US Embassy Kinshasa Remains Closed to the Public For Sixth Day Over Terror Threat #DRC

 

On December 2, the US Embassy Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that it will be closed to the public again due to a terrorist threat against USG facilities in the capital city. Below is part of the announcement:

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is working closely with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to address a terrorist threat against USG facilities in Kinshasa.  The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will be closed to the public on Monday, December 3.

 Actions to Take:

·        Maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

·         Monitor local media for updates.

·         Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety.

·         Review the country page  and remain alert for potentially dangerous situations.

US Embassy Kinshasha previously “received credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. Government facilities in Kinshasa” on November 24, 2018. It initially closed to the public with only minimal staffing on Monday, November 26, 2018.

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Security Message on Terrorist Threat to U.S. Interests in South Africa

Posted: 1:08 pm EDT
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The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a security message today alerting American citizens of a terrorist threat to United States interests in South Africa. Note that the message provides the contact information for the U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban for American citizens requiring assistance.  The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not have a consular section and does not provide consular services.  The U.S. Mission to South Africa is currently headed by Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, a political appointee who previously served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.

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The US Mission in South Africa is the second largest in the Bureau of African Affairs in total staff, and the third largest in terms of Department staffing, behind Nigeria and Kenya. With consulates general in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, it is apparently, the only mission in Africa with three constituent posts. Twenty-eight offices from 12 independent agencies maintain a presence at the mission, the largest being the Department, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2011 OIG report recommended that USCG Durban “be significantly downsized or closed.”

Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Crime and Safety Report rates South Africa as “critical” in crime and “medium” in terrorism:

South Africa serves as an important transit and facilitation point for global extremists. Though there has been no indication that operational cells are present, a nexus for recruiting, funding, and safe haven for international terrorists does exist.

The last significant domestic terror campaign occurred in the Western Cape. The Western Cape-based group “People against Gangsters and Drugs” (PAGAD) conducted an urban terror campaign of bombings, assassinations, and vigilante murders from 1997 to November 2001. These activities targeted government facilities and personnel, moderate Muslims identified as threats to the radical Islamic movement, and Western-themed businesses (Planet Hollywood, Hooters, and Hard Rock Cafe) seen by PAGAD as symbols of the anti-Islamic West. The successful investigation and subsequent prosecution of PAGAD members by the government was credited with the suspension of further violence. No significant anti-Western attacks have occurred since 2001.

The smallest post in the mission is USCG Durban. It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s largest container port (Durban) and commodity port (Richards Bay), making the province one of the prime commercial centers on the continent. According to the latest crime/safety report, KZN is also a frequent host to ANC political rallies and large gatherings that sometimes disrupt the city. Most protests, marches, and rallies pass in front of the building housing the U.S. Consulate General and end across the street in front of Durban’s City Hall, preventing Consulate staff and visitors from accessing or departing from the building.

The report also notes that while the SA police forces are well intentioned, they have limited effectiveness due to a lack of equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies.

As an side, this is one more example where post’s social media arms are not integrated into a whole-mission approach. Its Facebook page features a job vacancy and “20 years after the Beijing Declaration.”  On Twitter, @USEmbassySA makes no mention of the security message and has the following instead:
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We’re going to boldly bet that the social media platforms are run by Public Affairs and the security message is run by the Consular Section. And they have not bumped into each other yet.

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U.S. Embassy Uganda Warns of Possible Terrorist Threats to Western Interests

Posted: 9:15 pm PDT
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Via U.S. Embassy Kampala, March 25, 2015

The U.S Embassy has received information of possible terrorist threats to locations where Westerners, including U.S. citizens, congregate in Kampala, and that an attack may take place soon.  Out of an abundance of caution, the U.S. Mission has cancelled some non-essential events scheduled at local hotels in the coming days.  U.S. citizens staying or visiting hotels should expect increased security sweeps and delays when entering or exiting hotel areas.

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US Embassy Norway: Emergency Message on Foreign Fighters Returned From Syria Threat

— Domani Spero
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The U.S. Embassy in Oslo has just issued an emergency message to Americans in Norway based on the Norwegian Government’s announcement of a threat from foreign fighters returning to Norway from Syria:

United States Embassy Oslo, Norway | 24 July 2014
This morning, 24 July 2014, the Norwegian government announced that foreign fighters returned from Syria may be planning an attack in Norway over the coming days. The Norwegian police are not aware of where, when, or in what method this attack could take place. However, public gatherings, government facilities, businesses, and public transportation systems tend to be the targets of choice for terrorists and extremist groups.

The Embassy recommends the U.S. citizen community in Norway remain extra alert during this period. Please err on the side of caution over the coming days. Especially now, if you see anything threatening, dangerous, or concerning, please call the Norwegian Police at 112.

Read the full announcement here.

U.S. Embassy, Oslo, Norway.

U.S. Embassy, Oslo, Norway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

U.S. Embassy Oslo is currently headed by Chargé d’affaires  Julie Furuta-Toy.  The controversial nominee for U.S. ambassador to Norway, George Tsunis was announced on September 10, 2013 and has been stuck in the Senate awaiting for the full vote since February 4, 2014.

 

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US Embassy Kenya: Isn’t That Travel Warning Odd or What?

— Domani Spero
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The State Department issued a Travel Warning for Kenya on May 15 warning of the risks of travel to Kenya, of potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests, and the restriction of U.S. Government personnel travel in country. We blogged about it here (See US Embassy Kenya Restricts USG Personnel Travel, New Travel Warning).

On May 16, the AP, citing a letter sent to embassy employees that day, reported  that the U.S. ambassador in Kenya Robert Godec has requested additional Kenyan and American security personnel and is reducing the size of the embassy staff due to increased terrorist threats in Kenya.

We don’t know when the actual request was made but the May 15 Travel Warning did not include the information on additional security personnel or the reduction of staff.

On Saturday, May 17, Ambassador Godec released the following statement:

[T]he U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at both Kenyans and the international community.   The most important responsibility of every U.S. Ambassador and Embassy is to protect American citizens and to keep them informed.  The United States greatly appreciates the Kenyan government’s rapid response to requests for additional security at diplomatic facilities while it also increases security at public and other critical venues.

The Embassy is continuously reviewing and updating its security measures, and expects to take additional steps in coming days, to include on U.S. staffing. We remain open for normal operations and have no plan to close the Embassy.

We could not remember a post in recent memory that announced a reduction in staffing before it actually happens.  But the reduction in staffing was already widely reported in the media. As well as the request for additional security personnel for post.

We imagined that the Consular folks were up in arms with the “No Double Standard” Policy, which requires that  important security threat information if shared with the official U.S. community (generally defined as Americans working for the U.S. government abroad), must be made available to the wider American community if the threat applies to both official and non-official Americans.

On May 17, the two-day old Travel Warning was replaced with an updated one noting that, “Based on the security situation, the Embassy is reviewing its staffing with an eye toward reduction in staff in the near future.  The Embassy will remain open for normal operations.”

Meanwhile, according to AFP, Kenya’s foreign ministry had accused several foreign nations of “unfriendly acts” and “noted with disappointment” the warnings by Australia, Britain, France and the United States, after they issued travel warnings for coastal regions following a wave of attacks and unrest linked to Islamist extremists.

We should note that US Embassy Nairobi is the largest U.S. embassy in Africa with a staff of more than 1,300 among 19 federal agency offices, including more than 400 U.S. direct hires and over 800 local employees. As of this writing, the embassy has not been declared on authorized departure, the first phase in a staffing reduction.

Ambassador Godec was assigned as the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya in August 2012 following the departure of Ambassador Gration.  He was nominated by President Obama on September 19, 2012 to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and sworn in by Secretary of State Clinton on January 16, 2013.  Prior to his assignment in Nairobi, Ambassador Godec was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) in the Department of State.

Since Nairobi is the site of one of our most catastrophic embassy attacks, we will add the following detail from the Nairobi ARB report in 1999 in the aftermath of the twin East Africa bombings in Kenya and Tanzania:

Ambassador Bushnell, in letters to the Secretary in April 1998, and to Under Secretary Cohen a month later, restated her concern regarding the vulnerability of the embassy, repeating the need to have a new chancery that would meet Inman standards. Ms. Cohen responded in June stating that, because of Nairobi’s designation as a medium security threat post for political violence and terrorism and the general soundness of the building, its replacement ranked relatively low among the chancery replacement priorities. She drew attention to FBO’s plan to extend the chancery’s useful life and improve its security to include $4.1 million for the replacement of the windows.

As of this writing,there is no update on reduction of staffing at post. On May 20, US Embassy Nairobi issued the following Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Protests in Nairobi Turn Violent.

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19 Posts to Close From August 5-10; Some Missions Closed Aug 4 Reopens August 5

The following posts ordered closed on August 4 will reopen Monday, August 5 for normal operation:  Dhaka (Bangladesh), Algiers (Algeria),  Nouakchott (Mauritania), Kabul (Afghanistan) including consulates in Herat and Mazar el Sharif, and Baghdad (Iraq) including consulates in Basrah and Erbil.

The State Department also announced that the following 19 posts will close for normal operations Monday, August 5 through Saturday, August 10.

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  1. Abu Dhabi (UAE)
  2. Dubai (UAE)
  3. Amman (Jordan)
  4. Cairo (Egypt)
  5. Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)
  6. Dhahran (Saudi Arabia)
  7. Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
  8. Doha (Qatar)
  9. Kuwait (Kuwait)
  10. Manama (Bahrain)
  11. Muscat (Oman)
  12. Sanaa (Yemen)
  13. Tripoli (Libya)
  14. Antananarivo (Madagascar)
  15. Bujumbura (Burundi)
  16. Djibouti (Djibouti)
  17. Khartoum (Sudan)
  18. Kigali (Rwanda)
  19. Port Louis (Mauritius)

The State Department statement says that “This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees including local employees and visitors to our facilities.”

All posts scheduled for closure on the August 5 week are located in the Middle East and Africa.  Of the 28 posts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region under the NEA Bureau, only Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco have not been included in the list of closures.  Of the 52 Africa posts under the AF Bureau, six are in the post closure list.

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