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Travel Warning: Mali

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Mali on August 29.  It reads as follows:

Mali

August 29, 2012

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali at this time because of fluid political conditions, the loss of government control of Mali’s northern provinces, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners in the north of the country. Mali’s path toward stabilized legitimate governance has clarified considerably since the March 21 military coup, and in particular with the installation of an expanded interim government on August 20. Effective August 29, the Department of State is lifting the Authorized Departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. While the security situation in Bamkao is improving, the country faces continued challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of factions linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated April 9, 2012, to update U.S. citizens on the current security situation.

In April, Dioncounda Traore was inaugurated as Mali’s interim president, and Cheick Modibo Diarra was appointed Prime Minister. Together, they head an interim government tasked with returning Mali to constitutional, civilian rule. On May 21, demonstrators who supported the March coup stormed the presidential palace and assaulted the president.

Persons believed to be connected to the military junta have committed isolated incidents of extrajudicial detentions and harassment of journalists and those associated with the counter-coup effort. Sporadic demonstrations and protests continue throughout Mali. On August 12, 50,000 people gathered to march for peace in Bamako and urged the government to take action. Because of the ongoing potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

Northern Mali remains under the control of Ansar al-Din, the Tawhid Wal Jihad in West Africa (TWJWA), and other groups. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) was allied with Ansar al-Din and shared control over Gao, Timbuku, and Kidal. During June and July, Ansar al-Din and TWJWA, aided by AQIM, turned on the MNLA, ejecting it from major cities and seizing sole control over the north. Islamists destroyed ancient tombs in Timbuktu and implemented sharia law in the cities they hold. ECOWAS and the UN continue to discuss the role of a military intervention force in Mali.

Senou International Airport in Bamako is currently open for business and scheduled flights are proceeding normally. Some international flights have occasionally been canceled due to low travel volume, but travelers have been notified in advance. Persons wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport’s operational status, and flight and seat availability, before traveling to the airport.

The Department of State is lifting the Authorized Departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. We have instructed Embassy employees and their dependents to be cautious when traveling within Bamako, and weencourage U.S. citizens to exercise caution, remain vigilant, maintain situational awareness at all times, and take appropriate security precautions to ensure personal safety.

U.S. citizens should note that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has forbidden all travel by U.S. government employees and their dependents to regions north of the city of Mopti. The U.S. Embassy requires all official travelers to the region of Mopti and areas within 50 kilometers of the Mauritanian border to have prior written authorization from the Ambassador. This designation is based on insecurity in areas adjacent to those zones, including the presence of AQIM and the threat of kidnapping, as well as banditry in the region. If you are planning travel to Mali, particularly to destinations outside of Bamako, you should consult the Embassy or your host organization(s) for the most recent security assessment of the areas where you plan to travel.

As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations, have temporarily suspended operations in Mali or withdrawn some family members and/or staff.

U.S. citizens currently in Mali despite this Travel Warning are urged to enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling, you make it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact you in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Maliand 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).

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. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and the Android market to have travel information at your fingertips.

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

04/09/2012 at 13:44

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