Sunday, June 30, 2013

Egypt: Update--An Estimated 300,000 Egyptians Call for Morsi's Ouster, Foreign Travel Discouraged

According to The Associated Press, hundreds of thousands of opponents of Egypt's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, poured onto the streets in Cairo and across much of the nation Sunday (June 30), launching an all-out push to force Mohammed Morsi from office on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. 

Nationwide, the rallies were among the most gigantic Egypt has seen in nearly 2 ½ years of continuous upheaval, including during the square-packing, 18-day uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

In a potentially volatile confrontation after nightfall, however, several dozen youths attacked the headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood on a plateau overlooking the capital. They threw stones and firebombs at the building, and people inside the walled villa fired at the attackers with bird-shot.

Earlier in the day, two offices belonging to the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, were attacked and ransacked in the city of Bani Suef, south of Cairo.

COMMENT: Despite having three years left on his term of office, Morsi defiantly said he would not step down, yet like Mubarak, Morsi may have no choice, particularly if hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to flood the streets.

Already at least seven people, including an American intern for AMIDEAST, have been killed in clashes during the past week, mainly in Nile Delta cities and the coastal city of Alexandria.

The past year has seen multiple political crises, bouts of bloody clashes and a steadily worsening economy, with power outages, fuel shortages, rising prices and persistent lawlessness and crime. Additionally, foreign tourism has come to a screech  halt.

Underlining the potential for deadly violence, a flurry of police reports on Sunday spoke of the seizure of firearms, explosives and even artillery shells in various locations of the country, including Alexandria and the outskirts of Cairo. Banks closed early and most government offices shut down on Sunday, a work day in Egypt.

The 270-seat chamber was elected early last year by less than 10 percent of Egypt's eligible voters, and is dominated by Islamists.

A legal adviser to Morsi also announced his resignation late Saturday in protest of what he said was Morsi's insult of judges in his latest speech on Wednesday.

As I emphasized in 2011, President Barack Obama and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are complicit in what is happening in Egypt today. Their respective failures to intercede and show genuine leadership in stabilizing Egypt serves as a message point as to why Egypt is in utter turmoil.  Surely they must have known what course the Muslim Brotherhood would take. 

Egypt: US Department of State Issues Travel Warning, Effective June 28

COMMENT: Although the US Department of State issued a travel warning on Egypt, effective June 28, my personal recommendation is that all essential and non-essential travel by all Western nations be deferred until July 15, 2013.

The entire text of the Department of State's travel warning can be seen by clicking on the below link:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_egypt

Global Impact: Puerto Rican Wife of Wealthy Canadian CEO Indicted for 2005 Contract Murder of Husband

According to The Associated Press, the FBI reports that Puerto Rican Aurea Vazquez Rijos was arrested in Madrid on Sunday (June 30) in connection with the US$3 million contract killing of her wealthy Canadian husband in 2005 who owned a lucrative online gambling software company.

Vazquez has been indicted by a federal grand jury for paying for the contract killing, although she has denied the charges. 

Real estate developer Adam Anhang was beaten and stabbed to death in a popular tourist district of San Juan in 2005. He was a Winnipeg native. 

COMMENT: An FBI spokesperson said that he expects the extradition of Vazquez to take between six and nine months.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.



Cyprus: Crimes Reported in Paphos, Update on Security Threats

According to http://www.incyprus.com.cy, a British expat living in Paphos was burglarized at his home in the District this week while he was out, which resulted in the loss of €3,500 (US$4,552) in electronics (including an iPad) and cash. The burglars reportedly broke into the expat's home through a toilet window.

Additionally, a resident of Paphos, 67, reported to police that his truck was stolen with 470 liters of oil (125 gallons) from the tourist area of Yeroskipou, which is also located just miles from Paphos.

COMMENT: I first lived in Cyprus during 1975-77 and returned in the late 90s for a three-year assignment. That being said, Cyprus today is much, much different.

In the Cyprus of today, most crime involves the theft of property, although it can be said that burglary is a common occurrence, particularly from expat residents and wealthy Cypriots.

One crime that is on the rise, without explanation, is the sexual assault and rape of foreign tourists. This type of crime doesn't occur frequently, but seems to be focused on late-night nightclub encounters. 

Single women are urged to drink in moderation and travel in groups. "Date-rape" drugs are regularly used by predators to immobilize their victims. Thus, patrons should watch the preparation of their drinks carefully and not leave their drinks unattended.

It should also be noted that Russian organized crime has worked its way into Cyprus in recent years and has rendered human trafficking, money laundering and prostitution into literal art-forms. It is commonplace for Russians to spend millions in purchasing real estate in order to launder ill-gotten profits.

Another facet that has changed is Cyprus' huge deficit and need for a bailout, which most recently has resulted in Cypriot banks controlling the amount of cash that can be withdrawn.

It is strongly recommended that visitors to the island verify in advance what form of payment hotels and restaurants will accept and plan accordingly. Additionally, most foreign banks place manageable limitations on cash or ATM withdrawals, although Cypriot-owned banks DO.

It is essential that you declare cash brought into Cyprus so that you can exit with it. You are permitted to exit Cyprus with no more than 3,000 euros, so it is essential that you declare upon arrival greater amounts.

 

Turkey: Tour Bus Overturns in Antalya, Swedish Tourist, 15, Dies, 26 Foreigners Injured

According to the Dogu Haber Ajansi news agency, the driver of a tour bus carrying 27 foreign tourists overturned in the southern Turkish province of Antalya, killing a Swedish youth, 15, and injuring 26 others.

The "accident" occurred at 1645 hours on Friday (June 28) when the driver suddenly applied the brakes, causing the bus to leave the roadway and overturn in a ravine.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, tour bus accidents in Turkey occur all too often, which is why I frequently raise the alarm for foreign tourists to be cautious and discerning when dealing with tour operators that provide transportation for tourists.

The fact is that large tour buses often are difficult to maneuver in countries where unpredictable road conditions, poor driving skills, deficient traffic enforcement and a multitude of other factors that cause tour bus accidents with increasing regularity.

Rather than leaving life altering decisions to tour operators, I strongly recommend that tourists and travelers insist in knowing the qualifications of drivers, ages of vehicles and request that perhaps a number of smaller, more maneuverable vehicles be used to transport passengers in developing countries, particularly those that have had a history of frequent tour bus accidents.

FYI. I have a chapter in my 2008 book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, entitled "Roadway Accidents: A Major Concern." This book will be completely updated in 2013 and will be available for use in the iPad, Kindle and Nook in November 2013.

Please see: http://www.asirt.org

 

Brazil: Six Armed Home Invaders Shoot, Kill Boy, 5, in São Paulo Because He Would Not Stop Crying

According to EFE, six gunmen who invaded the home of a Bolivian couple before dawn on Friday (June 28) in São Paulo killed their only child “because he wouldn’t stop crying,” police officials reported.

The mother of the young boy identified him as Bryan Yanarico Capcha, age 5, and told police that six armed men had broken into their home.

The married couple, who came to the city earlier this year to work in a clothing factory, gave the assailants the 4,500 reais (US$2,000) they had in the house, but the criminals demanded more.


In a brutal form of intimidation, the gunmen, infuriated by the boy's crying, summarily shot the couple's son in the head, obviously without giving it a thought.

COMMENT: Subsequently, the criminals fled at which point the couple rushed their son to the hospital, but died en-route. 

As I have said in numerous other postings over the years, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among two of the most dangerous, violent cities in South America where foreign tourists are routinely robbed, assaulted, raped, duped and conned out of their possessions and valuables.

Both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are classified as CRITICAL threat for crime by the US Department of State.

Expats and foreigners visiting São Paulo or Rio, short-term or long-term, should keep in mind that crime in both of cities is widespread, with local criminals focused largely on foreigners.

It is essential that all travelers to São Paulo or Rio exercise highly-focused personal security awareness. If not, they are very likely to become a victim of property or violent crime.

I continue to be concerned with Rio de Janeiro hosting both the World Cup during June 12-July 13 of 2014 and the Olympic Games during August 5-21, 2016, considering that the criminal threat in Rio has been classified as CRITICAL for the last 25 years. 

Critical threat is the highest level of the US Department of State's descending levels of Critical, High, Medium and Low.  






Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sri Lanka: Update--2011 Murder of British Tourist, 32, Boggs Down Over Witness Tampering

As a follow-up to my last postings of March 15, 2013, some going back as far as December 2011, the murder of British tourist Khuram Shaikh Zaman, 32, and the severe beating of his Russian girlfriend, Victoria Alexandrovna, 23, sustained in Tangalle, has been transferred to the capital of Colombo, due to the alleged threats to the witnesses from the suspects, all of whom are politically well-connected.

COMMENT: The case was recently transferred to Colombo by the country's Attorney General after the alleged eight assailants have been accused of witness tampering.

The murder victim and his companion were killed and assaulted, respectively, in a brawl during a party at a tourist hotel in Rekawa, Tangalle, on Christmas Eve in 2011.

The main suspect, ruling party Chairman of Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana and seven others, who were arrested and remanded following the murder, were released on bail in November 2012.

A British MP, who recently visited Sri Lanka with the victim's brother,  Naseer Shaikh, to inquire about the progress in the case, had expressed  dissatisfaction over the lack of progress in the prosecution.

As I have said previously and over the years, it is essential that foreign travelers take every step possible to avoid disputes, disagreements and arguments with locals, as it can take years to successfully adjudicate such conflicts through foreign courts, particularly when the assailants have political clout.


Global Impact: Colombian Engineer Develops, Markets Airbag Vest for Motorcyclists

According to EFE, seven years ago, engineer German Acevedo left his job as director of R&D for the Colombian Navy to develop an innovative product aimed at saving thousands of lives: an airbag vest for motorcyclists.

His company, Tech4Riders, which already exports the high-tech vests to México, Costa Rica, Panamá, Chile and Venezuela, now is ready to market the third generation of the safety product.

According to Acevedo, “nothing can guarantee you that you won’t die in an accident, but what kills you is the energy of the accident.” The Tech4Riders vests reduce that energy and, with it, the severity of the injuries suffered.

The vests feature a combination of two mechanical systems: “one active, the airbag, and another passive, made up of smart foam” that enable “absorption indices of greater than 90% of the energy of the impact,” Acevedo emphasizes.

“The complete system protects against blows to the neck area, the ribcage and the spinal column, which are the (zones) that generate the greatest disability,” he added.

COMMENT: A total of 2,253 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in Colombia in 2011, accounting for 39% of all traffic fatalities, while 18,095 others were injured.

The Tech4Riders vests are equipped with an innovative mechanism that activates the airbag, a belt that connects the vest to the vehicle and can detect a fall or the expulsion of the motorcycle’s driver or passenger due to a collision.

In such an emergency, an injection of compressed carbonic gas inflates the inside of the vest in approximately one-tenth of a second.

The vest, which ranges in price from 300,000 pesos-800,000 pesos (US$170-$430), can be complemented with extra shoulder, back, elbow and knee protection.


For further information see: http://www.tech4riders.com 

Egypt: Update--More Details on Death of American, 21, Killed While Photographing Violent Demonstration

According to CNN, Friday's demonstrations and clashes on June 28 in Alexandria and elsewhere quickly got out of control.

US citizen Andrew Pochter, 21, a student at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH, was one of three people killed in clashes between competing camps trying to show their strength before even bigger nationwide protests take place by the opposition occur on Sunday (June 30).

Pochter was in Egypt as an intern with AMIDEAST, a US NGO engaged in education, training and development activities in the region, according to a statement released by Kenyon College.

A physician told The Associated Press that  Pochter died of gunshot wounds at a hospital.

Earlier on Friday, the Obama Administration warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt, where further demonstrations are planned this weekend and beyond.

Additionally, the US Embassy in Cairo has authorized nonessential staff and the families of personnel to leave Egypt until conditions improve. 

COMMENT: As most of our regular readers know, I have been discouraging foreigners from traveling to Egypt for several months, given the fact that the country is in political turmoil and most tourism and business travel is disrupted on a daily basis as the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition continue to disrupt normal commerce. 

Although we extend our sympathies and condolences to Mr. Pochter, one would have hoped that the young American's sponsor, AMIDEAST, would have had enough sense to urge their interns to avoid ALL demonstrations, considering that anywhere Egyptian police can be found, lethal force will soon follow. 

The Cairo International Airport was flooded with departing passengers, an exodus that officials said was unprecedented. All flights departing Friday to Europe, the US and the Gulf were fully booked. 

Many of those leaving were families of Egyptian officials and businesspeople and those of foreign and Arab League diplomats — as well as many Egyptian Christians. 

Protesters stormed an office of the Brotherhood, attacked members inside, injuring 10, and set the office on fire in the city of Shubrakheit. Others stormed a Brotherhood office in the coastal city of Baltim, destroying electronic equipment, and another of the group's branches was torched in the city of Aga. 

The opposition has said it will bring millions into the streets across Egypt in coming weeks, with more violence feared. Already, six people have been killed in clashes this week, including Friday's deaths.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Egypt: US Citizen, Age Unknown, Stabbed to Death in Alexandria During Political Clash

According to Reuters,  A US citizen, age unknown, was stabbed to death in Alexandria earlier today (June 28) during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Mursi, a physican and three security officials.

A US Embassy official in Cairo said he had heard of the American's death, but that the Embassy is seeking additional details. 

COMMENT: The young American was using a mobile phone camera near an office of President Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood when he was attacked by protesters. 

The victim's death was confirmed by Ibrahim al-Roubi, head of the emergency unit in the Alexandria health department, and by two other security officials.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Venezuela: Aircraft That Disappeared on January 4 Found, Vittorio Missoni, Pilots, Guests Dead

According to EFE, the Venezuelan government announced yesterday (June 27) that the wreckage of a small general aviation aircraft that went missing on January 4, 2013, with the oldest son of Italian fashion designer Ottavio Missoni aboard has been found. 

Vittorio Missoni, his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni; and two other Italian nationals were on board, as well as the pilot and co-pilot, when the twin-engine aircraft went missing over Caribbean waters and within Venezuelan airspace.

Vittorio, 58, was the oldest son of Ottavio Missoni, founder of a high-end fashion house and a luxury hotel chain bearing the family name. Italian media described Vittorio, the fashion house’s marketing director, as the Missoni brand’s global ambassador. The Missoni couple and their friends had been on vacation in the Los Roques archipelago beginning on December 28, 2012, and had been scheduled to return to Italy on the night of January 4.

COMMENT:  Vittorio, 58, was the oldest son of Ottavio Missoni, founder of a high-end fashion house and a luxury hotel chain bearing the family name. Italian media described Vittorio, the fashion house’s marketing director, as the Missoni brand’s global ambassador. 

The Missoni company announced on June 27 that the crashed plane of Italian fashion icon Vittorio Missoni has been found in the waters north of the Los Roques Archipelago.

The Missoni family and Venezuelan authorities had been searching for the plane since it went missing shortly after it took off from the coast of Venezuela on January 4, 2013.

The fashion house told the media that “On behalf of the Missoni, Castiglioni, Foresti, and Scalvenzi families, it is confirmed that the airplane number YV615BN-2A, which disappeared on January 4, 2013, with Vittorio Missoni, Maurizia Castiglioni, Guido Foresti, Elda Scalvenzi, pilot Hernan José Marchan and co-pilot Juan Carlos Ferrer Milano on board, has been found.”

The aircraft was identified on the fifth day of the search mission, thanks to the technology of the American oceanographic ship, the "Deep Sea."

As a side note, the Missoni Family has been demanding answers as to why a 44-year-old aircraft, which had a history of mechanical problems, was being used to transport VIPs.

The answers can be found by shoddy or non-existent executive security protocols that could easily have been addressed through a detailed "advance" of security arrangements. Had an executive security specialist been tasked with conducting a thorough "advance," the Missonis and their guests would be alive today.

Normally, a detailed "advance" examines such details as the aircraft's safety, accident and maintenance records; accidents in the pilots' flight history;  verification of commercial pilot credentials; insurance; air worthiness certificates; and interviews of both pilots.

Such an advance (which examines every minute detail pertaining to transportation) could easily have ensured that the Missonis and their guests were traveling on aircraft with impeccable safety records. Sadly, this was not the case.

Unfortunately, this crash which claimed the lives of  the Missonis and their guests was very preventable, as someone at the Venezuelan end of the trip skipped crucial details pertaining to aircraft safety and security. 

The location of the aircraft came one week after Venezuelan authorities found another small plane that had disappeared on Jan. 4, 2008, with 14 people on board, including eight Italians. That flight had gone missing when the plane was en route from Caracas to Los Roques.

Nicaragua: US Tourist in Early 20s Raped, Robbed at Poorly Secured Playa Majagual Resort

According to The Nicaragua Dispatch, a horrific robbery and rape at a backpacker hostel  occurred on the southern Pacific beach of Playa Majagual at approximately 0100 hours on June 9.

Five masked men armed with pistols robbed and raped a US tourist and pillaged the hostel where she and her male travel companion were staying, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) north of San Juan del Sur. 

The gunmen reportedly poisoned four guard dogs protecting Camping Matilda’s, then cut the chained lock, bound the owners with rope, and then raped the guest and looted the hostel, according to owner Matilda Mercedes Caldera. 

The thieves then made their escape in the owners’ vehicle. They drove past a police checkpoint outside of town, drawing gunfire from the cops. Unfortunately, though, the officers were without a vehicle and were unable to give chase.

COMMENT: After the rape victim was treated at a local hospital and obtained a replacement passport, she left Nicaragua.

Meagan Willis, owner of Castaway Beachfront Inn next door to Camping Matilda’s, booked a return flight to the US the day after the brutal rape. 

Ms. Willis also told THE NICARAGUA DISPATCH that on April 23 two men wearing masks and wielding machetes men ran out of the woods and stopped her and her sister as they drove down the road to San Juan del Sur on their motorcycles. She said the assailants robbed them of cash, a camera and their iphone before running off. Local police never responded to her call for assistance.

One facet affecting crime throughout Nicaragua is the reality that most crime goes unreported, largely because most residents have no confidence in the police, who have committed crimes as well.

As I have said in many of my postings over the years, a major ingredient of selecting any travel destination or foreign country you plan to live in is to conduct an in-depth security vulnerability assessment.

Unfortunately, most foreign travelers and expats rarely examine security vulnerabilities and physical security deterrents, yet this is as essential, if not more so, than any other facet considered.

As an example, let's examine Ms. Caldera's use of four guard dogs. Unfortunately, they roamed free on the property, which rendered them easily vulnerable to being poisoned. In contrast, barking dogs are NEVER left outside, but rather kept indoors so as innkeepers can benefit from barking dogs, who sense the presence of people well before humans do.

Another important point. When local police are incompetent, lack transportation, are  poorly trained and/or complicit in crime, or a combination of all of these factors, those who rent rooms or bungalows to foreigners must provide a superior guard service to that of the police and pass the cost of such services on to their guests.

The bottom line is that one robbery or rape of a foreigner can irreversibly ruin a profitable business providing accommodations.

The truth is that criminals target other businesses when formidable physical, procedural or technical deterrents are in place.

Sadly, the robbery and rape of the US tourist will potentially haunt Camping Matilda's for years. Imagine the accounts that the victim will relate to her friends? Imagine.







Global Impact: German Tourist, 22, in Coma After Falling Four Floors from Black Sea Hotel Balcony

A German tourist, 22, remains in a coma after falling four floors from the balcony of his hotel room in Bulgaria’s popular Black Sea summer resort of Sunny Beach on June 26.

Prior to the tourist's fall, the victim had been taken to hospital early in the morning. The man had spent the night out with two friends, booked in the same room, who reportedly were asleep when the incident happened.

The young man remains in intensive care in Bourgas and is listed in critical condition.

COMMENT: Earlier this month, a 19-year-old tourist from the UK died after falling  ten  floors from the balcony of his hotel room in Sunny Beach. The incident occurred at 0300 hours. 

In a number of summer resort destinations in Europe, a dangerous and macabre practice has emerged, primarily among young adults, who engage in jumping from balcony to balcony in a bizarre form of bravado after a night of drinking.

In recent years, there have been well over 20 cases in a number of European resorts whereby young tourists have been seriously injured or killed.

In analyzing the selection of  low-rise and high-rise falls from hotel balconies, it is generally safe to say that hotel guests need to be cautious and prudent when on hotel balconies.

If they can't be cautious and prudent, then they should be staying on the ground floor or the Mezzanine, where they cannot be harmed.

Unfortunately, unchecked intoxication and high-rise hotel rooms generally don't mix well.

In point of fact, jumping from one balcony to another high above ground has little difference from playing Russian Roulette.

Although the British Foreign Office has specifically warned Britons, as part of its annual Holiday Hangover information and prevention campaign, to exercise caution when spending time on the balconies of their guest-rooms, this program seemingly has been ignored.

Sadly, if intoxicated young adults lack the common sense to avoid high-risk behavior, and their parents' cautions have fallen upon deaf ears, the one recourse that parents possess is to not help their offspring financially  engage in high-risk behavior that might potentially end their young lives prematurely.

It is far better to have an argument between parents and a son or daughter than it is to bury them well before their time.

See the following link to an article in THE SOFIA GLOBE:

http://sofiaglobe.com/2013/06/28/britain-urges-holidaymakers-to-be-cautious-on-balconies/

Thursday, June 27, 2013

US Tourist, 25, Raped/Sexually Assaulted in Two Separate Incidents at Jaffa Flea Market

According to The Jerusalem Post, a US tourist, 25, was raped and sexually assaulted in two separate incidents on the same day, while visiting the Jaffa flea market on Tuesday (June 25).

In the first incident, the victim visited a shop at mid-day whereby the assailant threatened the woman and took her to a back room where he raped her. The assailant then took the woman to the store next door whereby the first assailant and a shop-worker sexually assaulted her.

COMMENT: The victim promptly reported the incident to local police, which resulted in the arrest of the two assailants, one 38 years of age, and one 44 years of age, on Wednesday (June 26).

Reportedly, the defendants appeared before a Tel Aviv magistrate earlier today (June 27) for a remand motion.

As I have urged previously, there are increased risks to women traveling alone, which is why, if at all possible, I recommend that women traveling abroad arrange for a VETTED traveling companion, as it significantly reduces personal security threats. 

Useful leads to locating traveling companions include:

http://www.travbuddy.com

http://www.meetup.com/Singles Traveling Together

http://www.couchsurfing.org

As with all sources on the Internet...verify, verify and verify. Indeed, there are many questionable characters out there so conduct your own due diligence, ask about the vetting of members, raise safety and security issues and obtain the personal information of people you associate with. 

It is essential that you know who you are dealing with as unsavory characters abound.

Asking for a resume is a good first step.

I also strongly urge solo travelers to register their travel with their appropriate foreign affairs agency on-line and obtain international medical treatment and evacuation coverage (before you leave).

The Jaffa Flea Market is located in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality and is an ancient port city in Israel. Generally speaking, most prices are inflated. Pickpockets and scam artists are NOT in short supply. This is one destination that you can skip. Not recommended for solo travelers.

Pakistan: Despite Robbery, Murder of Ten Foreigners at Gilgit-Baltistan, More Tourists Arrive

As as follow-up to my posting of June 24, and despite the recent robbery and murder of ten foreign trekkers in Gilgit-Baltistan, roughly 25 foreign tourists including mountaineers and trekkers arrived in Islamabad on Thursday (June 27) to trek and mountaineer.  

Gunmen dressed as paramilitary forces killed ten foreign tourists on June 23 in an unprecedented attack in the Himalayas of Gilgit-Baltistan. The gunmen stormed into a base camp, killing Chinese and Ukrainian climbers in an area of the far-flung north not previously associated with violence or militancy.

COMMENT: The foreign tourists came from different countries including Ireland, Canada and Czechoslovakia.

Permit me to be as clear and as transparent as possible: The goal of this daily blog has only one, single objective--To keep travelers of all nations safe while they travel abroad.

As I have said so often in the past, Pakistan is hardly a country for tourists--of any nation. 

First of all, I have traveled extensively in Pakistan over a period of some 30 years. My last visit was in 2007.

Over the last five years, foreign tourists have been kidnapped and murdered with great regularity. Some have disappeared, never to be found.

Sadly, many foreign visitors to Pakistan have no idea of the security threats that confront them. Many of them do not even consult their foreign affairs agency's website to identify the risks that may confront them.

On June 24, ten foreign visitors to Pakistan were robbed and executed, yet tourists continue to visit as if the risk is no different than Paris or London, which it is not.

If you MUST visit Pakistan, do extensive research on the country, the culture, geography and most importantly on prevailing security threats, which are considerable for foreign travelers.

While contemplating whether it is safe or not, take a few minutes to do a posting search under "Pakistan." It might well change your mind, particularly the kidnapping of the two Czech women, both 24, in March 2013, who are still being held. 

In recent days, the Taliban has demanded that the Czech women be exchanged for a Pakistani terrorist doing 86 years in an American prison.









India: Girl, 10, Repeatedly Raped, Dies After Being Gang-Raped in Mumbai, Rape Crisis Continues

According to The Mumbai Mirror, a 10-year-old Indian girl died this week after being repeatedly gang-raped by four Indian teenagers between the ages of thirteen and sixteen in Mumbai on June 16.

The victim is said to have been lured to a secluded area in Hanuman Nagar after her alleged assailants, two of whom were brothers, if she did a chore for them for US$  .16.

Police officials in Turbhe said the young girl knew all four of her alleged attackers, and that one had actually raped her on a previous occasion.

The victim was initially rushed to a local hospital in Vashi, yet in time she developed a high fever and was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit at the DY Patil Hospital in Nerul, where she eventually died on June 25.

COMMENT: The gang-raping of this very young girl might would never have been brought to the attention of authorities if the victim had not mentioned what happened to her to a school friend, who told her parents who in turn reported the incident to police.

All four rapists have been arrested and are in detention. 

As most of our regular readers know all too well, India is a country which has a formidable task at hand to dramatically change the way in which foreign and Indian women are viewed by Indian men.

It is an understatement that a priority for India's political leadership is to develop and implement an action plan on how to change the way in which Indian men perceive women of all ages. 

Tragically, in Indian culture females are not respected as they are in many countries abroad, and in fact are vulnerable to all sexual crimes, regardless of age, which is one explanation as to why rape has doubled in the last 20 years.

In recent months, intimidated by a large number of rapes of foreign women who have been traveling alone, India has seen its tourism amongst solo women travelers decline by as much as 35%.

Foreign women should be exceptionally cautious when interacting with Indian men who may have less than honorable motives. This means that women should be cautious when around Indian men until their intentions are fully determined.

Women visitors from abroad should also realize that many Indian men regularly use "date-rape" drugs to immobilize their victims and may even invite them to their homes where they can be victimized and controlled.

My advice to all  foreign women is to avoid being placed in a vulnerable situation with Indian men until their bona fides is fully corroborated. This means meeting only in public places until such time as their intentions are validated. 

Women should also drink only in moderation and observe very carefully the preparations of any drinks served to them.












Global Impact: Paris Appellate Court Sentences "Carlos the Jackal" to Life in Prison

Thankfully, a French appellate court yesterday (June 26) sentenced Venezuelan terrorist Illich Ramírez Sánchez, 63, also known as “Carlos the Jackal” to life in prison for his role in attacks staged in France in 1982 and 1983, reaffirming the sentence that had been handed down to him in December 2011.

In a personal twist, defense attorney Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who married Carlos in 2001, said she would appeal the sentence to France's Supreme Court.
 

Sánchez, was also banned by the Appeals Court in Paris from requesting any special prison privileges for 18 months, the same penalty that had been imposed in an earlier phase of the case.

The appellate trial, which began on May 13, also included German citizen Christa Frohlich, who was tried in absentia because she did not want to risk losing her legal protection by crossing into France for the hearings.

Frohlich, who was acquitted in an earlier trial, was once again acquitted by the panel’s 10 judges.

Prosecutors were seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Frohlich for the role she played in the attack on Marbeuf street in Paris.

The four attacks killed 11 people and wounded nearly two dozen others.

COMMENT: Sánchez was convicted for the first time in December 1997 of the 1975 murders of two police officers and their Lebanese informant in Paris.

French authorities also linked Carlos to three incidents in 1982-1983, including an attack on a Paris-Toulouse train in which five people died and 77 others were wounded, another in the French capital that killed one person and wounded 11 others, and a third on the train station in Marseille that killed two people and wounded 40 others.

Sánchez was abducted by French secret service agents in August 1994 in Khartoum and spirited him away to Paris aboard a private plane. 


Considering that Sánchez has been involved in transnational terrorism since the 1970s, it is a just punishment for him to spend the end of his days in a French prison.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pakistan: Update--Kidnappers of Two Czech Tourists Demand Release of Terrorist Held in US Prison

According to Reuters, the kidnappers of two Czech tourists, Antonie Chrastecka and Hana Humpalova, both 24, who were kidnapped in Pakistan on March 13, 2013, have demanded that Aafia Siddiqui, a neuro-scientist who was given an 86-year sentence by a US court in 2010 for shooting at FBI agents and soldiers in Afghanistan be released. 

Dr. Siddiqui emigrated to the US in 1990 and obtained a PhD in 2001 from Brandeis University. In early 2003, Siddiqui returned to Pakistan. In March 2003, she was named as a courier and financier for al-Qaeda by Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and was placed on a "wanted for questioning" list by the FBI. She subsequently disappeared until she was arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with documents and notes for making bombs plus containers of sodium cyanide. 

Siddiqui was indicted in New York City District Court in September 2008 on charges of attempted murder and assault stemming from an incident in an interview with US authorities in Ghazni, charges which Siddiqui denied. After 18 months in detention, she was tried and convicted in early 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison. 

COMMENT: The Czech Foreign Ministry said it has seen the video-tape and is analyzing it.

Czech television station TV NOVA said it was given the video by a person calling herself Orna Moshe.

The two Czech women were kidnapped in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, near the Afghan border. There has been no news on their fate since they disappeared and no group claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Considering Dr. Siddiqui's conviction, her young age, and her having worked for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, it is very, very doubtful that the US Government would have any interest or benefit in releasing Siddiqui in exchange for the two Czech tourists, the latter of whom were abducted largely because they were traveling through high-risk sections of Iran and Pakistan on their way to India.  

As I have said so many times in the past, NO place in Pakistan is a prudent place for foreigners of any nationality, given the significant risks of being kidnapped and/or killed. 

Please see my posting of June 24 re: the robbery and execution of ten foreigners at the base camp of Nanga Parbat. 




Colombia: Update--Four Suspects Arrested in Stabbing Death of DEA Agent in Bogotá

According to EFE, Colombian police arrested four suspects in the stabbing murder of US DEA special agent James "Terry" Watson on June 25.

One of those arrested appears to be the driver of the taxi in which James “Terry” Watson was traveling through an exclusive sector of northern Bogotá after having dinner with colleagues.


COMMENT: According to police, Mr. Watson had hailed a taxi who was complicit with two other suspects who subsequently entered the taxi to rob Watson; however, when Watson seemingly resisted, he was stabbed to death.

Police are still looking for two other suspects connected to the murder.

The initial investigation into those responsible for the murder indicate that they could belong to a Bogotá gang known as Los Canarios.
 

Police General José Roberto León Riaño said at a press conference yesterday that “the murder of the DEA agent occurred as a result of violent crime and was not due to his carrying out duties as a federal narcotics agent."
 

León Riaño also said that the US has requested that the suspects who robbed and killed Agent Watson be extradited to the US for trial.

Watson, who recently married a Colombian woman, worked in Cartagena and was in Bogotá on business last Thursday (June 20) when he gathered with staff from other embassies to watch Game 7 of the NBA Final on television. 


As I have mentioned so many times in the past, I strongly discourage foreigners from resisting violent crime, particularly when the assailants outnumber the victim. This advice also applies to foreign law enforcement officers who generally do not have police powers in foreign countries.

Even though Watson was well-trained as a DEA agent, had he given up his valuables and complied with his assailants' demands, he might well be alive today.

As a retired US Embassy Regional Security Officer (RSO), I have personally seen too many US federal agents seriously hurt and killed while abroad because they underestimated the threat that local criminals posed.

Global Impact: 1 in 10 British Women Sexually Assaulted, Harassed While Touring So. Europe


According to The London Evening Standard, research carried out by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention, surveyed 6,502 British and German holidaymakers aged 16-35 during the summer 2009 as they returned home from tourist hotspots. 

Of that number, one in ten British women is sexually assaulted or harrassed while on holiday in Southern Europe.

 
A survey of more than 6,000 people in various airports in Mediterranean countries found that one in 15 men have also fallen victim to harassment and assaults while on holiday in southern European countries such as Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Crete.

Of the total, 8.6% said they had been sexually harassed while on holiday while 1.5% reported being raped.

COMMENT: The research, published in the JOURNAL ARCHIVES OF SEXUAL BEHAVIOR, revealed that women reported higher levels of sexual harassment, but gay and bisexual men were harassed just as much, and also reported the highest levels of sexual assault.

The STANDARD's report did not break out victimization statistics for German respondents. 

Harassment was higher in Mallorca or Crete, the survey found, and higher levels of harassment were associated with those who were young, British, gay or bisexual, frequent drinkers or attracted to bars where people get drunk, or those who used cocaine.
As I have emphasized in previous postings, tourists and travelers from all nations must exercise a strong sense of personal security awareness and a healthy suspicion of new acquaintances in order to avoid exploitation. 

Additionally, both men and women become increasingly vulnerable when they are alone and severely intoxicated. Thus, drinking in moderation is always a prudent choice.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Montenegro: Romanian Military Aircraft Dispatched to Collect Dead, Injured from Tour Bus Accident

According to The Associated Press, the Romanian government has dispatched military aircraft to Montenegro to bring home the bodies of 18 Romanian tourists who were killed in a tour bus accident on Sunday (June 23), as well as 29 other Romanians who were injured in the accident.

The bus fell some 130 feet (40 meters) from the Zdrijelo Bridge into the Moraca River in a rainstorm, which is why the casualties were so high.

Four of the accident victims remain in critical condition.

COMMENT: It was not immediately clear what caused the driver to lose control of the bus, but the winding road that leads from Serbia in the north through the Moraca canyon and then to the sea coast is notorious for traffic accidents because it is narrow and slippery in wet weather.

The Romanian government is to be commended for using its military to promptly repatriate those killed in the accident and medically evacuate those injured.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Global Impact: Herald Sun's Piece on Top Airlines a "Must-Read"

COMMENT: According to Australia's HERALD SUN, the below link is a "must-read" in terms of the world's top airlines in the following order:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/travel/travel-news/flying-high-worlds-best-airlines-revealed/story-fni0bieo-1226665904858

1. Emirates
2. Qatar Airways
3. Singapore Airlines
4. ANA All Nippon Airways
5. Asiana Airlines
6. Cathay Pacific Airways
7. Etihad Airways*
8. Garuda Indonesia
9. Turkish Airlines
10. Qantas Airways

* Etihad is the national airline of the UAE.

México: Update--No Change in Kidnapping of US Marine Veteran, Relatives from Family Ranch

COMMENT: The purpose of this posting is to simply update our readers that there is no new information in the kidnapping of US Marine veteran Armando Torres III, his father, Armando Torres II, and his uncle, Salvador Torres, from the family's ranch by unidentified gunmen on the evening of May 14.

Unfortunately, there has been no communication from the kidnappers whatsoever in this case, which after nearly five weeks is troubling, considering that the three men were abducted because local traffickers wanted to use the ranch, near the US-Mexican border, as part of their drug operation.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.
 

Pakistan: Update--Pakistanti Guide, Ten Foreigners robbed, Shot, Killed by Possible Taliban Elements

According to The Associated Press, international media now reports that in addition to a Pakistani guide, ten foreigners were robbed and killed, not nine foreigners as earlier reported.

The local branch of the Taliban took responsibility for the killings, saying it was to avenge the death of a leader killed in a recent US drone strike. 

The 10 foreigners who were killed included two Chinese, one Chinese-American and one Nepalese, said Attaur Rehman, home secretary in the Gilgit-Baltistan area where the attack took place. The other six have not been fully identified. One Pakistani was also killed. 

Pakistan's interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said earlier that nine foreigners and one Pakistani were killed. He said the dead included five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian. One Chinese tourist was wounded in the attack and was rescued, said Khan. It is unclear what caused the discrepancy between the two accounts.

COMMENT: As I mentioned previously in my earlier posting, NO foreign tourists should be visiting Pakistan, given the fact that most foreigners are at high risk of being targeted by the Taliban.

Although some parts of the country are deemed "safe," by Pakistanis, the reality is that foreigners will be sought out by the Taliban no matter where in the country they've been observed.

The gunmen took the money and passports of the foreigners and then summarily gunned them down. 

The attack took place at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet).  It is unclear if the tourists were planning to climb the mountain or were just visiting the base camp, which is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

The gunmen were wearing uniforms used by the Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary police force that patrols the area, said the interior minister. 

The assailants abducted two local guides to find their way to the remote base camp. One of the guides was killed in the shooting, and the other has been detained and is being questioned.