Photo of the Day: Diplomatic Security’s Smoky Scenario Training

 

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U.S. government personnel evacuate a building through a smoky scenario September 9, 2013, at the Diplomatic Security (DS) Interim Training Facility in Summit Point, West Virginia.  All government personnel serving at U.S. embassies or consulates in high-threat regions of the world must undergo DS’s Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training before their deployment. (U.S. Department of State photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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After reopening in 2005, U.S. Embassy Bangui suspends operations. Again.

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.

domani spero sig

 

 

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.