American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico

Posted: 2:19 pm PT
Updated: 2:48 PT

 

An American diplomat serving at the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico was shot Friday as he was reportedly leaving the city’s Plaza Sania mall.  The FBI is offering $20,000 for information leading to identification of the suspect. USCG Guadalajara has posted three video clips showing the shooter, and images of the attack on its Facebook page.

“Please call the United States embassy in Mexico City if you recognise him at (01-55)5080-2000.”

According to the Guardian citing Guadalajara’s El Informador newspaper, the victim was reportedly being treated at a local hospital for a gunshot wound in the upper chest.  The State Department has not named the person who was shot, but the Mexico Attorney General’s office identified him to the news media as Christopher Ashcraft.  The police source told the Guardian that he suspected the shooter was a professional killer. “He was probably aiming for the head but he missed as he leaned over to put his ticket in the machine.” 

A friend of the victim who notified this blog of the shooting said that the FSO is “conscious in the ICU and will likely be okay.”

Congressional Records dated September 8, 2015 indicates that one Christopher Nolan Ashcraft of the District of Columbia was appointed as a member of the Foreign Service to be Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.

This latest attack will resonate deeply with USG employees overseas, especially in light of the latest GOP move in Congress of using embassy security funds as a “bargaining chip” to try and force the move of the US Embassy in Israel (see Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens). Or for that matter, the potential targeting of specific Federal employees with the recent reinstatement of the Holman Rule under the guise of “retrenching expenditures” (see House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Slash Pay of Any Federal Employee).

USCG Guadalajara has issued the following security message:

As the investigation into the January 6 shooting of the U.S. Consulate employee continues, U.S citizens in the Guadalajara area are urged to restrict their movements outside their homes and places of work to those truly essential.  They should also take care not to fall into predictable patterns for those movements that are essential.  They should vary the times and routes of their movements.

Below is the CCTV footage by USCG Guadalajara showing a man in a purple T-shirt loitering by what is reported as the car park exit before pulling out a pistol, firing at the car, and then running away.

 

#

Failure of Iraq’s #Mosul Dam Would Likely Cause “A Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions”

Posted: 2:29 pm PT

 

In February 2016, the US Embassy in Baghdad released a fact sheet on Mosul Dam.  It warned that in the event of a dam failure, the floodwave would resemble an in-land tidal wave between Mosul and Samarra’, and would sweep downstream anything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded ordinances, hazardous chemicals, and waste. It notes that less than 6 inches of moving water is strong enough to knock a person off his feet, and 16 inches of moving water can carry away most automobiles. Flooding south of Samarra would resemble that of Hurricane Katrina, with standing water that pervades much of Baghdad for weeks to months. As floodwaters recede, mud and waste-covered remnants of previous infrastructure will be left behind.  Flood water could reach depths greater than 45 feet in some parts of Mosul City in as little as one to four hours, giving residents little time to flee. Flood water could reach Tikrit in one to two days.  Flood water could reach Baghdad in three to four days and have depths of up to 33 feet in the river channel.  Some parts of Baghdad would be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport (see US Embassy Baghdad Issues Warning on Possible Collapse of Iraq’s Mosul Dam).

The State Department’s July 2016 Travel Warning notes that the Government of Iraq has taken measures in improving the structural integrity of the dam but urged contingency planning for those who reside in the floodplain. The same Travel Warning also notes that the ability of the Embassy to assist U.S. citizens facing difficulty is extremely limited.

The Government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam.  A dam failure could cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services from Mosul to Baghdad.  While it is impossible to accurately predict the likelihood of the dam failing, the Embassy has made contingency plans to relocate its personnel in such an event.  The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those who reside in the floodplain of the Tigris River, prepare their own contingency plans, have valid U.S. passports, and stay informed of local media reports and Embassy security messages for updates.  

Dexter Filkins has a new story in  (subscription) about the potential coming flood if the Mosul Dam collapses and cause a “catastrophe of Biblical proportions.” Earlier this month, Al Jazeera also reported that the Mosul Dam collapse ‘will be worse than a nuclear bomb’. Apparently warnings by scientists and environmentalists about an imminent collapse are dismissed by Iraqi officials as far-fetched.

 

#

US Embassy Kinshasa Orders Employees to Shelter in Place This Weekend in the #DRC

Posted: 12:06 pm PT

 

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa issued a security message informing U.S. citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo that U.S. government employees have been instructed to limit their movements to and within Gombe starting on Saturday, December 17.  Employees have also been asked to remain in their residences from Saturday at 23:00 until Sunday, December 18 at 05:00.

On Sunday, December 18, a Shelter-in-Place order will go into effect at 19:00.

The U.S. Embassy will be open on Monday, December 19.

U.S. citizens should:

  • Remain indoors in a safe location on December 19.
  • Avoid demonstrations.
  • Be sure to have extra food, water and medication on hand.
  • Establish a communication plan with your friends and family, so they know when to expect to hear from you.

#

Related posts:

Secretary @JohnKerry Swears-In Sung Kim as U.S. Ambassador to the #Philippines

Posted: 1:29 am ET

 

Meanwhile, in the Philippines ….

#

US Embassy Kuwait: Construction Vehicle as Weapon Targets U.S. Military Personnel

Posted: 4:12 am ET

 

On October 9, the US Embassy in Kuwait issued a Security Message to US Citizens in Kuwait about a failed terrorist attack against deployed U.S. troops:

U.S. Embassy Kuwait confirms that what at first appeared to be a routine traffic accident involving three deployed U.S. military personnel on a Kuwaiti highway on Thursday, October 6, was in fact an attempted terrorist attack.  An Egyptian national deliberately rammed a construction vehicle into a passenger vehicle containing the three U.S. personnel.  The Egyptian driver was incapacitated by the impact.  The three U.S. military personnel, who were uninjured, pulled the driver from his vehicle, which had caught fire.  The perpetrator was subsequently hospitalized and is in Kuwaiti custody.

We are not aware of specific, credible threats against private U.S. citizens in Kuwait at this time.  Nonetheless, this attack serves as a reminder to maintain a high level of vigilance, and the Embassy advises U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times.

Read in full here.

#

@StateDept Terminates Evacuation Orders For U.S. Mission Turkey

Posted: 1:51 am ET

 

On September 23, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Turkey urging American citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel in the country. The notice also informs the public of the termination of the evacuation orders for family members of USG employees posted in Turkey:

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the  country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the September 23, 2016 decision to end the authorization for the voluntary departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, which was made following the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. In addition, effective September 24, 2016, the Department of State is ending the ordered departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. government civilians in Izmir. The Department of State will authorize employed adult dependents (21 year or older) of employees to return to Adana.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time. The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing State of Emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey. Delays securing consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue.

Just a couple of days  prior to the Travel Warning, the US Embassy in Ankara issued a security message saying that there were reports of a police investigation into a terror cell in Gaziantep.  The information suggests the terrorists are possibly targeting shopping centers, Starbucks, Big Chef Restaurants and or other businesses catering to Western customers.   U.S. citizens in Gaziantep are advised to exercise caution when patronizing these sorts of businesses and to avoid them if possible.

 

#

U.S. Embassy Libreville Cancels Routine Services For Sept2 Following Gabon Demonstrations

Posted: 3:24 am ET

 

On September 1, the US Embassy in Gabon released a security message concerning the protests and demonstrations roiling the country. It announced that it will be open for limited operations only on Friday, September 2.

The U.S. Embassy in Libreville informs U.S. citizens that widespread, violent demonstrations, rioting and looting have taken place in Libreville, particularly in the area of Cite de la Democratie-Voie Express-Boulevard Triomphal, and extending through many of the city’s central and southern neighborhoods following the announcement of presidential election results.  Further protests and demonstrations are expected in the coming days.

Security forces have responded to the situation with tear gas and have placed roadblocks at major arterial roads, cutting off transportation across the city. There is also debris and burned cars blocking the roads in some areas.

There are reports of violence in the cities of Oyem, Bitam, Port Gentil and Lambarene.

At this time the airport is open and operational and commercial flights are available.  The Embassy recommends U.S. citizens remain in a safe location and avoid non-essential movement. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation and will update you as appropriate.

Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates.  Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.

The U.S. Embassy in Libreville will be open with limited operations on Friday, September 2.  Routine consular services have been cancelled, but emergency consular services for U.S. citizens continue to be available.

 

#

 

 

 

@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.

#

Employees of U.S. Consulate General Monterrey (a non-danger post) face credible security threat in Mexico

Posted: 2:12 pm ET
Updated: 4:30 pm ET

 

On April 1, the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico issued a Security Message informing American citizens of a potential security threat to its employees and announced the restriction of travel of USG employees until further notice:

Due to a potential security threat to its employees, the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey has instructed U.S. Government personnel to avoid traveling outside the Monterrey metropolitan area until further notice. The U. S. Consulate General in Monterrey strongly advises all U.S. citizens residing or traveling in the states of Coahuila, San Luis Potosí or Nuevo Leon to review their personal security habits and maintain high levels of situational awareness. 

Monterrey currently has a post hardship pay of 15% and zero danger differential.  A source called the threat “credible.” We were told that when the allowances committee cut the previous danger pay for Monterrey from 20% to zero, the justification reportedly was that  “Americans were not directly targeted by the cartel violence.”  Note that the State Department removed danger pay for all Mexican posts last year (see New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status).

A State Department  nightingale also wants us to know that Monterrey where USG employees “remain under curfew, unable to drive virtually anywhere, and uncomfortable telling friends and family to visit” has the same hardship pay as Mexico City, apparently, the number one place to visit in 2016 according to the New York Times.  Also that “there is virtually no freedom of the press” in northern Mexico and the U.S. media only covers them when “it pertains to Donald Trump.”  The State Department’s allowances page lists the hardship differential for Mexico here.

The 2016 Crime and Safety Report for Monterrey notes the following:

Due to drug-related violence associated with Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO), U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border. U.S. government personnel in Monterrey may travel by land to the states of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, and Durango, utilizing toll roads and may overnight in their capitals. Travel is permitted within the state of Nuevo Leon via toll roads. Travel to Coahuila must be done in an armored vehicle, and overnight lodging is restricted. U.S. government personnel must remain in San Pedro Garza Garcia from 0100-0600 (0500 if traveling to the airport).
[…]
The threat of Transnational Criminal Organization-related violence remains the most significant security concern in Monterrey’s Consular District. Police continue to confront the cartels and their associates, and these confrontations can result in shootouts on public roads. Following the confrontations, police frequently discover weapons and in some cases explosives.

According to a recent Daily Beast report, “from 2007 to 2014 the crime wars of Mexico claimed more lives than the combined toll of the wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. More than 164,000 Mexicans have disappeared or been killed in the conflict, and the extreme and chronic violence, coupled with great poverty, also drives much of the illegal immigration that Donald Trump and his supporters are so worried about. “  Read Why the Military Will Never Beat Mexico’s Cartels.

The top boss at USCG Monterrey is Timothy Zúñiga-Brown who arrived in Monterrey in August 2015 as Consul General and Principal Officer. According to Mission Mexico’s newly redesigned website, USCG Monterrey is “one of the largest and busiest consulates in the world.  The Monterrey consular district, includes Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and most of Coahuila. This district has nearly 13 million inhabitants and is nearly the size of Texas.  The Consulate General staff includes 82 U.S. Officers representing eleven U.S. government agencies plus their 145 Mexican employees.”

Roberta Jacobson, President Obama’s nominee as the next ambassador to Mexico has been stuck in confirmation purgatory for months (see SFRC Clears Roberta Jacobson’s Nomination as US Ambassador to Mexico, Roadblocks Remain). U.S. Mission Mexiso is currently headed by Charge d’affairs William H. Duncan.

In June 2015, a congressional letter of concern asked Secretary of State John Kerry to examine criminal violence in Mexico as a threat to U.S. personnel working in Mexican consulates.

Here’s a good read from the Congressional Research Service on organized crime and drug trafficking organizations in Mexico via fas.org:

#

Related posts:

 

 

U.S. Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan Restrict USG Travel to #NagornoKarabakh and Surrounding Territories

Posted: 1:04 am ET

 

U.S. Embassy Baku “strongly advises private U.S. citizens to avoid travel to NK and the Embassy continues to prohibit the travel of U.S. government personnel to NK.  Consular services are not available to U.S. citizens in NK or the occupied territories surrounding it.  U.S. citizens are also reminded that travel across the Azerbaijan-Armenia international border is not possible due to ongoing hostilities.  Travelers should remain clear of the border areas and comply with Azerbaijani checkpoints set up to keep travelers from hazardous areas.”

Excerpt below from US Embassy Yerevan’s Security Message:

The Embassy is aware of reports that indicate a serious escalation in violence along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) region and occupied territories, which include reports of civilian casualties.  The U.S. Embassy continues to prohibit the travel of U.S. government personnel to NK.  The U.S. Embassy also strongly advises private U.S. citizens to avoid travel to NK. U.S. consular services remain unavailable to U.S. citizens in NK and the surrounding territories.

The security situation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in the Tavush Province continues to remain tense as well. Travel by U.S. government personnel to this border area is restricted. Villages and their connecting border roads in this area that are affected by these restrictions include, but are not limited to, Vazashen, Varagavan, Paravakar, Aygepar, Azatamut, and Barekamavan. The Embassy notes this area also includes the segment of the frequently traveled route between Yerevan and Tbilisi on M-16/H-26 from Azatamut through Jujevan to the Georgian border.

Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security

.

 #