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Travel Warning: Mali

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Mali on today.  It reads as follows:


October 04, 2011

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risk of travel to Mali, and to recommend against all travel to the north of the country due to kidnapping threats against Westerners.  This revision of the March 9, 2011, Travel Warning for Mali updates security-related information.

As noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution dated July 26, 2011, al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM) has declared its intention to attack Western targets.  The Department is aware of several separate sources of information indicating AQIM’s ongoing interest in kidnapping Westerners throughout the Sahel region.  Joint Mali-Mauritania military operations against AQIM in July-August 2011 have also increased the risk of terrorist retaliation in northern Mali.  The U.S. Embassy in Bamako has issued several emergency messages for U.S. citizens regarding these threats, as have the U.S. Embassies in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nouakchott, Mauritania and Niamey, NigerOn January 5, 2011, an individual claiming connections to AQIM attacked the French Embassy in Bamako with a handgun and an improvised-explosive device.  Two injuries were reported.  On January 7, 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in Niamey, Niger.  They were found dead less than 24 hours later following a rescue attempt by French and Nigerien military forces.  On February 2, 2011, a vehicle containing explosive materials failed to stop at a security check point outside of Nouakchott, Mauritania.  Mauritanian security forces opened fire and the vehicle exploded, killing the vehicle’s passengers.  Mauritanian security forces were on alert for suspected AQIM vehicles that possibly had entered Mauritania to conduct terrorist attacks.  In early February 2011, an Italian woman was kidnapped in southern Algeria, and it is possible she is being held in northern Niger or northern Mali.

In September 2010, seven people, including five French nationals, a Togolese national, and a Malagasy national, were kidnapped from the mining town of Arlit, Niger.  Four of these people are still being held hostage by AQIM.  On July 24, 2010, AQIM executed a French hostage in retaliation for the killing of six AQIM members during a Mauritanian-launched hostage rescue operation with French assistance in northern Mali.  As a result of Western involvement in these operations, it is possible that AQIM will attempt retaliatory attacks against other Western targets of opportunity.

AQIM has also claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Canadian citizen UN officials in Niger in December 2008; the kidnapping of four European tourists in January 2009 on the Mali-Niger border; the murder of a British hostage from the above group in Mali in June 2009; the murder of a U.S. citizen in Mauritania in June 2009; the suicide-bombing near the French Embassy in Mauritania on August 8, 2009; and the kidnappings of three Spanish and one French citizen in November 2009, two Italian citizens in December 2009, and another French national (who was taken hostage in Niger in April 2010, and then murdered on July 24, 2010,as noted above).

In addition to threats posed by AQIM and potential hostage takers, violent confrontations between rival drug and arms traffickers have occurred in northern Mali over the past year.  The threat posed by AQIM, sporadic banditry, and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania all reinforce longstanding security concerns affecting travel to northern Mali.

The Department of State notes that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has designated northern regions of Mali as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents.  Prior to traveling to these areas, U.S. government employees in Mali are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali.  This designation is based on the presence of AQIM, as well as banditry in the region.  This restriction does not apply to travelers who are not associated with the U.S. government, but should be taken into account when planning travel.  The restriction is in effect for the regions of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu.

U.S. citizens are specifically reminded that these areas include the Timbuktu site of the popular Festival au Desert music festival, as well as the sites in the regions of Kidal and Gao where many other musical and cultural festivals are traditionally held between December and February.  It should be noted that – in addition to the potential terrorist and criminal threats – these festivals are located in particularly remote locations, and the Malian authorities would have extreme difficulty rendering assistance should an emergency occur at any of them.

U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Mali are strongly advised to register through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By enrolling, you make it easier for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information sheet for the Republic of Mali and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

The U.S. Embassy in Bamako is located in ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297.  The Embassy’s mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali.  The telephone number, including for after-hour emergencies, is +223 2070-2300.  The consular fax number is +223 2070-2340.


Written by OSB

04/10/2011 at 13:46

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