Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings have increased in priority with recent international and domestic developments. This page is designed to support the travel insurance industry and complement the state department's work. We want this to be a starting place for research on all things related to this subject. Critical events evolve rapidly around the globe. We are doing our best to keep information on this page accurate and up to date. Please inform us of any needed corrections you come across, or other resources we should be sharing on this page.
U.S. citizens are warned against all travel to Pakistan by the U.S. Department of State. The security environment within Pakistan, due to significant terrorist violence, severely limits the consular services by the U.S. Embassies and Consulate. Currently, the Consulate General in Peshawar is not providing consular services. This Travel Warning replaces the one dated October 7, 2016.
An Overview of the Terrorist Violence in Pakistan
Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organization employees, tribal elders and law enforcement personnel are common. Both foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a danger to U.S. citizens; evidence shows Americans are targeted from due to their nationality.
Although the Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures in major cities, terrorist attacks still occur throughout the nation. Terrorist have targeted heavily guarded facilities, universities and schools, hospitals, places of worships, rallies and public parks, hotels, markets and shopping malls, and restaurants.
Over the last five months, several terrorist attacks have occurred in Pakistan, changing the security situation. Terrorists killed nearly 60 people and injured 190 at a police training college in Quetta, Balochistan in October 2016. A suicide bomber detonated himself in at the Sufi Shah Noorani Shrine, killing and injuring over 150 people in November 2016. In January 2017, terrorist detonated a bomb in a busy marketplace, killing at least 25 people and injured nearly 90 others. Most recently in February 2017, suicide bombers killed over 400 people with two bombs; one at Punjab Assembly in Lahore and another at the Sufi Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
Travel Recommendations for U.S. Citizens in Pakistan
The U.S. Department of State warns travelers currently in or going to Pakistan. If U.S. travelers still decide to visit Pakistan, the Department of State reminds travelers that U.S. government personnel has travel restricts within Pakistan. Because of the risks for U.S. citizens and the high risk for terrorist attacks, U.S. government personnel is not allowed to attend services at places of worship without prior approval or use public transportation. They are also restricted from staying overnight in Pakistan hotels. The U.S. Department of State reminds travelers of the following:
The U.S Department of State warns all U.S. citizens against traveling to the Gaza Strip. While the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority both make considerable efforts to ensure security, the security situation remains complex and fluid, changing quickly depending on the political environment and recent events. This Travel Warning replaces one issued August 23, 2016.
Understanding the History of the Conflict in the Gaza Strip
Currently, Gaza is under control of Hamas, a foreign organization the U.S. government has designated as terrorist. The security situation in Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile. The U.S. Department of State reminds U.S. citizens to exercise caution and remain aware of their surroundings when traveling to areas with heightened tensions and security risks. Violent demonstrations and shootings occur frequent basis with high collateral risks.
Reported by The Palestinian Chronicle, at least 178 Palestinians were injured and eight were killed in Gaza by Israeli Forces in 2016. Typically these injuries and deaths occurred during clashes with Israeli Forces along the security barrier between the territory and Israel. Most recently, in February 2017, a 16-year-old Palestinian was injured.
While U.S. citizens sometimes are killed or wounded in attacks, there is little no indication that they were targeted due to their nationality. In most cases, their perceived religion was a factor in the attacks. The majority of recent attacks have targeted uniformed Israeli security forces often in proximity to checkpoints throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank, especially near religious sites significant to multiple faiths. In August 2016, a group of “ultra-Orthodox Jews” was attacked by Palestinians when they took a trip to Joseph’s Tomb.
Travel Recommendations for U.S Citizens Going to Gaza
If U.S. citizens should still choose to travel to Gaza, they should stay alert while traveling around the region. If caught in an area where violence erupts, attacks can be carried out using knives, vehicles and/or guns. Israeli security forces react with deadly force, which has resulted in bystanders being injured or killed in the crossfire. Prior to traveling throughout the area, U.S. citizens should review local media to understand the current climate.
The U.S Department of State recommends the following to U.S. Citizens
The U.S. Department of State also recommends that all U.S. citizens travel within the same rules and restrictions applied to U.S. government employee travel in the area:
For reasons of terrorist activities, kidnappings and high crime, the U.S. Department of State has issued a warning to U.S. citizens traveling to Niger. Due to security concerns and travel restrictions, the U.S. Embassy has a very limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in remote and rural areas of Niger. This Travel Warning replaces one dated January 21, 2016.
An Overview of the Extremist Activity in Niger
More specifically, the Travel Warning recommends U.S. citizens avoid travel to Niger’s border regions, particularly the Malian border area, Diffa region and Lake Chad Basin area. These areas have recent activity from extremist groups including al-Qa’eda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham – Islamic State West Africa, and Boko Haram. The border regions of Niger are hotspots for terrorist activity, armed robbers and smugglers. Mali-based extremist groups have crossed the Nigerien border and carried out multiple deadly attacks on security forces.
The Travel Warning specifically notes that travelers are targeted throughout the country by armed robbers. Outside of the city of Niamey, the potential is very high for violent crime. All U.S. Embassy personnel traveling outside of Niamey are required to travel during daylight hours with a minimum of two vehicles accompanied by armed Nigerien government. Due to a high number of threats of kidnappings by terrorist groups against Westerners and U.S. citizens, several NGOs and private aid organizations have suspended aid operations in Niger and removed all personnel.
State of Emergencies Declared in Several Regions of Niger
The high volume of terrorist activity has kept the government of Niger from releasing a state of emergency in the Diffa region since February 2015. In June 2016, the Boko Haram took the town of Bosso near the Nigerien border and killed 30 soldiers from Niger. Then on March 3, 2017, the Nigerien Government declared a state of emergency for seven departments of the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions bordering Mali after several deadly attacks.
In addition to the current Travel Warning for Kenya, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Travel Alert to all U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Kenya due to the August 2017 general elections. This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2017.
The Department of State expects rallies, demonstrations and protests to occur with little notice as the election process initiates and continues until August. Candidate selection for both the national and county offices will take place throughout the month of April. Nationwide campaigning will lead up to the August 8, 2017, election.
Kenya was named the number one African elections to watch in 2017 by Newsweek. Newsweek reports that the preparations for the elections has not been going smoothly, and currently clashes of political parties invoke memories of the 2007 Kenyan national election where around 1,200 people were killed. After the 2007 election, The New York Times reported that only 15 minutes after the election results were announced, the opposition resorted to bloodshed. They vowed to inaugurate its leader, Raila Odinga, and the standing government warned it would be seen as a coup.
Tensions began to increase in Kenya months before the election. Voter registration has already begun around the nation as well. Protests for the August 2017 election may start out peaceful and then escalate into violence. This opens the opportunity for criminal elements or terrorist to target participants of the protests and visitors near the protests. The U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding areas with gatherings, protests, and demonstrations and exercise extreme caution if in the vicinity of any such events.
Traveling U.S. citizens are warned by the U.S. Department of State about trips to several regions of Nigeria. The Travel Warning recommends avoiding all but essential travel to the areas of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, and Yobe because of fluid and unstable security situation and the areas of Bayelsa, Delta, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara states due to risk of robberies, kidnappings and other violent crimes. The security situation in northeast Nigeria “remains fluid and unpredictable.” This Travel Warning replaces the one dated February 8, 2017.
The risks for travelers in Nigeria are kidnappings, robberies and other armed attacks. Poor transportation infrastructure also makes it difficult for the U.S. Mission to provide consular services in parts of Nigeria. Because of this, the U.S government recommends all travelers have an evacuation option that does not involve the U.S. government.
The violence in Nigeria is primarily due to Boko Haram, an extremist group based in the northeast part of the country. The terrorist group typically targets churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions and entertainment venues. In 2014, the Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok. Recently, in early 2017, one of the girls was found while being interrogated after an army raid.
The United States government suggests exercising extreme caution throughout the country due to threats of indiscriminate violence. Terrorist attacks could happen anywhere, including markets, hotels, restaurants, bars and places of worship. As reported by Fox News, in December 2016, a young girl drove a suicide bomb into a crowded market in the name of Boko Haram. Most recently, in February of 2017, the Nigerian government announced that the Muslim Brotherhood (associated with Boko Haram) is planning to attack banks, arms depots and prisons across the country. The travel warning also notes that travel to the Gulf of Guinea should be avoided due to the threat of piracy. In 2016, 32 seafarers were kidnapped in the first five months of the year.
Zika is endemic in Nigeria, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to travelers is low. They recommend using DEET and long sleeve clothing while outside. Zika is transferred through mosquito bites, so the CDC recommends maintaining these precautions when travelers return home.
Replacing a travel warning from December 23, 2016, the United States Department of State has issued updated information on the travel warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They advise any family members of government employees and non-emergency personnel to return to Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. Poor transportation throughout the nation and poor security conditions in the western part of the nation make it difficult for the U.S. Department of State to provide consular services outside of the capital.
Overview of Current Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
According to the Canadian Government, the most recent reason for security concerns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a shift in power “despite a political agreement reached on December 31, 2016.” The agreement, as reported by the Human Rights Watch, comes after the mediation effort of the Catholic Church.
The agreement reached by the DRC parties commits the acting government to respect the December 19th, 2016 deadline that ends President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit. The agreement also clearly defines that presidential elections will be held before the end of 2017, that the current president will not be on the ballot, and the current president will not try to change the constitutional terms prior to the election. Due to this, large-scale demonstrations could occur without notice, lead to violence and potentially block the only road to the N’Djili Airport in Kinshasa.
The travel warning comes after months of ongoing instability and sporadic violence between militant groups. The U.S. Department of State refers to the provinces of North and South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, Ituri, Tanganyika and Haut-Lomami as the areas to avoid. “Armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces operate in [these] provinces…” Travelers in North and South Kivu, specifically, should be ready to encounter military troop movements, armored vehicles and attack helicopters.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly the eastern area of the country, is known as a very unsafe place for women, travelers and citizens alike. CNN Travel says the eastern area of the DRC is best known for warlords, rebel groups and mineral conflicts.
Recommendations for Travelers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Due to the increased risk of riots and large-scale demonstrations, the U.S. Department of State recommends that travelers have evacuation plans that do not include government services. They also recommend traveling under the STEP program and monitoring media to determine when to evacuate. The Travel Warning notes that travelers may encounter troop movement, armored vehicles and attack helicopters along the borders of Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park.
Rough Guides, a leading travel publisher, recommends only traveling to the safest parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They note these are most likely places with higher levels of travelers and that the “most touristed areas of the country are Goma, Virunga National Park and Bukavu in in the east, and the capital Kinshasa in the west.” John Campbell, Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Study at the Council of Foreign Relations and Former U.S. Department of State Foreign Officer, noted in a recent interview with InsureMyTrip that the internal infrastructure in the Congo has broken down and travel by roads is extremely difficult. Rough Guides also noted that the safest way to travel in the DRC would be with a tour company who understands the area and the political climate in order to keep you safe.
The CDC recommends all travelers stay up-to-date with their routine vaccines as well as have a Yellow Fever vaccine administered before travel to the DRC. They list that most travelers will want to consider vaccines for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Malaria. Some travelers should talk to their primary care physicians about the vaccines for Cholera, Hepatitis B and Rabies.
The U.S. Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Sudan, replacing the Travel Warning from January 21, 2016. The U.S. Department of State recommends all U.S. citizens should avoid all travel to the following regions of Sudan: the Darfur region, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan states. Travelers should note the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services outside of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, is extremely limited.
An Overview of the Travel Dangers While in Sudan
The Sudan 2016 Crime & Safety Report by OSAC lists Darfur as being a dangerous region for all foreigners. Despite a ceasefire, declared at various times, the Government of Sudan and opposition forces still clash in the Darfur region, along the border with Chad and in areas that border South Sudan. Because of these tensions, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has planned to assist 4.6 million Sudanese citizens in 2017. The report notes that in February, 1.9 million people were assisted with general food supplies and nutrition assistance. U.S. citizens who wish to travel to these areas must obtain permission from the Sudanese government or risk being detained by security forces.
Active terrorist groups in Sudan have stated their intent to harm Westerners and Western interests through suicide operations, bombings, shootings, and kidnappings. Violent crimes against Westerners occur everywhere in Sudan but are prevalent in the Darfur region. Crimes include, but are not limited to, kidnappings, armed robberies, home invasions, and carjackings. While none of these criminal activities in Darfur seem to target Westerners specifically, all travelers are at risk.
Travel Recommendations from OSAC and Department of State
The same OSAC report states, “All of Darfur and Blue Nile and South Kordofan states should be avoided unless the traveling party has business with either a government agency or a humanitarian NGO.” Both the OSAC report and the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning for Sudan advise travelers to be extremely vigilant if they should decide to travel against the Warning. All travelers should monitor reliable news sources and exercise extreme caution when at public gatherings. U.S. citizens in Sudan should have evacuation plans that do not rely on the U.S. government for assistance.
The U.S. Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia that supersedes the Travel Warning from July 27, 2016. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia due to continued threats from terrorist groups from inside the country and from Yemen. Violence in Yemen has traveled over the border with Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions.
An Overview of the Terror Threats in Saudi Arabia
Saudi authorities have announced that 34 terrorist attacks, some resulting in death, have occurred in Saudi Arabia in 2016. This includes what the media refers to as “The Deadly Week of Terror”, during which several cities were targeted across Saudi Arabia with several casualties. The threat of terrorism continues into 2017 from terrorist groups, including ISIS and its affiliates. These groups have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and significant religious sites, and places frequented by foreigners.
Regardless of the Saudi authorities continued effort to counter terrorist attacks, thwarting dozens in the last 12 months, several attacks have occurred in 2017. On January 7, 2017, two men linked to ISIS died in a shootout with Saudi authorities in Riyadh. Authorities surrounded the house in which the two men were located, ordering them to exit the home. Instead, the two men opened fire with authorities and both lost their lives. As reported by Al Jazeera, one of the men was a known explosive-belt maker for terrorist groups. On January 21, 2017, another two men linked to ISIS died when their suicide vests exploded prematurely. The extremists were confronted amidst a security operation against a suspected “terrorist” hideout. Authorities arrested 16 other men in the same incident. Also, on February 16, 2017, Saudi security forces arrested 18 men in four cities across Saudi Arabia because they allegedly provided support for terrorist activities. These arrests are credited to dismantling four ISIS cells throughout Saudi Arabia, reported by Al Arabiya English.
Conflict in Yemen Spills Over to Saudi Arabia
On several occasions, violence from ongoing conflict in Yemen has crossed the border into Saudi Arabia. Several Saudi media outlets have reported various times of this occurring since March 2015. The Travel Warning notes more than 40,000 projectiles have been launched into Saudi territory from Yemen. These projectiles include 30 missiles. On March 29, 2017, The Daily Star, a Lebanese publication, reported that Saudi Arabia shot down Yemen rebel missiles on course for Saudi cities.
If traveling to Saudi Arabia, visitors should note that the U.S. government has restricted official personnel and their families from travel in the following areas.
The U.S. Department of State has updated the Travel Warning issued for Turkey. As of March 27, 2017, the Department of State has terminated it’s recommendation to U.S. Embassy personnel and families to leave Turkey temporarily. This, however, does not remove the travel restrictions put in place by the Department of State for embassy personnel and their families. “Restrictions on travel by U.S. government personnel to certain areas in southeast Turkey, including Adana, remain.” This Travel Warning replaces the warning from January 25, 2017.
Overview of the Situation in Turkey
Throughout 2016, terrorist attacks involving shootings, suicide bombings and vehicle-borne bombings throughout Turkey resulted in hundreds of deaths. The most recent attacks included a mass shooting at the Istanbul’s Besiktas/Vodafone Soccer Stadium on December 10, 2016. According to Al Jazeera, the blast killed 38 people and injured hundreds of others. The following video has not yet been updated for the most recent Travel Warning.
Before the bombing at the Soccer Stadium, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in June. Also, 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in an ISIL-linked bombing at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city Gaziantep. In addition to the local attacks, there is an increase in anti-American rhetoric that has potential to inspire violence against U.S. citizens. According to the U.S. travel warning, attacks can occur at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, nightclubs, commercial centers, places of worship and transportation hubs.
In July of 2016, the Turkish government declared the country in a state of emergency following an attempted coup. On January 4, that state of emergency was extended another three months until mid-April 2017. Due to this state of emergency, the Turkish security forces have expanded powers and the government has restricted internet access and media content to the nation. Heightened political power in Turkey has resulted in an increased number of United States citizens being deported or detained without access to lawyers or family members. The U.S. Department of State continues to monitor the situation in Turkey to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens in the nation.
The U.S. Department of State maintains the decision to have direct family members of U.S. Consulate General employees in Istanbul leave Turkey. Currently, all travel for U.S. personnel in and out of Turkey requires U.S. Department of State approval. According to the Travel Warning, this “order departure is based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing frequent and aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens...in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.”
Travelers should note that this order only applies to U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, not the other diplomatic posts in Turkey. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara and Consulate in Adana remain open and are providing full services.
U.S. Department of State Travel Recommendations for Turkey
The Travel Warning also notes terrorist organizations in Turkey target foreign and U.S. tourists for kidnapping and assassinations. Any U.S. citizen traveling to Turkey is reminded by the Department of State to review their personal security plans including communication preparedness. Travelers should monitor local news for breaking events and remain vigilant at all times. The Travel Warning urges travelers to check in with loved ones after they hear about attacks in the country.
The U.S. government wants to remind travelers that the Government of Turkey has closed its border to Syria. No one is allowed to cross the border from Syria into Turkey, even if they left Turkey to enter Syria at one point. Because of increased tensions along the border with Syria, the U.S. Department of State urges travelers to defer trips to large urban areas near the border.
The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert for French Guiana due to widespread protests throughout the country. U.S. citizens traveling in French Guiana should expect very limited consular services by the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname. This travel alert expires April 30, 2017.
An Overview of the Protests in French Guiana
Protests in French Guiana are forming along the main roads leading to the bordering countries of Suriname and Brazil a few weeks before the next presidential elections. Protests have begun due to the French Guiana citizens being unhappy with “high crime, the cost of living and anger at the quality of social services such as health care,” reported by ABC News.
A Collective of 500 Brothers, the group largely behind the protest, is supported by 37 unions in the nation. The Collective of 500 Brothers identifies themselves by black t-shirts and masks over their face. They say they are not a private militia and actively fight against organized crime.
According to EuroNews, “their spokesman Mickaël Mancée said: ‘If we wanted to be a private militia, we would be armed, we would not have gone to see the authorities, and if we had to act we would have acted in the shadows.’” The group also wants the French Guiana government to improve the health care and education systems in the nation. Although a delegation from the government has been sent to negotiate, the group wants to wait for the most senior representatives from the government.
The protests, which take place largely along the roads leading to neighboring countries, are affecting day to day operations within the nation. Roads have been blocked by protesters, hindering the Cayenne airport. On Monday, March 27, 2017, the nation of French Guiana began a general strike of workers stretching from electricity workers, Kourou hospital workers, and workers of the Endel corporation. They have blocked the roads to Guyana space center in Kourou, after the launch of the latest mission (Arianespace VA263) was delayed on Thursday, March 23, 2017. The delayed mission is supposed to deliver two satellites into space, one for Brazil and one for South Korea.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State advises all U.S. citizens traveling in French Guiana to monitor the local media and information sources for updated information on the location of the protests. These updates may affect travel in/out of the country as well as between cities. As of Friday, March 24, 2017, the international airport has closed. All travelers should contact travel suppliers to make new arrangements for expected travel.
Torrential rainfall in select regions of Peru has caused the U.S. Department of State to issue a Travel Alert. The Government of Peru has issued a state of emergency for the Carretera Central, affection various districts in multiple provinces, including Lima province and the northern and central mountains. The U.S. Department of State recommends all U.S. travelers avoid these areas under the state of emergency. This Travel Alert expires on April 30, 2017.
Updates on the Expectations of Rainfall in Peru
From the end of March into April, Peru’s meteorology service expects heavy rains to continue in the areas listed under the state of emergency. NASA reports, “This extremely warm water off Peru's western coast has been blamed for promoting the development of these storms.” Reuters reports that this increase in heavy rainfall is due to an “El Nino” phenomenon and warming of surface temperatures off the coast of Peru.
Already, the heavy rains have resulted in extensive damage to homes, water supply facilities, schools, hospitals, roads and bridges in rural Lima and northern coastal areas. Experts expect this to continue. The National Emergency Operations Center (COEN) has reported more than 80 deaths from the flooding since the beginning of December. The same report indicated that more than 650,000 Peruvians have been affected and more than 145,000 properties have been damaged during the floods, including at least 400 hospitals.
Twenty-four out of 25 the regions in Peru have been affected by the flooding. Cities are muddy water running through streets and the threat of mudslides is eminent. The town of Pisco was hit with mudslides after heavy rainfall. According to several weather sources and press organizations, this is the worst rainfall that Peru has seen in decades and it’s not over. Peruvians are bracing themselves for another month of rainfall and flooding.
Traveling Safely in Peru during El Nino Rainfall
While much of the country is afflicted by heavy rainfall, some popular tourist areas are not being affected. As the Travel Alert states, “The City of Cusco, the archaeological site of Machu Picchu and the tourist areas surrounding Lake Titicaca have not experienced flooding at this time.” Travelers are encouraged to visit a real-time map set up by Google to locate the areas most affected by the rainfall levels.
Traveling from city to city may be affected, and dangerous, due to flooded roads or mudslides. Hotels and other accommodations may be affected and unable to accept guests due to damage from floods or mudslides. The U.S. Department of State asks all U.S. travelers to carefully review the safety situation of their travel destination before leaving. The Travel Alert recommends anyone experiencing travel delays should contact local authorities at IPeru (01-574-8000; email@example.com) for alternative methods of transit.
The United States Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to specific regions in Cameroon due to terrorist threats and risk of violent crime. The regions highlighted in the Travel Warning are the North and Far North Regions as well as parts of the East and Adamawa Regions. Many of these regions are remote and rural, making it very difficult for the United States to provide consular services to U.S. citizens who travel in those areas. This Travel Warning replaces one dated August 19, 2016.
An Overview of the Situation in Cameroon
The main terrorist group, the Boko Haram, actively targets foreign residents, tourists and government leaders in the North and Far North Region. U.S. Embassy officials are restricted from traveling to these regions as thirty-seven foreigners have been reported kidnapped since 2013. This terrorist cell that often makes these kidnappings, Boko Haram, originates in Nigeria. The same terrorist group has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in the same regions, including the city of Maroua, since July 2015. In January of 2017, four female suicide bombers crossed the Cameroon border with Nigeria and three detonated the vests when they arrived in Cameroon. The fourth was shot by border patrolmen.
The Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon have seen an increase of unrest since November 2016. The Anglophone regions, the English-speaking regions that make up 17% of the population, of Cameroon have increased the number of demonstrations, and it puts many Cameroon citizens at odds with their government.
U.S. Department of State Recommends Travelers Show Caution
Due to the increase of unrest around the nation, the U.S. Department of State recommends that travelers avoid trips to any of the aforementioned regions (North, Far North, Northwest, and Southwest). They note that all travelers should avoid any demonstrations, no matter the region, and to monitor the Embassy’s Security Messages for updates on protests and communication restrictions within Cameroon.
Disruptions in communication services in the country are common and may limit the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular or emergencies services. For this reason, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution while traveling within 60 miles of the border with Nigeria’s Adamawa State in the North and Adamawa Regions of Cameroon, the border area with Chad, and the border areas with the Central African Republic (CAR). Each of these nations is under a Travel Warning by the U.S. Department of State. Sometimes, violence, criminal activity, and military operations may cross the border with Cameroon.
Non-Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Listed by the CDC
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) lists several non-vaccine-preventable diseases that can occur in Cameroon. Many of these diseases are due to insect bites, such as African Sleeping Sickness, African Tick-Bite Fever, Dengue, and Chikungunya. Travelers who are spending a lot of time in the outdoors are more at risk to contract these diseases. The CDC recommends considering wearing clothing and other protection against bug bites while traveling in Cameroon.
Due to violent conflict between the government and armed anti-government groups throughout Syria, the U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to the country. The Department strongly recommends that any U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable with the risks of kidnapping, bombings, murder, and terrorism. This replaces the Travel Warning from October 11, 2016.
Overview of the War Zone Conflicts in Syria
Due to continued violent conflict, no part of Syria is safe for travelers. Since 2011, over 500,000 people have been killed within the border. The ongoing war zone has led to the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, and power and water utilities, increasing hardship for Syrian citizens inside the country borders.
Terrorist and other violent extremist groups (including ISIS and al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliateal-Nusrah Front) have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas and open spaces. The terrorist tactics of these groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices.
The security situation in Syria does not allow the U.S. government flexibility to help U.S. citizens who are kidnapped or taken hostage by terrorist groups. According to the Travel Warning, “U.S. citizens have disappeared in Syria.” Terrorist groups have kidnapped and murdered U.S. citizens for ransom and political purposes. American citizen Katie Mueller was kidnapped from Aleppo in August of 2013 while visiting a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Syria. Her kidnapping was confirmed by members of ISIS and was murdered by the same group in 2015 without being released.
Regardless of a ceasefire in Syria that was announced in December 2016, fighting persists and the security situation remains very dangerous for U.S. citizens in Syria. The ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, does not include ISIS or al-Nusrah Front, which continue to use violence throughout the country. The main goal of the ceasefire was to stop the bombing of civilian areas and allow for humanitarian aid to enter destroyed cities like Aleppo and treat those in need.
U.S. citizens have reportedly faced dangers while traveling within the country and when trying to leave Syria via the land borders. Many border checkpoints are held by the opposition and should not be considered safe. These checkpoints are often targeted by regime attacks and often extremist groups use kidnapping ransoms as a means for funding the regime.
Also, all borders of Syria are generally crowded due to the number of refugees trying to leave the country. Nearly 11 million citizens of Syria have been displaced from their homes; 6 million Syrians are still in the country unable to live in their homes due to the war zone conflicts. The harsh and dangerous living conditions in the besieged cities often leave families desperate, trying to find safety. The sheer number of refugees at the border of Syria heightens the risk of crime and kidnapping of all travelers. Often times these crowded areas are targets for errant attacks, including bombings, by extremists.
U.S. Citizens Traveling to Syria Should Take Extreme Caution
The U.S. government reminds private U.S. citizens that engaging in armed conflict while traveling in Syria can lead to extreme personal risk, including kidnapping, injury, or death. The U.S. government does not support this activity; consular services for individuals kidnapped or injured while engaging in these activities for themselves or their families is very limited. Fighting on behalf or providing support to designated terrorist organizations can constitute material support for terrorism, which is a crime under United States law, which can result in prison time and large fines.
It is extremely hard to travel to Syria by flying. While four international airports do remain open within the nation, they could close without notice at anytime. Many nations have banned air travel directly to Syria, including the United States and the countries in the European Union. The United States has also banned flights from traveling in Syrian airspace. Most travel into Syria will need to be arranged by car and travelers should be aware of the Syrian departure tax, when leaving the country.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February of 2012. Communication within the country via phone and internet is extremely limited due to the instability of the country. Travelers should have contingency plans for communication in case of an emergency situation should occur. The Government of the Czech Republic, acting through its own Embassy in Damascus, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria. The Czech Republic can provide consular services for U.S. travelers in Syria, but it will be extremely limited. The Travel Warning recommends that any U.S. citizen traveling within Syria that needs consular services leave the country and contact a U.S. embassy in a neighboring country, if possible.
A new Travel Warning has been issued for Afghanistan today by the U.S. Department of State, replacing the Travel Warning from October 5, 2016. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens from traveling to Afghanistan due to continued instability and threats by terrorist groups against U.S. citizens.
An Overview of the Situation in Afghanistan
According to the Travel Warning, all areas of Afghanistan remain unsafe for U.S. citizens due to “ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED).”
Attacks like these are not specific to one demographic or geographic location in the nation. Terrorist organizations continually attack official Afghan and U.S. government convoys and military installations as well as commercial entities, non-governmental organization offices, restaurants, hotels, airports and educational centers. A report by the United Nations documents over 11,000 civilian killings or injuries in Afghanistan in 2016 - the most since documentation started in 2009.
Events in 2017 that Have Lead to a Travel Warning
On January 10, 2017, the Islamist militant Afghan Taliban movement targeted a city street during rush hour with twin suicide bombs, killing 30 and wounding 70 people. Reuters reports the attackers were specifically targeted minibuses carrying members of Afghanistan's main intelligence agency. A spokesperson from the Taliban was quoted as saying “We did exactly what we planned.”
On February 7, 2017, an insurgent killed more than 20 people at the Afghan Supreme Court when detonating a suicide vest. As CNN reported, the attack was specifically targeting Afghan Supreme Court officials as they were leaving for the day. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack through Twitter that same day.
So far in March, three attacks from various terrorist organizations have killed nearly 60 people and injured over 100. Two of the attacks, from Taliban insurgents, targeted Afghan police stations in Kabul. Stars and Stripes, an independent news agency for the U.S. military community, says that the Taliban also claimed responsibility for attacks on a military academy and recruitment center the same day. Another attack, conducted by the ISIS-K, targeted the Afghan National Army Hospital in Kabul City. Several gunman, dressed in white coats to disguise themselves among the healthcare workers, invaded the hospital before opening fire and a suicide bomber detonated in the entrance of the hospital.
U.S. Citizens Targeted in Murders and Kidnappings
In August of 2016, two professors (one American and one Australian) were kidnapped in Kabul. The BBC reports, that gunmen wearing vests smashed the windows of their vehicle and forced them out of the car. According to the New York Times, the same group of insurgents stormed the university with which the professors were employed, killing dozens of people and forcing the school to close. In January, the Taliban released video of the professors pleading for their governments to arrange an exchange with the terrorist group. This video comes a couple months after a failed attempt at rescuing the professors by military force.
Earlier in 2016, a U.S. citizen journalist, David Gilkey, employed by National Public Radio (NPR) and his Afghan assistant, Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed when the Afghan army convoy they were traveling with came under attack in Helmand Province. Also, in August of 2016, insurgents sent a rocket-powered grenade at a bus carrying tourists from the EU and the U.S. in Herat Province. Reuters reports, six tourists were wounded when one of the two tourist buses was attacked while traveling between cities.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
All unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is restricted and requires approval from the Department of State. U.S. Embassy personnel currently in Afghanistan are restricted from traveling to all locations in Kabul, except the Embassy and other U.S. government facilities.
Travel to Afghanistan is not recommended due to the dangers of unexpected attacks by terrorist organizations. Some travelers do outweigh the risks of traveling to Kabul with the desire to see the world and give other potential travelers tips on how to stay safe. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services to American citizens is “severely limited”, particularly outside of Kabul. Therefore, the U.S. Department of State encourages U.S. travelers to defer non-essential travel within Afghanistan. Because of the government infrastructure, geographic constraints and other security concerns, travelers will want an evacuation plan that doesn’t include the U.S. government.
Replacing a Travel Warning for February 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about travel to far eastern Mauritania due to activities of terrorist groups active in neighboring regions of Mali, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS). Due to the remote, rural areas of the far eastern part of Mauritania, the U.S. Embassy of Nouakchott is only able to provide limited consular services to U.S. citizen there.
An Overview of the Situation in Mauritania
The remote, harsh environment along the southern and eastern border of Mauritania with Mali does not provide a safe environment for travelers. There is a risk of kidnapping and other violent crimes in the Hodh El Charghi region. AQIM claimed responsibility for an attack on this border that left three soldiers dead in February of 2016.
The nation has been victim to several random attacks against foreigners and citizens over the past several years by these terrorist organizations. Regardless, the Mauritania government has instituted several new policies and procedures to work against the terrorist groups. According to the Financial Times, “Neither AQIM nor any other Islamist militant group has carried out a successful attack in the country since 2011.” The regions of Mauritania to avoid are based on increased and continued activity in bordering nations.
Travel Restrictions in Place by the Mauritania Government
The U.S. Department of State lists several travel restrictions by the Mauritania government in the recent Travel Warning. The Mauritania government has designated the following areas as a restricted security zone, in which travelers must have permission from Mauritania authorities to visit:
U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from all travel outside of Nouakchott, unless authorized; even then travel must occur during daylight hours. The Embassy has directed its official staff not to walk to or from work; avoid walking in the city whenever possible; and, if necessary, do not walk alone. The U.S. Department of State recommends considering these restrictions when planning to travel to or around Mauritania.
If U.S. citizens are intending to travel around the nation, attention to the road and surroundings while driving should be a priority, according to a report by OSAC - the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The report states, “In larger Mauritanian cities, low-speed traffic accidents are common, resulting in minor injuries to people and superficial damage to vehicles.” Travelers should note, if a traffic accident occurs, the Mauritanian law requires that the vehicles be left in place until a police officer arrives and instructs you to move the vehicles.
Travel Recommendations by Various Government Authorities
Travel between cities is dangerous due to the rapid changes in elevation that limit visibility and creates a number of driving hazards. Also, besides a few main roads in the country, most are dirt roads with wandering livestock and migrant pedestrians. Gas stations are inconsistent with the amount of fuel available to travelers on the road; all visitors should travel with “a handheld GPS, satellite phone, spare tires, gas, and adequate food/water should their vehicle break down.” The OSAC report advises travelers to leave an itinerary with friends and family staying behind who can alert the authorities if the travelers miss a check in.
The United States government warns travelers, in the OSAC report, of use taxis and public transportation in Mauritania due to lack of regulated fares and poor maintenance of vehicles. Women are particularly in danger of sexual assault while traveling in taxis, especially at night.
The Canadian government issued a travel warning for Mauritania with a reminder that petty crimes targeting Western travelers are prevalent. They remind travelers to avoid any unpatrolled beaches and to keep important travel documents secure at all times.
The Worldwide Caution for travel comes from the U.S. Department of State goal to provide U.S. citizen traveling abroad with continuous information on possible threats of terrorism and violence. As of September 2016, information suggests terrorist groups around the world continue to plan attacks. The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens traveling around the world to maintain a high level of vigilance and increase security awareness.
The United States Government lists six regions of the world which to travel cautiously within:
U.S. citizens and coalition partners have been, and continue to be, targets of terrorist attacks by ISIL (aka Da’esh) and it’s supporters. In 2016 and 2015, major terrorist attacks occurred in Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, among others. United States citizens have been kidnapped and murdered by terrorist and violent extremist groups; they continue to be at risk for kidnappings and hostage events. It is not the United States policy to negotiate with terrorists.
No matter where U.S. citizens are traveling, the U.S. government recommends heightened vigilance. Terrorist and extremist groups are interested in attacking “soft targets” such as:
ISIL and al-Qa’ida continue to plot against European nations
According to the U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution, “credible information indicates terrorist groups such as ISIL/Da’esh, and al-Qa’ida and affiliates, continue to plot attacks in Europe…” European authorities continue to warn travelers and locals of additional attacks on those “soft targets.” Since 2015, extremists have carried out terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey.
In November 2015, several terrorist attacks around Paris occurred nearly simultaneously, killing 130 people. Since this attack the French police force has thwarted several suspected terrorist attacks. An extremist, most likely an Egyptian national, was killed when he attacked a shopping area near the Louve with a machete.
In March of 2016, coordinated suicide bombings occurred in Belgium: two at the Brussels Airport and one at a subway station in central Brussels. All three of the perpetrators were killed, along with 32 civilians. More than 300 people were injured in the attack. ISIL claimed responsibility for the three attacks as well as a bomb that was found and never denoted.
Middle East and Africa remain potential hotspots for terror-related events
The U.S. Government remains concerned about the possibility of violent attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities and businesses. The U.S. Department of State recommends U.S. citizens do not travel to any country to participate in armed conflict; they are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terror organizations can constitute support for terrorism, which is a serious crime. The United States Worldwide caution lists Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Yemen as potential hotspots for terror-related events.
Africa sees a variety of extremist groups using violence for political reasons
Several extremist groups across the continent are responsible for kidnappings, murders and violent attacks against Western targets. AQIM, al-Murabitun and ISIL are active in West Africa and the Sahel. They have conducted attacks in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets and has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and murdering several Westerners in the region.
Northern Nigeria has been the location of many attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram/ISIL-West Africa. They have claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks in the area.
Boko Haram targets for foreign expatriates, tourists, and government leaders. According to BBC News, Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government through force of bombings, assassinations and abductions.
South Asia has presence of several extremist groups
Several terrorist groups operate in the region of South Asia. They may be planning attacks in the area against U.S. facilities, citizens and interests. The U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution lists al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Da’esh; indigenous sectarian groups, and other terrorist organizations as having a presence in the region. The groups cross borders in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh.
Central Asia terrorist groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments
Central Asia has a presence of supporters for terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, and the Islamic Jihad Union. These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. interests. While the groups remain a focus of government personnel, lone wolf attackers are also a concern, such as the August 2016 attacker who detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) at the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. The bomb detonated approximately 400 meters from the U.S. Embassy. Reuter’s reports that the attacker was killed and three others were injured by the blast.
East Asia and Pacific have increased risk of kidnapping
Over 2015 and 2016, many extremists have shown strong aspirations to join ISIL and pursue its goals within the East Asia and Pacific regions. The U.S. Department of State reminds travelers that there is a risk of kidnapping when traveling in the Sulu Archipelago and the threat of violence on the island of Mindanao.
Criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept ferry boats frequented by tourists. Malaysian authorities have confirmed links between ISIL and the June 2016 explosion at a nightclub in Kuala Lumpur. The attack injured eight people at the nightclub and was first successful attack by ISIL on Malaysian soil.
Replacing a U.S. Travel Warning from August 26, 2016, the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning for all travel to Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea restricts the travel of all foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens and diplomats. Because of these restrictions, the United States Embassy in Asmara has difficulty providing emergency consular services to U.S. citizens outside the city.
Overview of the Situation in Eritrea
Along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the Southern Red Sea Region tensions between the two countries clash with military intervention. A two-year, multi-million dollar war between the two countries concluded in 2000. Tens of thousands of casualties resulted from this war and minimal border changes occurred. Since this time, the border of the country has been a point of contention, still causing several hundred casualties.
Most recently, in June of 2016, a border clash, known as the Battle of Tsorona, erupted in the town of Tsorona in Eritrea. Both countries claim the other had more resulting casualties, so the true number of deaths and wounded is unknown. While Eritrea claims they killed more than 200 Ethiopian officers, Ethiopia will not confirm that number. As The New York Times reports, very little can be confirmed about this “battle.” This border conflict is the largest one since the war ended in 2000. According to the BBC, both of the countries claim the other started the border clash.
Travel Recommendations from the United States Department of State
The Government of Eritrea restricts travel of U.S. diplomats, therefore, it is difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services outside of the capital, Asmara. The Travel Warning recommends not traveling outside of the capital city. If travelers do leave the capital, the U.S. government recommends staying away from the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
In spite of the border conflict, the capital is remaining “peaceful”, was reported by civilian Twitter user @RedSeaFisher. For U.S. citizens leaving the capital, the U.S. government recommends checking in with the Embassy and signing up for the STEP program prior to the trip.
The United States Department of State released a travel warning for Lebanon that supersedes the warning issued on July 29, 2016. The U.S. Department of State warns against travel to Lebanon due to threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnappings and outbreaks of violence, especially near the borders of Syria and Israel.
Overview of the Situation in Lebanon
Violent extremist groups, including ISIL, Hizballah, Al-Nusrah Front, Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, operate in Lebanon. ISIL and Al-Nusrah Front have claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in Lebanon, including ones targeting U.S. citizens. On June 27, 2016, there were a series of blasts caused by suicide bombers in Qa’a, along the Lebanese border. The blasts killed five people and injured several others.
Sudden outbreaks of violence are frequent in the country and the Lebanese government cannot guarantee protection for U.S. citizens. On June 12, 2016, an explosion occurred outside a commercial bank in the central Beirut area of Verdun, causing severe damage to the building and injuring civilians. On January 21, 2017, Lebanese officers stopped an attempted suicide attack at a cafe in downtown Beirut.
Outside of frequent terrorist attacks, family and neighborhood disputes can escalate and very quickly lead to gunfire or other violence without warning. The U.S. Travel Warning states, “Armed clashes have resulted in deaths and injuries in these neighborhoods in the past and there are potentially large numbers of weapons in the hands of the non-governmental elements.” The Travel Warning notes the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen as areas of tension.
Kidnapping continues to occur throughout Lebanon for reasons of ransom, political motives or family disputes. Authorities have found that suspects in kidnappings have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations, in most cases. The U.S. Travel Warning reminds U.S. citizens that the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, however, it is government “policy not to make concessions to hostage takers.”
Areas to Avoid if Traveling to Lebanon
The U.S. Department of State outlines three areas to avoid if traveling to Lebanon: the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Lebanese-Israeli border and the Bekaa Valley. The Lebanese-Syrian border is a point of contention, as it often experiences incidents of cross-border shelling and airstrikes from Syria on border villages. These have resulted in death and injury as well as clashes between the Lebanese Army and Syrian-based extremists.
The Lebanon-Israel border is tense with the potential of violence, and the U.S. Travel Warning urges U.S. citizens to avoid this area altogether. There are several landmine fields with posted warnings and the extremist group Hizballah has stockpiled weapons for a future clash with Israel. The Bekaa Valley is an area of strong presence for the Hizballah. The Hizballah has been a target of other extremists for supporting the Asad regime in Syria. This makes the Bekaa Valley ripe for violence with no warning. U.S. citizens, according to the U.S. government, should avoid any travel to refugee camps in Lebanon. Violence within the formal and informal camps from Palestinian groups, hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States, make them unsafe for U.S. citizens.
Emergency Travel Assistance from the U.S. Government is Limited
The U.S. Department of State reminds U.S. citizens that they are responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon, even in a state of emergency. The U.S. Embassy does not offer protection services to U.S. citizens who feel unsafe. U.S. government-assisted evacuation from Lebanon, like that in 2006, only occur when commercial air travel is not an option, however, each U.S. citizen is responsible for reimbursing the U.S. government for the transportation. When booking commercial flights in and out of Lebanon, the U.S. government warns against flights traveling in Syrian airspace.
The United States Department of State has issued a travel warning, replacing one from January 15, 2016, for El Salvador due to high rates of crime and violence. El Salvador has the highest level of homicide in the world. Crime rates are extremely high, as well, for extortion, assault and robbery.
Overview of the Gang Activity in El Salvador
El Salvador has the highest rate of homicide in the world: nearly 103 homicides per 100,000 residents last year, reported by The New York Times. ABC News reported that on average one homicide per hour occurred in the first three months of 2016, in El Salvador. This is a rate that is equivalent to historical wartime rates and makes El Salvador the murder capital of the world.
The U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warning attributes much of the homicide to gang violence within the towns and major cities of El Salvador. In 2011, it was estimated that 25,000 gang members were at large throughout the country and another 9,000 were incarcerated. In 2016, ABC news reported there were an estimated 600,000 gang members; El Salvador’s population is 6.5 million.
Among the homicides, gangs are also responsible for the majority of assaults and armed robberies throughout the country. Al Jazeera reports, gangs are extorting 70% of the businesses in El Salvador. Business owners have been murder for less than $25 because they have not complied with the extortion demands. The Travel Warning from the U.S. government notes that U.S. citizens are not particularly targeted in these crimes, but rather victims of “wrong place wrong time”.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
At anytime of the day or night, travelers are targets for armed robberies at tourist sights and ATMs or banks. Be vigilant if traveling to these areas and do not keep a large amount of money on your person. The POLITUR, a special tourist police that provides security and assistance to travelers in El Salvador, recommends never accepting help from locals when using an ATM or trying to withdraw money from a bank. The Travel Warning recommends not wearing expensive jewelry or accessories when traveling.
If traveling in national parks, the U.S. Department of State recommends hiring a professional tour guide. If travelers do not plan to work with tour companies, the POLITUR is available for hire in El Salvador. If travelers do not want to hire private security, the POLITUR recommends traveling in groups and using taxi’s that have the letter ‘A’ first on the license plate.
Generally, various political groups recommend avoiding travel at night, especially on foot. If driving at night, keep the windows rolled up and doors locked to avoid robberies. The POLITUR does provide “Night Tourism” groups that provide secure tour groups for travelers looking to experience El Salvador at night.
As of October 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has placed El Salvador under a Watch Level 2 for the Zika Virus. This means that travelers should “practice enhanced precautions” against mosquito bites: use DEET, cover exposed skin with light clothing, use permethrin-treated clothing to repel insects and use mosquito netting if sleeping outdoors.
The Travel Warning dated November 9, 2016 has been replaced with this Travel Warning for North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The U.S. Department of State has issued this Travel Warning due to the risk of arrest and long-term detention under the system of law enforcement in the DPRK. The U.S Government warns that U.S. citizens are often given “unduly harsh sentences” for actions not considered crimes in the United States.
North Korea threatens to treat detained U.S. citizens under “wartime law of DPRK.” The United States currently does not have an embassy or consular system in place in North Korea, therefore cannot provide services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea.
Overview of the Ongoing Situation in North Korea
Over the last ten years, the DPRK government has detained 14 U.S. citizens who were traveling both individually and with tour groups. Being a part of a tour group does not limit or eliminate the risk of being detained. Even though private tour groups often advocate and try to ensure release of the traveler, they have never been successful.
The first U.S. citizens to be detained by the DPRK after the Korean War was Evan Hunziker. He was detained in August of 1996 after swimming across the Yalu River from China, drunk and naked. Officially, he was detained for reasons of espionage (spying for South Korea), but he was released 95 days later in November 1996.
Currently, there are two U.S. citizens being detained in North Korea by the DPRK: student, Otto Warmbier and, businessman, Kim Dong Chul. Warmbier was arrested over the alleged theft of a propaganda poster for the DPRK on January 2, 2016. Warmbier was in North Korea on a tour with an independent travel company. Reported by the New York Times, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for hostile acts against the DPRK. He is still incarcerated. Also, still incarcerated Kim Dong Chul, who is a South Korean born, U.S. naturalized citizen, allegedly admitted to espionage for South Korea and the United States. The United States has not been able to confirm the details of his arrest, as he has only been available for conversation through a North Korean translator.
Any media critical to the DPRK government will be considered a criminal act and is punishable by long-term detention in hard labor camps as well as heavy fines. Any traveler to North Korea should understand there is no privacy in the country’s borders. As reported in BBC, all electronics and multimedia, including cell phones, are subject to search for banned content. Cell phones can only be used on the DPRK mobile services, which are monitored by the DPRK government.
When the DPRK detains foreigners, it’s often without charging them with a crime, yet expecting them to make public statements, as with Kim Dong Chul, and be held on public trial without proper counsel. The DPRK government often detains foreigners for actions not seen as crimes by the U.S. government. For instance, the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning lists the following reasons for past detainments:
Embassy Information for Travelers to North Korea
As stated before, the U.S. government does not have an embassy or consulate in North Korea. Because of this, they cannot officially help any U.S. citizens within the country. The Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, however, has “Protecting Power” for U.S. citizens in the DPRK. The Embassy of Sweden can provide limited services to U.S. citizens in need.
Although the U.S.-DPRK Interim Consular Agreement has been laid out, the DPRK routinely ignores and delays the stipulations to notify the Embassy of Sweden of a detainment and allow timely consular visits. For this reason, any U.S. citizens who are traveling to North Korea against the United States warning are encouraged by the U.S. government to notify the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as well as the Embassy of Sweden in North Korea prior to leaving on the trip. Provide both embassies important identification information and emergency contact information as well as travel plan details.
Also, the U.S. government urges travelers to review the North Korea Country Information page on the travel.state.gov website. It provides important information to keep travelers in compliance with travel documents and expectations.
The United States Department of State has issued a new Travel Warning for Iraq that supersedes the Travel Warning dated July 6, 2016. Travel to Iraq continues to be very dangerous and the U.S. Embassy has very limited ability to help U.S. citizens traveling to Iraq that need assistance. U.S. citizens traveling to Iraq are at risk for kidnapping and violence due to numerous terrorist and extremist groups, including ISIL.
Overview of the Situation in Iraq
ISIL extremists regularly attack Iraqi security forces and civilians around the country. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens. Frequent kidnappings and abundant improvised explosive devices (IED) are found throughout the country, including Baghdad. 492 people were killed in or injured in Baghdad when a lorry (a large truck) filled with explosives was detonated in a busy commercial area in July of 2016. The U.S. Department of State notes in the Travel Warning that, “methods of attack have included explosively formed penetrators, magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles, human and vehicle-borne IEDs, mines placed on or concealed near roads, mortars and rockets, and shootings using various direct fire weapons.”
The U.S. government reminds travelers that terrorist attacks are common around religious and civic holidays. Attacks frequent public venues, like cafes and markets as well as facilities of KRG, U.S. government and western interests. The U.S. government warns private travelers from engaging in violence. Not only are travelers at risk of kidnapping, injury or death by engaging in violence, but also legal risks such as arrest, fines and expulsion from the country.
The United States Government Travel Recommendations
The United States Department of State notes in the Travel Warning to avoid travel to the borders of Syria, Turkey or Iran as travelers are at risk for violence. People in these areas can be subject to aerial and artillery bombings, unmarked minefields, skirmish with smugglers and refugee flow. Neighboring governments sometimes detain U.S. citizens who approach the border. In 2009, three American citizens were hiking near the border of Iran when they were arrested for espionage by the Iranian government. The New York Times reports, one of the hikers was released in 2010, but the other two were detained until the United States government negotiated their release in 2011.
The U.S. government reminds traveling U.S. citizens to always carry proper documentation while in Iraq. The Government of Iraq strictly enforces visas and entry regulations, as well as authorization for weapons and movement checkpoints. U.S. travelers can find the information they need on the U.S. government website country specific information for Iraq.
If U.S. citizens are lodging in the area of the Tigris River, the U.S. government recommends having contingency plans for travel. Iraq has employed an Italian company to improve the Mosul Dam, but the structural integrity could still lead to severe flooding in the area. Al Jazeera reports that scientists noted that the collapse of the Mosul Dam would be “worse than a nuclear bomb”. If this should happen, U.S. citizens in the area will need other options for lodging immediately. Travelers in this area are urged to continue listening to media reports for a status on the Dam.
The U.S. government reminds traveling U.S. citizens that travelers are responsible for their own medical needs and emergency transport. The U.S. Department of State recommends traveling with medical insurance that will cover emergencies in Iraq, as the government will not transport non-government personnel from the country due to medical needs.
The U.S. Department of State warns against all travel to Libya and urges any U.S. citizens currently in Libya to leave immediately. In July of 2014, the United States suspended all Embassy activity in Libya due to the violence of militias. Due to this, the U.S. Department of State is extremely limited in assisting citizens in Libya.
Militia groups in cities have been a point of tension between armed groups and government forces, as well as terrorist attacks, which often include hotels frequented by westerners. The militia controls checkpoints around the country and sometimes they detain travelers for arbitrary reasons and do not grant access to lawyers or legal processes. Because of this, the U.S. Department of State recommends citizens carry proof of citizenship and valid immigration status at all times, but it may not guarantee fair treatment.
Most international airports in Libya are closed. If the airport is open, the schedules are sporadic and flights may be canceled without warning. On December 23, 2016, an airplane traveling to Tripoli, Libya was hijacked and diverted by armed men threatening to blow up the plane. The situation ended without any casualties and the militants were detained at a Maltese airport. Due to the instability of the air, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) for Libya.
The United States Department of State Travel Warning states violent extremist activity in Libya remains high and extremist groups have made threats against U.S. government officials, citizens and interests. Threats against U.S. citizens may also include murder and kidnapping for ransom. Violence is possible at any time in Libya. In September 2016, reported by Reuters, two vehicle-borne bombs detonated in Tripoli; ISIL claimed responsibility.
Due to the violence, the United States Department of State urges citizens to avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution in large crowds and on the border, desert regions of the nation.
Due to high crime and violence rates, the United States Department of State has issued a travel warning for the Department of Gracias a Dios in Honduras. The travel warning also notes the greater urban areas of San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and La Ceipa. The U.S. Embassy restricts government staff from traveling to the Department of Gracias a Dio because of frequent crime and drug trafficking. This warning replaces one from August 5, 2016.
Overview of the Situation in Honduras
There is gang and individual crime activity, such as murder, extortion and other violent crimes, in and around certain urban areas in Honduras. The U.S. Department of State particularly notes the areas of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba. According to U.S. Travel Warning report, about 70% of U.S. citizen homicides in Honduras (since 2010) occurred in these urban areas.
According to a Business Insider report, Honduras has two of the most dangerous cities in the world. San Pedro Sula has 171.20 homicides per 100,000 citizens. The U.S. Government reminds U.S. citizens to remain alert at all times in Honduras. It’s estimated, reported in an article by Reuters, that nearly 23,000 gang members are involved in turf wars and participate in daily shoot-outs with Honduras police.
Recommendations for Safe Travel within Honduras
The United States Government notes in the travel warning that the Honduras infrastructure is weak and Honduras government services are limited. Police and military presence is scarce, so the U.S. government recommends remaining alert to local conditions and signs of danger while traveling. The U.S. government recommends travelers review personal security plans and monitor local news stations for updates.
Honduras has recorded cases of the Zika Virus dating back to December 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Due to this, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking precautions against mosquito bites when traveling in Honduras. Travelers can prevent mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and long pants, using DEET when spending time outside and stay in places with air condition and screens to block out the mosquitos.
The CDC also recommends maintaining these precautions against bug bites after travelers return home. Many people infected with Zika Virus do not feel sick at all and can spread the virus to other mosquitoes for up to three weeks.
A travel warning for Kenya has been issued by the Department of State of the United States government. They advise U.S. citizens to avoid traveling along the border between Somalia and Kenya because of al-Shabaab terror threats. This warning replaces the June 30th travel warning that was issued for potential terrorist threats and high risk of crime throughout the country.
Overview of the Situation in Kenya
According to the U.S. Department of State, 122 fatalities occurred through 2016 due to terrorist attacks involving “shootings, grenades, or other explosive devices.” This threat has continued in 2017 in Kenya, particularly the Nairobi area, along the coast and within the northeastern region of the country. The bulk of the past incidents occurred in Wajir, Garissa, Lamu and Mandera counties.
According to the travel warning, these terrorist targets include several types of places: Kenyan and foreign government sites, police stations and vehicles, hotels, public transportation and other infrastructure targets, nightclubs and bars, religious and academic institutions, and shopping areas.
A police station in Mombasa was a target for a terrorist attack on September 11, 2016. Three women with knives and petrol bombs entered the station and, eyewitnesses say, stabbed an officer before being killed herself. All three of the women were killed after they injured two police officers in the attack.
On October 25, 2016, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack that claimed the life of 12 people. The victims were members of a theater group who were performing for schools in Mandera. President Uhuru Kenyatta, of Kenya, called the attack “heinous.” Two days later, according to The New York Times, a terrorist with a knife attacked a police officer guarding the United States Embassy visa section, which was closed at the time. The officer, who was stabbed in the face, shot the assailant four times in response.
Recommendations for Travelers to Kenya
While thousands of travelers safely visit Kenya every year, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security noted the crime rate as “critical” in the Kenya 2016 Crime and Safety Report. The U.S. Government notes in the travel warning that violent crimes are not restricted to terrorist attacks. They also address armed carjackings, muggings, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings as being a risk for travelers.
The United Kingdom Government also states that bag lifting is a popular crime in major cities of Kenya. The U.K. Government advises travelers to avoid walking around after dark, carrying a large amount of cash or wearing expensive accessories on your person.
To remain safe, the U.S. Government recommends avoiding travel in the northeastern Kenyan counties of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa, the coastal counties of Tana River and Lamu in their entirety, all areas north of Malindi in Kilifi County, and the Nairobi neighborhood of Eastleigh. The Travel Warning also notes U.S. Embassy officials recommend U.S. travelers and citizens only visit Old Town during daylight hours and completely avoid using the Likoni ferry.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that Kenya is located in the “meningitis belt.” The “meningitis belt” stretches across the sub-Sahara region of Africa. The CDC recommends all travelers get the meningitis vaccine if visiting during the dry season (December to June) when the disease is most common. The CDC also recommends the following vaccines or medications to travelers: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Rabies and Yellow Fever.
A travel warning has been issued by the United States Department of State for the nation of Somalia due to continuous activity by the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab. There are no current U.S. Embassy services available in Somalia. This travel warning replaces the warning from May 24, 2016.
An Overview of the Situation in Somalia
In 2016, al-Shabaab carried out 14 documented attacks directed at hotels, restaurants and the international airport in Mogadishu. According to the BBC, the al-Shabaab most likely has 7,000 to 9,000 members in Somalia alone. The terrorist group has carried out attacks in government-controlled territories of Somalia, targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and convoys, as well as commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals and the Somali diaspora.
According to CNN, in June of 2016, after detonating a car bomb at a hotel gate, the suspect stormed the hotel with a firearm and killed 15 people, injuring 25. In August, the UN condemned another terrorist attack– on another hotel claiming the lives of 13 people and injuring over 20 people– which al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.
Most recently, in January 2017, militants killed dozens of Kenyan troops at a remote military base in Somalia. The Guardian is reporting that two fighters drove suicide car bombs onto the base before the rest of the fighters stormed it, killing 57 Kenya soldiers. Also, CNN reports that 21 people were killed when a suicide bomber in a truck targeted a hotel in the city center of the capital, Mogadishu. Among the dead were seven journalists and four al-Shabaab militants. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for this latest attack.
Travel Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State travel warning notes that the terrorist threat is particularly in places where crowds are large and Westerners frequent. This includes airports, government buildings, hotels and shopping areas. The U.S. Department of State recommends avoiding travel to Somalia. There is no U.S. Embassy in Somalia and travelers going to the country must arrange travel and security without the assistance of the United States Government.
The travel warning also recommends travelers avoid sailing near the coast of Somalia due to the risks of pirate attacks. “Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure and detention by pirates in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.”
Like most African nations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends traveling with up-to-date routine vaccinations when traveling to Somalia. In addition, all travelers should talk to a physician about the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A and B, Cholera, Typhoid, Rabies, and Yellow Fever. Also, Malaria drugs before, during and after a trip to Somalia are recommended by the CDC.
Due to continuing threats from terrorist groups in the nation, a travel warning has been issued for Bangladesh by the United States Department of State. This warning replaces the Travel Warning dating back to July 10, 2016. This update reflects the change in the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka’s status to “partially accompanied,” effective January 5, 2017. This restricts travelers, except for employed family members of U.S. government personnel, to remain in or return to Dhaka, the capital of the nation.
Overview of the Situation in Bangladesh
The original travel warning was issued after militants, on July 1, 2016, killed more than 20 people at the Holey Artisan Bakery, frequented by foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave. Among the people killed were 20 hostages– locals and foreigners, police officers, the gunmen and two bakery staff members. According to The New York Times, ISIS had claimed responsibility, praising the gunmen who perpetrated the attack.
In October 2016, according to the U.S. Department of State, Da’esh (also known as IS, ISIL or ISIS) threatened to target non-nationals in the most “secured zones” in Bangladesh. Muslims in Bangladesh have been targeting Hindu’s. Because of this threat, the U.S. government has restricted U.S. government personnel in Bangladesh to live, work and travel under strict security guidelines. The U.S. government advises that the internal security policies may be adjusted or changed without any advance notice to keep personnel safe.
Recommendations to Travelers from The United States Government
The United States government gives the clear recommendation to all non-government employed citizens in Bangladesh to take extreme security measures, remain vigilant and be alert to local security developments. U.S. government officials and their families are currently not permitted to visit public establishments or places, travel on foot, motorbike, bike, rickshaw or other uncovered means on public streets and sidewalks, or attend large gatherings.
The Canadian Government warned, in their October 7, 2016, Department of Canada Advisory to travelers to Bangladesh, that attacks could occur at any time and often target areas frequented by foreigners. The Canadian Government advises limiting the attendance of events where a large number of people will gather, including outdoor recreation and cultural events, places of worship, festivals, hotels and conference centers.
The worldwide travel experts at Collette, a travel tour company, recommend destinations in India, specifically the Golden Triangle area, for travelers who are worried about taking a trip to Bangladesh.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all travelers are up-to-date with their routine vaccinations prior to visiting Bangladesh. If you are traveling from the United States, a Yellow Fever vaccination is not required. Travelers visiting an area of the world that is at risk from Yellow Fever prior to visiting Bangladesh will be required to have proof you have had the vaccination administered. Rabies can be found in mammals in Bangladesh, especially dogs and bats. The CDC recommends travelers who are children or spending a lot of time doing activities outside should be vaccinated prior to traveling to Bangladesh.
The CDC also recommends taking malaria medication before, during and after a trip to Bangladesh, as the mosquitoes transmit the disease. If travelers are spending more than a month in the country, the CDC recommends being vaccinated for Japanese Encephalitis. Depending on the area of Bangladesh being visited, travelers may want to consider a cholera vaccination. Food and water in Bangladesh can transmit Typhoid and Hepatitis A, so the CDC recommends travelers be vaccinated for those as well. Lastly, the CDC recommends a vaccination for Hepatitis B if travelers are concerned about the disease being transmitted sexually or through needles while getting a tattoo or piercings.
Due to fighting, intercommunal violence and violent crime, the United States Department of State has issued a travel warning for the Republic of the South Sudan. This travel warning replaces one from July 10, 2016, for the South Sudan and terminated the “ordered departure”. The Embassy in Juba has adjusted its staffing profile to reflect new conditions on the ground.
An overview of the situation in the South Sudan
The original travel warning in July of 2016 was due to violent clashes between the South Sudan government and opposition forces in Juba. At the time the U.S. Department of State had implemented an “ordered departure” from the nation. Since the original travel warning, instability in the region has continued with increased intertribal and intercommunal violence, cattle raiding, economic uncertainty, and increased violent crime.
The U.S. Department of State notes that aid workers, often U.S. citizens, have been targets of violence, including shootings, ambushes, violent assaults, harassment and robberies. According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, in November of 2016, the “UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng said the ongoing violence had transformed the conflict into an ‘ethnic war’ and warned of a ‘potential for genocide’.”
The South Sudan News Agency reports that the UN Mission is “deeply concerned” about the increased fighting around Malakal. They end the article stating this is the fourth year the Republic of the South Sudan has been in the midst of a civil war. This has been continuing since 2013 when a political contest erupted between President Salva Kiir and his rival, Former Vice President Riek Machar.
Travel Recommendations for South Sudan Visitors
The U.S. Department of State recommends that all U.S. citizens have evacuation plans from the South Sudan that do not involve the U.S. government. The U.S. Travel Warning specifically notes that citizens should travel with medical evacuation insurance.
The United States also recommends, if travel outside of Juba is necessary, U.S. citizens take precautions. The Travel Warning states, “a minimum of two vehicles and appropriate recovery and medical equipment” should be taken in case of mechanical issues with the vehicles or other emergencies.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers visiting the Republic of the South Sudan are up-to-date with routine vaccinations. The CDC also notes travelers should talk to a physician about taking malaria drugs before, during and after the trip. The South Sudan is located in the Meningitis Belt of Africa, therefore the CDC recommends travelers who will be in the country from December to June should be vaccinated for meningitis before traveling. Other vaccinations on the list to discuss with a physician are as follows: Cholera, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies, Typhoid and Yellow Fever.
After a series of known threats from terrorist groups in the country of Egypt, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for this nation. The U.S. Department of State urges citizens and travelers to consider the risks of travel to Egypt. Any diplomatic personnel in the area are prohibited, by the U.S. Mission in Egypt, from traveling to the Western Desert and the Sinai Peninsula outside the beach resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Personnel is only permitted to travel to and from the resort by way of air; land travel is not allowed in the Sinai Peninsula.
Overview of the Situation in Egypt
Egypt has been a point of terrorist activity for over two years by extremist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “You should not go to Sinai, that’s the area of military conflict between Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, that’s an ISIS franchise, and they pretty regularly have either suicide attacks, armed attacks, or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) against the security forces of Egypt,” says Dr. Richard Lobban, an anthropologist and adjunct professor for the US Navy. ISIL (also discussed as ISIS) and other terrorist groups have conducted terrorist attacks on the Egyptian government and security forces, tourist sites, commercial airlines, other public transportation and a diplomatic facility.
The U.S. Department of State references two specific attacks prior to the travel warning for Egypt being issued. On December 11, 2016, dozens of civilians were killed when a suicide bomber targeted the main Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. Nearly 50 civilians, mostly women and children, were injured in the blast. Although no terrorist group officially claimed responsibility, according to The New York Times, it is the “hallmark of Islamist militants fighting President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.” This was the second bombing in Egypt’s capital that week, the first claiming the life of six Egyptian police officers at a security checkpoint. That first bombing was a few kilometers away from the Pyramids at Giza.
On January 10th, 2017, the United Nations Security Council condemned a terrorist attack in Egypt that occurred the day before, killing nine police officers and injuring 13 others. The BBC reported a group of militants opened fire at a police station; the attack had not been claimed by any particular terrorist group.
While Egyptian Military conduct active anti-terrorist operations along the country’s border with Gaza and Libya, the U.S. Department of State recommends U.S. citizens avoid the following areas altogether: northeastern Sinai Peninsula, west of the greater Cairo, the Nile Valley and various oasis towns in the area.
CDC Health Precaution Recommendations for Travelers Visiting Egypt
The CDC recommends all people traveling to Egypt visit a physician four to six weeks prior to departing on your trip to review your vaccinations for the following Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, yellow fever and routine vaccines. Routine vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Egypt’s customs, laws and regulations are rooted in Islamic scripture, practices and beliefs. It is not required by law that tourists adhere to these modesty expectations; however, many governments - including the Canadian government - recommend observing modesty while traveling there. Both men and women should be aware of their wardrobe while traveling and level of affection shown in public for a significant other, as showing too much skin or being overly affectionate would cross-cultural expectations.
The religious month of Ramadan changes cultural expectations during sunrise and sunset. Travelers should be aware that Islamic traditions limit drinking, eating and smoking during the daylight hours. In 2017, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 27.
In regards to safe places to visit in Egypt, the U.S. Department of State recommends the major tourist sites, like Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, other beach resorts on the Red Sea and on the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, and at many of the temples and archaeological sites located in and around greater Cairo and in the Nile Valley, such as Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel. The Egyptian Government maintains a heavy security presence in these areas; however, the U.S. Department of State reminds travelers that terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the country.
The U.S. Department of State travel warning for The Gambia, officially known as the Islamic Republic of The Gambia, comes after the sitting ruler announced the December election results, in which he lost, were void and called for a new vote. His petition for a new vote will be heard by the nation’s Supreme Court on January 10, 2017. This heightens the risk of the potential civil unrest and violence. The U.S. Department of State warns against future travel to The Gambia because of the potential of civil unrest and violence.
Overview of the Situation in The Gambia
After The Gambia gained its independence from the United Kingdom in February of 1965, the current leader, Yahya Jammeh, seized power in 1994 through a coup. He has ruled the nation for 22 years but announced he would step down following the December 1 election, which declared Adama Barrow the new president.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken particular interest in The Gambia power shift as it’s committed to protecting the constitutional rights and democracy of all citizens and nations in West Africa. Because of Jammeh’s refusal to step down until May of 2017, the ECOWAS began military action on January 19th - the day that Jammeh was to step down and give power to his successor, Barrow. This course of action and the small size of The Gambia leads the entire nation to be under the Travel Warning.
Important Information for Residents and Travelers
The capital of The Gambia, Banjul, will be a point of contention during this change of power. The U.S. Department of State has authorized the departure of “all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country.” The U.S. Department of State is ordering all unnecessary United States citizens to make arrangements to the leave the country immediately by way of a commercial airline.
All U.S. citizens are being asked to make transportation options now, without relying on government assistance, as the airports and ferry terminals may close without warning because of the unrest. As the power shift requires more military intervention, less and less commercial airlines will be active in The Gambia. For instance, Thomas Cook Airline will be organizing its last six repatriation flights from The Gambia on January 20, 2017. Access Gambia, the Gambian Information Source, recommends residents and travelers remaining in the country should not go out alone at night. If traveling during the day, alert someone to your expected locations.
The U.S. Department of State is recommending that all official documents are valid and up-to-date for travel. The Gambia consular services are already limited, only available in the capital city, due to poor transportation infrastructure and security conditions. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation News, shops and banks have closed throughout the nation as the Senegal military forces enter The Gambia to enforce the new presidential power. Jammeh still has not stepped down from the offices of presidency, regardless of Barrow being sworn in. Sending money to someone in The Gambia will be difficult due to these closers.
Health and Safety Concerns While Traveling to The Gambia
Aside from the Department of State’s warning, the CDC also lists special considerations while traveling to The Gambia. The CDC recommends visiting a primary care physician months before leaving to take the proper immunizations and vaccinations. Malaria and Yellow Fever are a risk throughout the nation and all travelers should take precautions and medications necessary to avoid contracting these illnesses. It is also recommended by the CDC that travelers inquire about immunizations for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Meningitis and Rabies.
The CDC also recommends the following: Avoid contact with wild animals and any livestock. Drink only filtered water to avoid bacteria unknown to your body. Know where to find emergency medical care. Take your antimalarial medication. Prevent bug bites even while indoors.
United States citizens traveling to Mali are warned by the U.S. Department of State of ongoing terrorist attacks and criminal violence. Effective December 27, the U.S. Embassy in Mali will change it’s status to “Adult Eligible Family Members Only.” This means that no one under the age of 21 will be allowed to accompany U.S. government employees assigned to Mali. This Travel Warning replaces one from July 1, 2016.
An Overview of the Terrorist Threats in Mali
Northern Mali and parts of central Mali continue to be at high risk for terrorist attacks and other forms of conflict. The security environment in Mali is ever changing; every part of the country is at risk for potential terrorist attacks, including in Bamako. Locations Western travelers visit, including hotels and restaurants, continue to be targeted.
Violent groups, including al-Qa'ida in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitoun, have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in Mali over the past year. The groups also claim responsibility for kidnappings in Timbuktu and along the border with Burkina Faso. These violent attacks sometimes defy the borders of neighboring countries, such as the kidnapping in October 2016, when extremists kidnapped a U.S. citizen in Niger and reportedly took him to Mali.
U.S. citizens have been the victim of some of these attacks by extremists. In November 2015, one U.S. citizen and 19 other visitors of Mali were killed when armed assailants stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. The extremists, yelling “Allahu Akbar” at the time of the attack, got past the hotel security by moving quickly and pretending to be government diplomats. The New York Times reported that 19 people were killed during the attack. The assailants were armed with gunfire and grenades; AQIM and al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for this attack.
In March 2015, armed gunmen attacked “the La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako and killed five people, including French and Belgian citizens.” The lone, masked gunman took the life of four people, a Belgian security officer working for the EU and three Malians. This attack, claimed by al-Murabitoun, was followed by the Government of Mali declaring a State of Emergency in the nation. They increased their security presence in Bamako by adding roadblocks and random police checkpoints around the city between sundown and sun-up. Al Jazeera reports the State of Emergency in Mali is in effect until March 2017.
The United States government warns travelers about Jordan due to the threats of terrorist groups throughout the country. Terrorist groups, such as ISIL and its affiliates, have conducted attacks around the nation and continue to plot new assaults. Jordan’s role in the counter-ISIL coalition, and its borders with Iraq and Syria, “increase the potential for future terrorist incidents.”
An Overview of the Situation in Jordan
In 2015 and 2016, both Jordan and United States interests had been the target of a terrorist attack. On December 10, 2016, 10 people were killed at a tourist site in Karak. Two days later, in the same location, a shootout between Jordanian security forces and a group of gunmen occurred without any injuries. On June 6, 2016, a lone gunman killed five Jordanian security personnel at a security office in Baqaa.
U.S. Citizens a Target for Terrorist Extremists in Jordan
The U.S. Department of State notes that terrorist extremists have expressed U.S. citizens and Westerners in Jordan as targets for attacks. The terrorist groups have expressed interest in attacking “soft targets” in Jordan, such as malls, hotels and restaurants. In 2016, the Jordanian government alerted the U.S. Embassy to several disrupted terrorist plots against U.S. citizens and Westerners. The U.S. Department of State reminds travelers that the borders with Syria and Iraq are especially sensitive to potential terrorist attacks. U.S. government personnel on personal travel are not permitted to travel to the border regions or refugee camps.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid any non-essential travel to certain regions of the Philippines, including the Sulu Archipelago and through the southern Sulu Sea, and to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the island of Mindanao, due to continued terrorist threats, insurgent activities, and kidnappings. This Travel Warning replaces one from April 21, 2016.
An Overview of the Violence in the Philippines
Terrorist and insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago target foreigners for kidnappings in the eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and the southern Sulu Sea area. Separatists and terrorist groups also continue to carry out attacks and kidnappings against civilians, foreigners, political leaders and Philippine security forces. Global Risk Insights reports that in the years of 2014-2016, there have been nearly 15 kidnappings with as many as 40 victims from terrorist groups in the Philippines. In this area, terrorist, insurgent, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom.
In central Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces. The Philippine government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence to protect citizens and travelers.
September 2016, a terrorist group conducted a bombing in Davao City; originally Abu Sayyaf reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, later recanting and blaming their ally, the Daulat Ul-Islamiya. Fifteen people were killed and 69 others were wounded in the attack. In October 2016, three of the 10 suspects, linked to the Maute Group, were arrested in connection to the bombing.
State of Emergency Declared in Mindanao
After this terrorist attack, the Philippine government declared a “State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao". The declaration was made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte only two days after the bombing in Davao City. Also known as Proclamation No. 55, this State of Emergency allows the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to suppress all forms of lawless violence and to take measures to keep the violence from spreading to other areas of the Philippines. The Travel Warning notes, there have been reports of American citizens being targeted specifically because of their nationality. The U.S. Department of State continues to be concerned about general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners in the area.
The United States Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Mexico, replacing one issued April 15, 2016, for U.S. citizens traveling to certain regions. This Travel Warning is in response to the number of U.S. citizens who have become victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states.
Overview of the Travel Situation in Mexico
Due to the high level of violent crimes in regions across Mexico, U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to areas the U.S. Department of State refer to in this Travel Warning as “non-essential travel” regions. The response time for emergencies in these areas from the U.S. Embassy officials may be hampered or delayed.
Although the Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protecting visitors in major tourist areas, gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities often occur in public areas and streets in broad daylight. The Travel Warning specifically states that “resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico general do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime”.
Kidnappings are particularly prevalent in Mexico currently. U.S authorities warn U.S. travelers in Mexico against the potential of kidnappings. While most travelers will understand a kidnapping in the traditional sense, new technology changes the face of kidnapping. Some criminals will temporarily kidnap travelers to force them to empty their bank accounts at one or more ATMs. This is known as “Express” kidnapping. Others have begun to extort travelers through deception through “Virtual” kidnapping, where a victim will be contacted by phone and then coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of friends and family or they use online information to get phone numbers and names. Recently, hotel guests in Mexico have been targets of such schemes.
Regions to Avoid Travel on Roads, Especially at Night
Many of the regions listed in the Travel Warning are due to concerns of U.S. citizens traveling on the roads between cities and to/from the country borders. This could include avoiding any travel at all, avoiding travel after dark or avoiding use of certain cars. The following regions are on the U.S. Department of State’s list to be more vigilant:
Chihuahua - Travel only during daylight hours between cities and within the cities.
Ciudad Juarez - U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling after dark west of Eje.
Ojinaga - Travel via U.S. Highway 67 through the Presidio, Texas port-of-entry.
Palomas and the Neuvo Casas Grande/Paquime region - Travel via U.S. Highway 11 through the Columbus, New Mexico port-of-entry.
Colima (includes Manzanillo) - Do not travel at night and within 12 miles of Colima - Michoacan border.
Durango - Only use toll roads during daylight hours on toll roads and must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew of 1am to 6am.
Jalisco (includes Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Lake Chapala) - Do not travel intercity after hours and do not use Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta.
Michoacan (includes Morelia) - U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling by land in Michoacan expect on federal toll road 15D during daylight hours.
Morelos (includes Cuernavaca) - Defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac in the northwest corner of the state.
Nayarit (includes the Riviera Nayarit coast, including the cities of Tepic, Xalisco, and San Blas) - Use only major highways and do not travel at night.
Nuevo Leon (Includes Monterrey) - Travel outside the city only during daylight hours and do not travel during the imposed curfew hours of 1am to 6am, unless traveling to the airport after 5am.
San Luis Potosi - Travel outside the city only during daylight hours on toll roads and must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew of 1am to 6am.
Zacatecas - Travel outside the city during daylight hours on toll roads and must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew of 1am to 6am.
Regions to Avoid Due to Violent Acts of Crime
Baja California - The state of Baja California experienced an increase in homicide rates from January to July 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Most of the homicide appear to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, but turf battles between criminal groups have erupted in areas where U.S. citizens frequent during daylight hours.
Baja California Sur (includes Cabo San Lucas and La Paz) - There have been high rates of homicide in the state capital of La Paz. In the capital there have been public acts of violence between rival criminal organizations. Cabo San Lucas is a popular destination in Mexico for Spring Breakers between the ages of 18 and 22. Visitors should stay vigilant during their trip to the area and remain close to the resorts.
Coahuila - The Travel Warning refers all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to all parts of Coahuila with the exception of Saltillo, Bosques de Monterral, and Parras de la Fuente. These recommendations are due to violence and criminal activity including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion and sexual assault.
Guerrero (includes Acapulco, Iztapa, Taxco, and Zihuatanejo) - This state was the most violent area of Mexico in 2015, for the third year in a row. Self-defense groups operate independently from government authorities and armed members of the groups frequently maintain roadblocks. They, reportedly, are not considered hostile to tourists. Acapulco is a Mexican hot-spot for tourists, and they are not in any elevated dangers to visitors in the “tourist strip”. Visitors should feel comfortable while traveling there, as long as they stay in tourist locations.
Quintana Roo - This state includes major tourist hot spots Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riveria Maya and Tulum. While there is no current advisory in effect for this state, but the Travel Warning reminds U.S. citizens that they should exercise caution when traveling the area because cellular and internet services are “virtually non-existent”.
Recommendations for U.S. Travelers in Mexico
Generally, the U.S. Department of State recommends U.S. citizens traveling by day and to use toll roads whenever possible. They recommend always abiding by the Mexican authority checkpoints on a roads, but being aware that some crime organizations set up fake/corrupt checkpoints for purposes of kidnapping, extortion and other violent crimes. All travel between cities, according to Frommer's, is recommended to occur during daylight hours.
Food and water regulations in Mexico are very different than in the United States. USA Today recommends all travelers consume bottled water and thoroughly wash any fresh fruits and vegetables prior to consuming.
While there were no specific immunizations recommended by the CDC, Mexico is currently under a Level 2 Warning for the Zika Virus. This means that travelers should “practice enhanced precautions” from mosquito bites while traveling in Mexico. The Zika Virus, primarily spread by mosquito bites, has no immunization or vaccine available. While most people who are infected with the virus will not even know, some may have symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain and/or red eyes. The Zika Virus can negatively affect a fetus during pregnancy, most commonly resulting in a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. The CDC recommends taking enhanced precautions while in Mexico, especially if you are pregnant or plan to be in the next 6 weeks.
When travelers return home, they should continue to take precautions against bug bites for up to three weeks after their return. The Zika Virus is transmitted by mosquitos and if a traveler is bitten by a mosquito when they return home, there is a risk of the Virus being spread.