Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lebanon: US Department of State Urges All US Citizens to Avoid Travel

The US Department of State continues to urge US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns. Those living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining there and should carefully consider those risks.

The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains. Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Access to borders, airports, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning. Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent. Family or neighborhood disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning. The ability of US government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may be severely limited.  

A number of extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including some, such as Hizballah, that the US government has designated as terrorist organizations. US citizens have been the target of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity continues to exist in Lebanon.

The ongoing unrest in Syria has also resulted in numerous security incidents in the border regions between Lebanon and Syria, both in the north and in the Bekaa. On April 9, 2012, a journalist reporting from the Lebanese border was killed by gunfire originating from Syria. The potential for border violence remains.  

Hizballah and other para-military groups have at times detained US citizens or other foreigners for interrogation – sometimes for hours or longer. Kidnapping, whether for ransom or political motives, remains a problem in Lebanon. Suspects in kidnappings sometimes have been found to have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations. 

On March 23, 2011, seven Estonian bicyclists were kidnapped in Deir Zenoun, between Masnaa and Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. The kidnapping was planned and well-coordinated, according to Lebanese authorities. The Estonians were ultimately released on July 14, 2011. 

For the full text of the Department's travel warning, see: 
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5710