Monday, June 18, 2012

Somalia: US Department of State Issues Updated Travel Warning

The US Department of State continues to warn its citizens of the risks of travel to Somalia and recommends that ALL travel to Somalia be AVOIDED.

There is no US Embassy or other US diplomatic presence in Somalia. Consequently, the US government is not in a position to assist or effectively provide services to US citizens in Somalia.  

The security situation inside Somalia remains unstable and potentially dangerous. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack air operations at Mogadishu International Airport.  Kidnapping, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to US citizens and other foreigners can occur in any region.  

Tribal violence can occur with little or no warning. Unpredictable armed conflicts among rival militias are prevalent in southern Somalia, particularly in and around Mogadishu.  This has resulted in the deaths of countless Somali nationals and the displacement of more than one million people.

In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab-planned assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia.  In October 2011, a car bomb explosion killed over 70 people at the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu.  That same month, another car bomb killed several people outside the Ministries of Planning and Foreign Affairs.  On November 22, 2011, an explosion killed eight people in Wadajir District, Mogadishu.  On November 28, 2011, two bombs killed at least eleven people in Sanca Junction and Yaaqshild District.  

The US-designated and UN sanctioned terrorist organization, Al-Shabaab, continues to pose a significant threat in Mogadishu, although considerable military progress in liberating the city has been made, as in most other parts of southern Somalia. Pirates and other criminals have specifically targeted and kidnapped foreigners working in Somalia. 

In October 2011, a US citizen aid worker living in Somalia was kidnapped, and in January 2012, another US citizen was kidnapped while on work-related travel in Somalia.  In both cases, as well as in recent kidnappings of other westerners, the victims took precautionary measures by hiring local security personnel, but those hired to protect them appear to have played a key role in the abductions.  

A strong familiarity with Somalia and/or extensive prior travel to the region does NOT reduce travel risk.  

US citizens contemplating travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, are advised to obtain kidnap and recovery insurance, as well as medical evacuation insurance, prior to travel. 

Additionally, US citizens are urged to avoid sailing closer than 300 miles from the coast of Somalia.  Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure by pirates and having their crews held for ransom in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.  Somali pirates captured and killed four US citizens aboard their yacht on February 22, 2011.