@StateDept Extends “Ordered Departure” Status for Consulate Adana/Izmir Prov Through July 26, 2016

Posted: 4:33 am ET

 

The State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey:

  • The Department of State extended its March 29, 2016 ordered departure of family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province through July 26, 2016.  The Department of State terminated its March 29, 2016 ordered departure declaration for Mugla province. The U.S. Consulate in Adana remains open and will continue to provide all routine consular services.
  • U.S. Government personnel in Turkey remain subject to travel restrictions in the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig.  U.S. citizens should avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.
  • U.S. government employees in Turkey are permitted to leave their residences and hotels, but advised to do so during daylight hours given calls for sustained pro-government rallies in public spaces and the possibility that demonstrations and protests could ensue or turn violent with little notice.
  • The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey.    In light of the July 15 coup attempt and its aftermath, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.

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U.S. Embassy Dhaka: Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members of USG Personnel

Posted: 3:39 am ET

On July 10, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Bangladesh and announced the voluntary evacuation of family members of U.S. personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully whether you need to travel to Bangladesh, in light of the latest attack in a series of extremist events.  Effective July 10, 2016, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka.  The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka remains open and will provide all routine consular services.  The U.S. government assesses that the terrorist threat is real and credible.

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On July 1, 2016, attackers killed more than 20 people in a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave, including one U.S. citizen.  Other attacks continue to be carried out against religious minorities, bloggers, publishers, and security forces throughout the country.  Daesh (also referred to as ISIL, or ISIS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have publicly claimed credit for various attacks since September 2015.

U.S. citizens should take stringent security measures, remain vigilant, and be alert to local security developments.  Be aware that U.S. government officials and their families currently are not permitted to:

  • visit public establishments or places in Bangladesh
  • travel on foot, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, or other uncovered means on public thoroughfares and sidewalks in Bangladesh
  • attend large gatherings in Bangladesh

Read the full announcement here.

 

Related posts:

 

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U.S. Embassy Juba: 47 Troops Ordered to South Sudan, 130 Pre-Positioned in Djibouti

Posted: 2:19 am PT

 

On July 13, President Obama informed Congress of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces personnel to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan.

In response to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, I have ordered the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan to support the security of U.S. personnel, and our Embassy in Juba. The first of these additional personnel, approximately 47 individuals, arrived in South Sudan on July 12, 2016, supported by military aircraft. Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed. Additional U.S. Armed Forces, including approximately 130 military personnel currently pre-positioned in Djibouti, are prepared to provide support, as necessary, for the security of U.S. citizens and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.

On July 13, Embassy Juba also announced two charter flights that will depart Juba for Entebbe, Uganda on Thursday, July 14. Passengers are expected to make onward travel plans themselves. A security message issued previously notes that “seating is very limited”  and that the mission “cannot guarantee availability.”  Passengers are limited to one piece of luggage (20 kg/45 lbs) each.  Pets are not included in the charter flights.  Passengers who are not documented with a valid U.S. passport “will likely not be considered for boarding.”

 

Germany and the EU have completed the evacuation of its citizens on July 13.  The UK and India are in the process of also evacuating their citizens from South Sudan.

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US Embassy Juba: Two Charter Flights For U.S. Citizens to Depart on July 14

Posted: 1:11 pm ET

The U.S. Embassy in Juba sent an emergency message to U.S. citizens in South Sudan informing them on two charter flights departing from Juba to Entebbe (Uganda) on Thursday, July 14.

Evacuation Flights from Juba Beginning | July 13, 2016

The U.S. Embassy in Juba informs resident American citizens that two charter flights will be departing Juba to Entebbe on July 14. U.S. citizens wishing to depart on the first flight should arrive to the airport at 8:30 a.m. to be processed. U.S citizens wishing to depart on the second flight should arrive no later than 12:30 p.m. to be processed.

The U.S. Embassy will not collect money for this flight; however, all passengers will be required to complete and sign a DS-5528 promissory letter for the fare. The amount of the loan will be the cost of a full fare ticket from Juba to Entebbe (approximately USD250). You must arrange your own transportation to the airport and onward from Juba. Due to ongoing security concerns, please remain vigilant when moving about the city.

Notice to all passengers: (1) Bring a valid travel document (passport); (2) you are restricted to one small carryon; and (3) no pets will be allowed. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation and will update you as appropriate.

Read What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.

 

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US Embassy Havana: To Cuba, to Cuba — here are five things you should know before you go

Posted: 3:20 am ET

Are you planning a trip to Cuba? Here are five things you should know before you go; put together by US Embassy Havana:

 

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Suicide Attack at Istanbul Airport Kills 36, Wounds Many More

Posted: 2:04 am ET

The State Department has created a Crisis in Istanbul page to provide updates to American citizens for the terrorist attack at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. Excerpt below:

Turkish media is reporting that possibly two or more explosive devices detonated at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at approximately 10:15pm local time June 28, 2016. Police and anti-terror teams are currently at the scene and there is no official announcement on the reason of the explosion(s) or the exact number of wounded.  Entrance to and exit ‎from the Airport have been prohibited.  Flights have been suspended.  All direct flights from Istanbul to the United States had departed prior to the attack at the airport.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the area around the airport and to avoid any police action that may be taking place throughout the city.  Please check local media for the latest updates.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens in Turkey to directly contact concerned family members in the United States to advise them of your safety.

Earlier —

 

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AmConGen Dhahran’s 7 Second-Video Freaks Out Folks Who Do Not Get the Foreign in the Foreign Service

Posted: 3:42 am ET

The United States Consul General in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia is career diplomat, Mike Hankey. He was assigned to post in  July 2014 accompanied by his wife and their two sons.  According to his official bio, he joined the Foreign Service in 2001, and has “led teams to build deep and productive ties with political, economic and media partners across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.”  His bio says that in Egypt “he advanced the President’s agenda to engage Muslim communities” and “promoted economic development in northwestern Iraq, American consular and commercial interests in Yemen, and media professionalism in Nigeria.”

Mr. Hankey received his Bachelor’s Degree in international affairs and journalism from George Washington University and his Master’s Degree in second language education from Indiana University. He speaks Arabic.

Like most Foreign Service families, Mr. Hankey and his family are “all in” in their current post in Saudi Arabia. That means they went out and explored their “host country” and did not hide in their USG-provided housing commuting only to the office and back and eating only Pizza Hut and KFC.  USCG Dhahran’s FB posts include photos of them in a camel farm, attending a festival, wading in a wadi and camping in a desert. And oh goodness, eating foreign food — they cooked sheep in the sand!

But how awesome is that?

On June 5, US Embassy Riyadh tweeted a 7-second Ramadan greeting featuring Mr. Hankey and his two young sons wearing the traditional Saudi male dress — a white colored Thobe (thawb), an ankle length garment with long sleeves and tunic shape, and a headdress (a large square cloth, white or red called the Gutra, a small white cap that keeps the Gutra in place called the Tagia, and a black cord called Igal that keep the whole thing in place). See more here.

 

First the good news! Yes, there is a Twitter account that tweets only Great Government Tweets!

Here are some local reactions appreciative of the gesture:

Here are some reactions from folks who apparently do not get the foreign in the Foreign Service.  Hometown diplomats, you’ve got your jobs cut out for you.

By the way, eating haggis doesn’t turn one Scottish.

Speaking a foreign language is not un-American.

Wearing foreign clothing is not dangerous to one’s health or sense of well being.

Here’s a bonus, Americans diplomats in Pakistan learning the Paktun dance moves.

 

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US Embassy Banjul: Host Govt Unexpectedly Removes Police Protection in The Gambia

Posted: 12:43 am ET

 

The US Embassy in Banjul issued a security message informing U.S. citizens in the Gambia that post will be closed on June 9 for non-essential services due to the removal of police protection by the host government.  The short message does not include the reason for the removal of police protection.  The U.S. recently granted asylum to a Gambian student previously funded by the Gambian government who publicly supports LGBT rights.

The Freedom Newspaper notes that this is not the first time that Yahya Jammeh, an army officer, who took power in a 1994 military coup has ordered the withdrawal of Gambia’s Police Intervention Unit (PIU) personnel from the US Embassy premises. He apparently issued a similar directive sometime last year. We have asked but have not received a response if/when post will suspend operation.

Here is an excerpt of the Embassy’s 2016 Crime and Safety report:

The Gambia’s President Yaya Jammeh came to power by a non-violent coup in July 1994. He was first elected president in an internationally-challenged election in 1996 and re-elected in 2001, 2006, and November 2011 to five-year terms. The next scheduled presidential election is December 1, 2016. Previous elections were considered credible despite numerous shortcomings.

In March 2006, the government thwarted a reported military-led coup attempt. The alleged coup attempt was put down without violence. Around 50 people were detained for their alleged roles in the coup plot; many detainees were released, with the remainder convicted and sentenced to life terms. The President continues to shuffle government leaders capriciously, reducing the likelihood of any single actor gaining too much political power.

In December 2014, there was an unsuccessful coup perpetrated by Gambian dissidents at the State House. As a result, The Gambian government arrested/detained/questioned countless individuals in an effort to locate conspirators and identify those perceived to be in opposition to the government. The resulting crackdown inspired fear in many Gambians. The government seized the opportunity to arrest those that have taken opposing views. It has even arrested family members (including young children) of coup plotters and is known to torture those in custody during interrogation.

Over the past several years, politically-motivated arrests have become more frequent and arbitrary, and the government has cracked down on the independent press and others who are seen as opposing the government.

It is illegal to speak out against President Jammeh. Apparently, it is even illegal to speak negatively to his photo.  Homosexuality is also illegal in The Gambia. “Consensual same-sex sexual relations are illegal in The Gambia. Prison terms can range from five years to life imprisonment, and there is strong societal discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals. The Criminal Code was amended in October 2014 to include Section (144A) entitled Aggravated Homosexuality, which sets out seven specific categories, including being “a serial offender,” for which a person is “liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”

A couple of weeks ago, the State Department officially condemned the Gambian Government’s response to peaceful protests in the country.

 

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#MemorialDay2016: “If you forget my death, then I died in vain.”

Posted:7:18 pm ET

 

J. Kael Weston, the author of “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was a State Department official in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2010.  Newsweek writes that he spent more time in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other State Department officer, including two and a half years in the Iraqi hellhole of Fallujah. He wrote The Graves of the Marines I Lost for the New York Times. Excerpt below:

While in Iraq and Afghanistan, I witnessed military officers and enlisted soldiers, at all ranks, being held accountable for their decisions. I have yet to see that happen with Washington policy makers who, far removed from the battlefields, benefit from our collective amnesia about past military and foreign policy failures.

The commander in chief and the senior military brass should leave the manicured grounds of Arlington and visit some of those places where most of America’s war dead are buried: farm towns, immigrant neighborhoods and working-class suburbs. At a time when fewer and fewer of us have any real ties to the military, how better to remind the nation that our troops are not just faceless volunteers, but people who live next door?

Over the last four years, I have visited a dozen such cemeteries. One was in Newcastle, Wyo. (population 3,532, according to the last census), where Staff Sgt. Brian Bland was laid to rest on a hill overlooking an oil refinery and a Pizza Hut. His granite headstone is shaped like a mountain peak.

Outside Cherokee, Iowa (population 5,253), at the Galva Veterans Memorial, I stood at Cpl. Nathan Schubert’s grave, next to his father’s, surrounded by green cornfields and grain silos. Etched on his headstone are pine trees and pheasants in flight.

In Menard, Tex. (population 1,471), I located Capt. Paul Christopher Alaniz, buried alongside his mother. Colorful ceramic tiles adorned his grave’s concrete plot, hand painted by his wife and children with the words “Love” and “Papa, Happy Father’s Day” and “A classy tie for a classy guy.”

I visited each one because I was directly involved in the decision that led to their deaths.

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Two Mexicans Extradited in the 2011 Murder and Attempted Murder of ICE Agents in Mexico

Posted: 12:03 am ET

In 2011, we blogged about this case here:  US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey$5 Million Reward for Information Re: Shootings of Two ICE Agents in Mexico and “Fast and Furious” gun killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico?

On May 16, 2016, USDOJ announced that two Mexican nationals have been extradited from Mexico to face charges for their alleged participation in the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, in Mexico.

The charges and extraditions were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division and Director Sarah R. Saldaña of ICE.

Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, aka Loco, 28, and Alfredo Gaston Mendoza Hernandez, aka Camaron, aka Burger, 33, both of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, were charged on May 16, 2013, in a four-count indictment with murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.  The indictment was unsealed today when Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez made their initial appearances before Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia.  Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez were ordered detained without bail.

Four defendants—Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka Piolin, 35; Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, aka Catracho, 28; Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, aka Cacho, 33; and Francisco Carbajal Flores, aka Dalmata, 41—previously pleaded guilty to offenses based on their roles in the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.  As part of their guilty pleas, Espinoza, Rivera and Villagran admitted that they participated directly in the Feb. 15, 2011, ambush of the two special agents as part of a Los Zetas hit squad.  The fourth defendant, Flores, acknowledged assisting Zetas members after the attack.  A fifth defendant, Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka Juan Manuel Maldonado Amezcua, aka Safado, 35, was extradited to the United States on Oct. 1, 2015, for his participation in this attack and is currently awaiting trial.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The FBI is investigating the case with substantial assistance from ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The investigation was also coordinated with the assistance of the Government of Mexico.

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