@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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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:

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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

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U.S. Embassy Bulgaria Issues/Withdraws Security Message, PM Reacts to Threat Alert on Sofia Buses

Posted: 1:04 am EDT

 

On March 23, the U.S. Embassy in Sofia issued a Security Message regarding a possible threat against an unspecified bus line or bus lines in the vicinity of Hotel Pliska (Boulevard “Tsarigradsko shose” 87), in the eastern Sofia neighborhood of Istok.  It advised American citizens to avoid the area and to find alternate means of transportation.

A few hours later, the message was withdrawn, the embassy posting “Security Alert no longer in effect” on its website.  According to novanite.com, the alert has angered the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov who is quoted as saying, “The information… does not match reality.”

Domestic security agency DANS and the Interior Ministry have already checked the warning submitted to 112, the emergency hotline, Borisov has explained in a statement that follows a message by the US State Department citing the country’s embassy in Sofia.

“The checkup found out it was all about unsettled love relations between a Bulgarian and a foreign national,” he has added.

Borisov has also slammed US diplomats for exporting to the public “the information received by their Bulgarian counterparts” and for doing so in an “absolutely unacceptable way”.

The security message follows the bombings in Brussels and Ankara, the latter a subject of much speculation online that Embassy Ankara had to release a statement on how it became aware of the threat.

Reuters reports that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov also says, “I want to assure Bulgarian citizens that the state investigates any indication of a threat to citizens and would not withhold such a thing from the public if there was the slightest danger to life and limb.”

Since the embassy received the information from their Bulgarian counterparts, the USG officials in Sofia were obligated to disseminate  the information or they’d run afoul of the USG’s No Double Standard policy (see 7 FAM 052).

Generally, if the Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.  If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.

In this case, if the embassy told its employees “to avoid” a specific area and “to find alternate means of transportation” due to a possible threat, they are required to share that information with U.S. nationals living in Bulgaria. Except in extraordinarily urgent circumstances, posts are cautioned not to issue an Emergency Message or a Security Message pertaining to safety or  security of private U.S. citizens without first clearing the language with the Department.

 

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@StateDept’s Comment on American Casualties During #BrusselsAttacks

Posted: 4:29 pm EDT

 

Meanwhile in Belgium, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels issued a message that says the security situation remains at level 4. It urge individuals to exercise caution and to avoid large gatherings. “A period of mourning is underway and will end on Thursday. Many public events have been cancelled. Public transportation has been disrupted. Zaventem airport remains closed.”

 

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U.S. Embassy Belgium Requests USG Personnel Defer Travel to Brussels Until 3/29, DOD Travel Restrictions On

Posted: 6:00 pm EDT

 

On March 22, U.S. Embassy Brussels sent a security message to U.S. citizens in Belgium informing them that an anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing in the neighborhood of Schaerbeek. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • All public transport in Brussels has been halted and tunnels have been closed.

A subsequent embassy message requests USG personnel to defer non-essential travel to the capital city until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. Mission Brussels requests that U.S. government personnel defer non-essential travel to Brussels until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • Public transport in Brussels is limited and several roads and tunnels remain closed.

These events take place with little or no notice, therefore U.S. citizens are urged to:

  • Be aware of local events
  • Follow local authority instructions
  • Monitor local media further developments 
  • U.S. citizens should contact their family and friends to let them know they are safe.
  • Take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security

Meanwhile, the DOD and the European Command have implemented a travel restrictions to Belgium on March 22, 2016. They apply to all uniformed service members, civilian and contractor employees, and command-sponsored dependents.

 

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Bamako Hotel With EU Training Mission Targeted, US Embassy Mali Cancels Consular Services For 3/22

Posted: 2:24  pm EDT

 

On March 21, around 18:33 local time, the headquarters of EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM-Mali) was attacked by small arms fire. EUTM reported on FB and Twitter that no one was harmed or wounded at its Mali headquarters (MHQ). Personnel has reportedly secured the mission and the Malian security forces were on patrol at the surrounding area.

After the attack, the U.S. Embassy in Bamako sent a security message to U.S. citizens advising that they continue to shelter in place until further notice. It also notified them and the public of the cancellation of all routine consular services as the embassy will be on reduced staffing on Tuesday, March 22.

Due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding the security incident at Hotel Nord Sud in ACI 2000, the U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens in Bamako to continue to shelter in place until further notice. Out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. Embassy will operate with reduced staffing tomorrow (March 22) and all routine visa and American Citizens Services are cancelled. For emergencies involving a U.S. citizen, please contact the U.S. Embassy at (+223) 223 6675-9579 and (+223) 6675-2860.

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Attacks on Grand-Bassam Beach Resorts Kill 16 People in Côte d’Ivoire

Posted: 7:17 pm EDT
Updated: March 14, 2:46 am EDT

 

BBC News reports that Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed at least 16 people in gun attacks on beach resorts in southern Ivory Coast. “The attackers fired on beach-goers in Grand Bassam, about 40km (25 miles) from the commercial capital Abidjan. The resort is popular with both locals and foreigners. Four of the dead were Westerners, including a French and a German national, officials say.”

 

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan issued a couple of security messages. The first one dated March 13 with no timestamp says that the U.S. Embassy has received reports of gun shots in Grand Bassam and “advises American citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to defer travel to Grand Bassam and if you are there to shelter in place.”

The second security message also without a timestamp was issued subsequently saying that the embassy “is aware of an ‎attack in Grand-Bassam. ‎We refer you to the Cote d’Ivoire authorities for the most up-to-date information.” It also says that the embassy “advises U.S. citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to avoid any unnecessary travel until further notice.”

These messages are not on Twitter or Facebook. At 1:05 pm on March 13, Embassy Abidjan tweeted the following message, mirrored on its FB page:

 

Related items:

 

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Car Bomb Targets Turkish Capital, Ankara: Explosion Kills 32, Injures 100+ in Kizilay Area

Posted: 5:40 pm EDT
Updated: 6:58 pm EDT

 

Media reports says that a huge explosion hit the Turkish capital of Ankara on March 13, killing 27 people and wounding at least 75 others. The blast happened just before 6.45 pm local time at Kizilay Square near Guven Park.   Latest reports put those killed at 32 people and the wounded at over a hundred individuals. Several vehicles were also reportedly destroyed or damaged in the explosion, which took place in the Kizilay area of Ankara, about 25 minutes walk from the U.S. embassy.  This is the third bombing in the country, and the second one in Ankara this year alone. On February 27, 2016, a car bomb targeting the Turkish military in Ankara also killed 29 people.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara has sent out an emergency message informing all U.S. citizens of “a bombing near Kizilay Square.”  It says it is working to gather more details and urged citizens “to avoid the Kizilay/Ulus area and follow media reports for the latest developments.” Embassy Ankara previously issued a security message to Americans in Turkey warning of a potential terrorist threat in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara.

 

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And an important note, given speculations about the prior warning issued by the embassy:

 

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US Embassy Baghdad Issues Warning on Possible Collapse of Iraq’s Mosul Dam

Posted: 3:19 am EDT

 

On February 29, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a Security Message to U.S. citizens in the country on planning for the possible collapse of the Mosul Dam, formerly known as Saddam Dam and the largest dam in Iraq.

The disruption of maintenance operations in 2014 increased the risk of the Mosul Dam collapsing.  The Government of Iraq (GOI) is preparing to initiate emergency maintenance operations to reduce the risk of failure.

A dam failure would cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services in low-lying areas along the Tigris River Valley from Mosul to Baghdad.  Some models estimate that Mosul could be inundated by as much as 70 feet (21 meters) of water within hours of the breach.  Downriver cities such as Tikrit, Samarra, and Baghdad could be inundated with smaller, but still significant levels of flooding within 24-72 hours of the breach.

We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur, but out of an abundance of caution, we would like to underscore that prompt evacuation offers the most effective tool to save lives of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach.  Proper preparation could save many lives.

 

The Telegraph reported in December last year that an Italian company, Trevi, won a $2 billion (£1.3 billion) contract to repair the dam and that the Italian government was prepared to send 500 troops to guard the Italian company’s employees who will be tasked to do repair work.  On February 29, a company spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that the contract still had not been signed and gave no expected signature date.

On February 28, the US Embassy in Baghdad also released a fact sheet on the dam:

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; 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.

Read in full here:

 

 

Embassy Baghdad notes that it would be “extremely limited in its ability to assist in the event of a crisis” and encouraged  U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those who reside in the floodplain of the Tigris River to develop their personal contingency plans.

 

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