Colombia Travel Warning

Posted on March 5, 2010
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The Department of State warns American citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia. While security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities. The potential for violence by terrorists and other criminal elements exists in all parts of the country. This updates and replaces the Travel Warning for Colombia issued November 10, 2009 to update information on recent security incidents and criminal activity.

In recent months there has been a marked increase in violent crime in Colombia. Murder rates have risen significantly in some major cities, particularly Medellin and Cali. Kidnapping remains a serious threat. American citizens have been the victim of violent crime, including kidnapping and murder. Firearms are prevalent in Colombia and altercations can often turn violent. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence of narco-terrorists. Common crime also remains a significant problem in many urban and rural areas. For additional details about the general criminal threat, please see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Colombia.

The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade. Nevertheless, terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. Kidnapping in rural areas is of particular concern. On July 2, 2008, the Government of Colombia rescued 15 hostages, including three Americans, who had been held for more than five years. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited.

U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but normally only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night. All Americans in Colombia are urged to follow these precautions.

Americans living or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website (https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/index.aspx) to obtain updated information on travel and security within Colombia.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle 24 Bis No. 48-50 Bogota, D.C. Colombia. Mailing address: Carrera 45 No. 24B-27 Bogota, D.C. Colombia. In case of a serious emergency that jeopardizes the health or safety of an American citizen in Colombia, please call the Embassy at (571) 315-0811; Embassy fax: (571) 315-2197; Consular Section phone: (571) 315-1566. The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office provides routine information at http://bogota.usembassy.gov. For questions not answered there, inquiries may be sent by email to ACSBogota@state.gov.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (575) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216. The Consular Agency is not staffed to respond to after-hours emergencies; in case of an emergency in the Barranquilla/north coast area, please contact the Embassy in Bogota at (571) 315-0811.

As the Department develops information on potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threats through its Consular Information Program documents, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. U.S. citizens should consult warden messages for Colombia at http://bogota.usembassy.gov/acs_wardenmessage.html, as well as the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Colombia and the Worldwide Caution at http://travel.state.gov.

U.S. travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for overseas callers, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

Eritrea Travel Warning

Posted on March 2, 2010
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The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea and recommends that U.S. citizens defer all travel there because of Eritrean government restrictions on travel outside the capital city of Asmara, an increased number of U.S. citizens arrested without clear justification, and heightened tensions along Eritrea’s borders with Ethiopia and Djibouti. This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 28, 2009.

The Eritrean government continues to restrict the travel of all foreign nationals, including resident diplomats. These restrictions require all visitors and residents to apply 10 days in advance for permission to travel outside the Asmara city limits. As a result, the U.S. Embassy cannot provide emergency consular assistance outside of Asmara.

There also have been an increased number of Eritrean-U.S. dual citizens arrested without apparent cause. Once arrested, detainees may be held for extended periods without being told the purpose of their incarceration. Conditions are harsh – those incarcerated may be held in very small quarters without access to restrooms, bedding, food or clean water. The Eritrean government does not inform the U.S. Embassy when U.S. citizens, including those who are not dual nationals,have been arrested or detained.

U.S. citizens are also cautioned to be aware of anti-U.S. sentiment among Eritrean nationals since UN sanctions were imposed on Eritrea in December 2009. There have been no specific incidents of violence targeting Americans, but anti-UN sanction demonstrations against the United States have occurred. We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid demonstrations, and to exercise caution if within proximity of any demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and to the Southern Red Sea region, including the port of Assab.

U.S. citizens considering travel within Eritrea should be aware of the presence of large numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian troops along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border, and acute political tensions between the two countries. In March 2008, Eritrean restrictions on diesel fuel supplies caused the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea’s detachments to withdraw from the Temporary Security Zone, leaving no international observers monitoring the border. Skirmishes between troops of both countries resulted in fatalities in January and February of 2010.

Since April 2008, Djiboutian and Eritrean troops have been deployed along the Eritrea-Djibouti border. The Djiboutian government claims Eritrean troops have crossed into its territory and on June 10, 2008, Djiboutian and Eritrean troops exchanged fire along their shared border.

The consular section of Embassy Asmara is open only for emergency American citizen services. U.S. citizens currently living or traveling in Eritrea are strongly encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Asmara through the State Department’s travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Eritrea. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of an emergency and provide updates on the security situation. The U.S. Embassy is located at 179 Alaa Street, P.O. Box 211, Asmara; telephone (291-1) 12-00-04, available 24 hours in case of emergency; fax (291-1) 124-255 and (291-1) 127-584; web site http://asmara.usembassy.gov/.

For additional information, consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information sheet for Eritrea and the Worldwide Caution at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from overseas.

Central African Republic Travel Warning

Posted on February 26, 2010
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The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Central African Republic (CAR), and recommends against all but essential travel outside the capital, Bangui. Travelers in the CAR should exercise extreme caution. This replaces the Travel Warning of August 19, 2009, in light of the incursion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern CAR, and uncertainty surrounding the ongoing Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration process.

Armed rebel groups, bandits, and poachers present real dangers and the Central African government is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in most parts of the country. There have been repeated attacks on Central African and expatriate travelers in the countryside. Poachers and armed men also pose a threat to game hunters in the north central CAR. The LRA poses a similar threat to hunters in eastern CAR.

Bangui itself, though safer, suffers from elevated crime rates, petty and violent, as well as particularly limited transport and medical options. CAR military and civilian security forces (and people posing as such) staff checkpoints throughout the city, frequently harassing local and expatriate travelers for bribes.

U.S. citizens should avoid public demonstrations because even those intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.

The small U.S. Embassy staff in Bangui can provide only limited services to U.S. citizens at this time.

U.S. citizens residing in, or planning to travel to, the CAR are strongly urged to register through the State Department’s Travel Registration website. U.S. citizens without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. While the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services is limited, registration will enable electronic receipt of warden messages.

U.S. Embassy Bangui
Avenue David Dacko,
B.P. 924
Bangui
Tel: (236) 2161-0200
Fax: (236) 2161-4494
Emergency after-hours telephone:
(236)7554-2276 and (236)7550-1293

Americans may also obtain updated information from the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad, at telephone (235) 51-70-09, 51-92-33 or 51-90-52; fax (235) 51-56-54;

Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

For information on general crime and security issues, U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information of Central African Republic as well as The Worldwide Caution located on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Yemen Travel Warning

Posted on February 25, 2010
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The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities. The Department recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to Yemen. American citizens remaining in Yemen despite this warning should monitor the U.S. Embassy website and should make contingency emergency plans. This replaces the Travel Warning for Yemen issued June 26, 2009.

The security threat level remains high due to terrorist activities in Yemen. The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen closed on January 3 and 4, 2010, in response to ongoing threats by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to attack American interests in Yemen.Following the attempted attack aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 on December 25, 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) publicly claimed responsibility for the incident and stated that it was in response to what they described as American interference in Yemen. In the same statement, the group made threats against Westerners working in embassies and elsewhere, characterizing them as “unbelievers” and “crusaders.” On the morning of September 17, 2008, armed terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. A number of explosions occurred in the vicinity of the Embassy’s main gate. Several Yemeni security personnel and one Embassy security guard were killed, as were a few individuals waiting to gain entry to the Embassy, one of whom was a U.S. citizen.

U.S. Embassy employees have been advised to exercise caution when choosing restaurants, hotels or visiting tourist areas in Sana’a in order to avoid large gatherings of foreigners and expatriates. Only limited travel outside of the capital is authorized at this time.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Yemen despite this warning should exercise caution and take prudent security measures, including maintaining a high level of vigilance, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all travel, and ensuring travel documents are current. American citizens in Yemen are advised to exercise particular caution at locations frequented by foreigners countrywide, including restaurants and hotels frequented by expatriates. From time to time, the Embassy may restrict official Americans from restaurants, hotels, or shopping areas. The Department of State strongly encourages American citizens to consult the most recent Warden Messages on the U.S. Embassy website to get up-to-date information on security conditions. Americans who believe they are being followed or threatened while driving in urban centers should proceed as quickly as possible to the nearest police station or major intersection and request assistance from the officers in the blue-and-white police cars stationed there.

The Department remains concerned about possible attacks by extremist individuals or groups against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived interests. On June 12, 2009, seven Germans, one Briton, and one South Korean were kidnapped in Sa’ada resulting in three confirmed deaths. There have been no claims of responsibility in this incident and the investigation is ongoing. On March 15, 2009, four South Korean tourists were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the city of Shibam in southern Hadramout province. On March 18, 2009, a South Korean motorcade was attacked by a suicide bomber near Sana’a International Airport. On January 17, 2008, suspected al-Qaeda operatives ambushed a tourist convoy in the eastern Hadramout Governorate, killing two Belgians. On July 2, 2007, suspected al-Qaeda operatives carried out a vehicle-borne explosive device attack on tourists at the Belquis Temple in Marib, which resulted in the deaths of eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis. The targeting of tourist sites by al-Qaeda may represent an escalation in terror tactics in Yemen. On February 3, 2006, 23 convicts, including known affiliates of al-Qaeda, escaped from a high-security prison in Sana’a, some of whom remain at large. Two of the escapees were killed in vehicle-based suicide attacks on oil facilities near Mukalla and Marib on September 15, 2006. Those attacks were followed by the arrest the next day in Sana’a of four suspected al-Qaeda operatives, who had stockpiled explosives and weapons.

The Government of Yemen has been battling al Houthi rebels in and around the northern governorate of Sa’ada intermittently since 2004. A ceasefire was announced on February 12, 2010.

U.S. citizens traveling in Yemen should be aware that local authorities occasionally place restrictions on the travel of foreigners to parts of the country experiencing unrest. In addition, the U.S. Embassy itself often restricts travel of official personnel to the tribal areas north and east of Sana’a, such as the governorates of Amran, al-Jawf, Hajja, Marib, Sa’ada, and Shabwa. Travelers should be in contact with the Embassy for up-to-date information on such restrictions.

Travel by boat through the Red Sea or near the Socotra Islands in the Gulf of Aden presents the risk of pirate attacks. In 2009, over 70 vessels were reportedly attacked. Since the beginning of 2010, 4 vessels reportedly have been seized in the area, with one released in February. As of February 2010, 11 vessels were believed to be held for ransom, including the yacht of a British couple. Following the April 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo vessel and the subsequent rescue of the vessel’s captain, resulting in the deaths of three pirates, Somali pirates threatened to retaliate against American citizens transiting the region. The threat of piracy extends into the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa as well. See our International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet. If travel to any of these areas is unavoidable, travelers may reduce the risk to personal security if such travel is undertaken by air or with an armed escort provided by a local tour company.

U.S. citizens should register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a and enroll in the warden system (emergency alert network) to obtain updated information on travel and security in Yemen. This can be done online prior to arrival in Yemen at State Department’s travel registration website.

The U.S. Embassy, Sana’a is located at Dhahr Himyar Zone, Sheraton Hotel District, P.O. Box 22347. The telephone number of the Consular Section is (967) (1) 755-2000, extension 2153 or 2266. For after-hours emergencies, please call (967) (1) 755-2000 (press zero for extension) or (967) 733-213-509. From time to time the Embassy may temporarily close or suspend public services for security reasons. Emergency assistance to U.S. citizens during non-business hours (or when public access is restricted) is available through Embassy duty personnel.

Current information on travel and security in Yemen may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada, 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00am to 8:00pm Eastern Time Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.) U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Yemen and the Worldwide Caution on the State Department’s Internet site. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be viewed at U.S. Embassy Sana’a’s American Citizens Services web page.

Iraq Travel Warning

Posted on February 25, 2010
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The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks inherent in travel to Iraq and recommends against all but essential travel within the country given the fluid security situation. Numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)-led operations against these groups continue, attacks against the ISF and U.S. forces persist in many areas of the country. Turkish government forces have carried out operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel terrorist group (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK) located along Iraq’s northern border. Civilian air and road travel within Iraq remains dangerous. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated June 15, 2009, to update the status of U.S. military operations in Iraq, territorial control by Iraqi authorities, and incidents along Iraqi borders.

Iraq Remains Dangerous and Unpredictable

While some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist and no region should be considered safe from dangerous conditions, including explosions, kidnappings, and other terrorist and criminal attacks. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or “Green”) Zone and northern Iraq. Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mortars and rockets, human- and vehicle-borne IEDs, and shootings. Kidnappings still occur; the most recent confirmed kidnapping of an American citizen reported to the U.S. Embassy occurred in January 2010 in Baghdad. While sectarian and terrorist violence continues, it occurs at levels lower than in previous years. U.S. Government personnel require special permission and a protective security detail at all times when traveling outside of secure facilities and may be prohibited from traveling to certain areas of Iraq based on prevailing security conditions. Detailed security information is available at the Iraqi Embassy website and at the U.S. Central Command website.

Drawdown of U.S. Military Forces

In mid-2009, U.S. military combat forces withdrew from all major Iraqi cities, including Baghdad. Under current plans, the United States will reduce the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq and end combat operations there by August 2010 and complete withdrawal of military forces by the end of 2011.

Transportation to/from and within Iraq

Travelers choosing to utilize commercial carriers to enter or depart Iraq should be aware that, although there have been no recent attacks on civilian aircraft, the potential threat still exists, as does a high risk to road travelers as described above. U.S. Government personnel, with limited exceptions, are generally required to use U.S. military or other official aircraft when entering or departing Iraq. There have been no recent security-related incidents associated with civilian airport operations. Embassy employees, including those resident in northern Iraq, may seek authorization, and under special limited circumstances, obtain permission to use commercial airlines and civilian airports when entering or departing Iraq. Civilians, including tourists, business people, and temporary residents should recognize the risks associated with air travel to Iraq and follow the security policies of their agencies, companies and sponsors. All travelers to Iraq should possess an Iraqi visa issued by the national government. Entry permits issued in the northern Kurdish region are not valid in other areas of Iraq. The Embassy has received reports of American travelers arriving in Iraq with properly issued Federal Iraq visas, but nonetheless being denied entry into the country.

Northern Iraq

The security situation in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk Governorates in northern Iraq has been more stable relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but violence persists. U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security detail when traveling outside of secure facilities. Even though there have been fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the country remains fluid. Sectarian violence associated with the status of Kirkuk is likely to persist and insurgent groups continue to operate across the north. While many parts of northern Iraq have become more stable, some areas, including the border areas with Ninewah, Salah-al-Din, Diyala and Tamim Governorates, particularly those in and around Kirkuk and Mosul, have experienced violence and instability. Additionally, extensive unmarked minefields remain along the international border. The Governments of Turkey and Iran continue to carry out military operations against insurgent groups in the mountain regions. These operations have included troop movements and both aerial and artillery bombardments.

International Zone Restrictions

The U.S. Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad. The IZ is a restricted access area. As of June 30, 2009, Iraqi authorities assumed responsibility for control of the IZ. Travelers to the IZ should be aware that Iraqi authorities may require special identification to enter the IZ or may issue IZ-specific access badges.

The U.S. Government considers the potential threat to U.S. Government personnel assigned to Iraq to be sufficiently serious so as to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador must travel in groups of two or more and carry a working cell phone or radio when exiting the U.S. Embassy compound.

Information received by the U.S. government indicates that some terrorist or extremist groups continue to target U.S. citizens for possible kidnappings. Individuals residing and traveling within the International Zone should continue to exercise good personal safety precautions.

Limited Emergency Support to American Citizens

The U.S. Embassy provides limited visa services to the general public and provides restricted emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide services to Americans outside of Baghdad is particularly restricted given the security environment. The United States does not maintain any consulates in Iraq. American citizens who choose to visit or reside in Iraq despite this Travel Warning are urged to take responsibility for their own personal security and belongings (including their U.S. passports), avoid crowds, especially rallies or demonstrations, and inform the U.S. Embassy of their presence in Iraq. All Americans in Iraq, including those working on contract for the U.S. Government, are urged to register with the Embassy at the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to provide updated security information or to contact them in emergencies.

Contact Information

U.S. citizens may obtain the latest security information or other information about Iraq by contacting the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via email, landline at U.S. dial 1-240-553-0581 ext. 2998, or by accessing the U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s website. The after-hours emergency numbers are 011-964-770-443-2594 (from the U.S.) or 964-0770-443-2594 (within Iraq). As cell phone service is unreliable in Iraq, emergency calls may also be placed though the Department of State at 1-888-407-4747.

Updated information on travel and security in Iraq may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers from other areas, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Iraq, as well as the Worldwide Caution, both of which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

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