gunpoint of an embassy officer and spouse while stuck at a traffic circle near the embassy:

“In 2011, armed robberies continued at the accelerated 2010 pace and arguably could be the single greatest security threat facing U.S. embassy staff and business persons. As an example, in April 2011, an embassy officer and spouse were robbed at gunpoint at a traffic circle less than a mile from the embassy while stuck in late rush hour traffic. In this instance, two unidentified men approached the driver’s side of the car, pointed a gun at both occupants, and demanded their belongings. The couple complied with their demands, and the attackers fled the scene on foot. In another example, a U.S. tourist was robbed at night by two individuals with machetes directly outside a popular private beach club that is frequented often by embassy staff and other Westerners.”

US Embassy San Salvador, El Salvador

US Embassy San Salvador, El Salvador

Below is an excerpt from the new Travel Warning:

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in El Salvador.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country. In 2011, El Salvador had the second highest murder rate in the world: 71 per 100,000 people (by comparison, the murder rate in Massachusetts, with a similar geographical area and population, was 2.6 per 100,000). In 2012, a truce between El Salvador’s two principal street gangs contributed to a decline in the homicide rate. However, the sustainability of the decline is unclear, and the truce had little impact on robbery, assaults, and other violent crimes. Most of these crimes go unsolved. In March 2012, as a result of an administrative review of the security situation, Peace Corps El Salvador substantially reduced the number of its volunteers in country.

U.S. citizens do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality. However, 22 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador since January 2010. During the same time period, 230 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen. Armed robberies of climbers and hikers in El Salvador’s national parks are common, and the Embassy strongly recommends engaging the services of a local guide certified by the national or local tourist authority when hiking in back country areas, even within the national parks. In 2000, the National Civilian Police (PNC) established a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to tourists, as well as protection for the cultural heritage of El Salvador. It has officers located in 19 tourist destinations.

A majority of serious crimes are never solved; only five of the 22 murders committed against U.S. citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions. The Government of El Salvador lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases and to deter violent crime. The PNC is still developing into a modern and effective police force that can protect the public. While several of the PNC’s investigative units have shown great promise, routine street level patrol techniques, anti-gang, and crime suppression efforts are limited.

Transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics, arms trafficking, and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out other criminal activity. Other criminals, acting both individually and in gangs, commit crimes such as murder-for-hire, carjacking, extortion, armed robbery, rapes, and other aggravated assaults. El Salvador, a country of roughly six million people, has hundreds of known street gangs totaling more than 20,000 members. Gangs and other criminal elements roam freely day and night, targeting affluent areas for burglaries, and gang members are quick to engage in violence if resisted.

Extortion is a particularly serious and common crime in El Salvador. Many extortion attempts are no more than random cold calls that originate from imprisoned gang members using cellular telephones, and the subsequent threats against the victim are made through social engineering and/or through information obtained about the victim’s family. U.S. citizens who are visiting El Salvador for extended periods may be at higher risk for extortion demands. Hitting its peak a few years ago, extortion has dropped in the last two years; however, recent reports show that there is an increase in the level of violence associated with extortion cases, including media reports of extortion victims and witnesses being killed. Extortion attempts can be transnational in nature and can include kidnapping of victims. For example, in 2011, a 2 year old U.S. citizen was kidnapped from the home of his grandparents in El Salvador by 8 to 10 armed men. Ransom demands made to family members in both El Salvador and the United States were traced back to a local prison used exclusively to incarcerate gang members.

Read in full here.

In 2011, police statistics also show an average of 12 murders and three carjackings reported daily to the police. While  El Salvador is a 10% COLA and 15% hardship differential post, it is as of this writing not listed as a danger pay post.

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US Embassy Algeria Now on Authorized Departure for Family Members

An Emergency Message went out to US citizens in Algeria on January 20, 2013 alerting them that on Jan 19, the Department of State has authorized the departure from Algiers of eligible family members following the attack on the In Amenas BP facility on January 16th and subsequent credible threats of kidnapping of western nationals.

The Consular Section is open for public services but the message warns that “the Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens throughout Algeria is limited.”

The Travel Warning for Algeria was also updated on January 19, 2013 warning of the risks of travel to Algeria, and the authorized departure of embassy family members.  The new warning replaced the Travel Warning for Algeria dated September 13, 2012, with updated information on the current security situation in Algeria, the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness.

Read the new Travel Warning here.

This follows the ordered departure of US Embassy Bamako’s family members two days ago.  Authorized departure means leaving is still optional for family members.  The next stage would be ordered departure for remaining family members and those considered non-emergency personnel.   It is possible when security situation deteriorates so fast that a post can go from authorized departure straight to suspension of operation as was the case with the US Embassy Bangui during the Christmas week last December.

Safe journeys everyone,

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US Embassy Mali Now on Ordered Departure for Family Members

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.

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