Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nigeria: US Department of State Warns Citizens of Staying at Lagos' Sheraton Hotels

According to Reuters, the US Department of State has warned its citizens of a plan to attack one of two Sheraton hotels near Lagos, Nigeria's main commercial hub which attracts many foreign business people and which so far has been spared by the country's violent Islamist militants.

In a statement on its website, the US State Department said those behind the plot were "groups associated with terrorism," but gave few details:

See http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/sm-05022014

Nigeria is grappling with an increasingly violent Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands in the past five years. Two recent bomb attacks on the edge of the capital Abuja have heightened security concerns ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa that will be held there between May 7-9, 2014.

The Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, which is fighting to carve an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria, is still mostly confined to the northeast, although it has struck across the north and in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

The group has never attacked Lagos, a sprawling city of 21 million people, although its leader Abubakar Shekau has threatened to do so.

"As of late April, groups associated with terrorism allegedly planned to mount an unspecified attack against the Sheraton Hotel in Nigeria, near the city of Lagos," the US State Department said late on Friday (May 2).

"There was no further information regarding which of the two Sheraton Hotels in Lagos was the most likely target...There is no further information regarding the timing or method of attack."

COMMENT. Travelers of all nationalities, erring on the side of caution, should consider avoiding both Sheraton hotels. 

Although the US Department of State does NOT have a terrific record in forecasting terrorist events, being "spot on" just once can be a counter-productive way of "rolling the dice."

All citizens must realize, too, that foreign governments have an obligation to warn citizens of threat information they possess.

Lagos is more frequently visited by foreign business people than Abuja, the seat of Nigeria's government, although oil executives often visit the capital.

The Abuja bombs, along with the abduction of 200 girls from a school near the Cameroon border, may overshadow the WEF conference which President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has pledged to protect with 6,000 troops.

The US said on Thursday (May 1) it had offered to help Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer and one of the most vital US strategic allies in Africa, in its search for the 200 schoolgirls who they be forced to marry rebels.

"The kidnapping of hundreds of young girls by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Saturday (May 3).