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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:

Mali

March 16, 2012

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risk of travel to Mali, and recommends against all travel to the north of the country due to threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners. In addition, the National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) and other armed groups have attacked several locations in the north and engaged in battles with the Malian military. The conflict has sparked civil disturbances and attacks against ethnic minority groups in Bamako and other cities in the south. U.S. citizens are also advised that presidential and legislative elections scheduled to take place in April-July may result in increased civil disturbances. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated October 4, 2011, to update information on events in Northern Mali, and to inform U.S. citizens of the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.

On January 17, National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) rebel forces attacked a National Guard installation in Menaka, near the Nigerien border in the eastern Gao Region. Conflict continues in the north of Mali between the MNLA, other armed groups, and the Malian military. MNLA has conducted attacks upon Anderamboukane and Menaka in Gao region, Léré in Timbuktu region, and Tessalit and Aguelhok in Kidal region. Private citizens have not been targeted, but the MNLA has indicated that it intends to conduct military operations across northern Mali.

Presidential elections are scheduled for April 29, and legislative elections on July 1. Increasing political tension may result in demonstrations during the elections period and the results announcement. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations as they have the potential to turn violent.

As noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution dated January 24, the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM) has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (which includes Mali, Mauritania, and Niger). It has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, attempted kidnapping, and the murder of several Westerners throughout the region. 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, Niger.

On November 25, 2011 a German national was killed and a three other foreign nationals were kidnapped in the city of Timbuktu. On November 24, 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in Hombori, in eastern Mali. AQIM claimed responsibility for the death and kidnappings. On January 5, 2011, an individual claiming connections to AQIM attacked the French Embassy in Bamako with a handgun and an improvised-explosive device, injuring two persons. Four of these people are still being held hostage by AQIM. In July 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.

AQIM has also claimed responsibility for several terrorist incidents against Westerners (bombings, murders, and/or kidnappings) in neighboring Mauritania and Niger.

In addition, 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 despite this Travel Warning 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.

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Written by OSB

18/03/2012 at 13:16

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