Global marine security hotspots Jan 14
Current Advice Level: "High degree of caution"
It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security: Terrorism (on 2 January 2014, a grenade attack at a popular tourist restaurant/bar at Diani Beach, south of Mombasa, injured ten people). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Kenya overall at this time due to the high risk of terrorist attack, civil unrest and high crime levels in the country. We also continue to strongly advise Australians not to travel to border regions with Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan, because of the extremely dangerous security situation.
Current Advice Level: "Do not travel"
It contains new information under Summary and Safety and security: Terrorism (recent attacks in Mogadishu targeting foreigners. Further attacks are likely). We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to any part of Somalia because of armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and dangerous levels of violent crime, including kidnapping.
Current Advice Level: "Reconsider your need to travel"
It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security: Terrorism (increase in deadly extremist attacks in recent weeks. Further attacks are likely. You should monitor local media for developments and exercise a high degree of personal security awareness). We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Tripoli due to ongoing violence and armed clashes. We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Lebanon overall at this time because of the unpredictable security and political situation. The situation could deteriorate without warning.
United States (Security threat level - 2): A winter storm brought heavy snow, strong winds and low temperatures to the northeastern United States on 2-3 January 2014, causing major travel disruptions and prompting the governors of New York and New Jersey to declare a state of emergency. On 2 January authorities urged residents to avoid travel, particularly during the worst part of the storm, which was expected to hit between 2000 local time on 2 January to 1000 local time on 3 January (0100 to 1500 UTC on 3 January). The National Weather Service stated that the heaviest snow would fall on area between central New York and the Massachusetts coast and that falling snow, strong winds and poor visibility should be expected. Approximately 2,300 flights were canceled on 2 January and 1,300 others on 3 January as a result of the storm; the worst affected airports were Chicago O'Hare International Airport (KORD/ORD) and Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR/EWR). More than 100 flights were also canceled at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (KJFK/JFK). Additionally, several major highways -- including the Long Island Expressway, Interstate 84 and Interstate 87, located in New York State -- were closed overnight due to slippery road conditions. They were expected to reopen at 0800 local time (1300 UTC) on 3 January.
Cambodia (Security threat level - 3): On 3 January 2014 police officers opened fire on striking garment factory workers who were protesting for higher wages in a southern suburb of Phnom Penh. According to a police official, the officers fired upon several hundred protesters “to prevent anarchy” after the demonstrators allegedly destroyed public and private property and blocked a road leading south from the capital. At least three people were killed and two others were injured.
Middle East and North Africa
Egypt (Security threat level - 4): Protests occurred on 3 January 2014 in various cities in response to a call by Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Clashes occurred between protesters and security forces in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. Two protesters were killed in the violence; there are no further details. In Cairo, police officers fired tear gas at a group of approximately 300 protesters who were blocking the Corniche road near the High Administrative Court, which is located in the southern suburb of Maadi. The protesters threw rocks at the security personnel; there were no reports of injuries. Clashes also occurred in Nasr City, located in the northeastern part of Cairo. Protesters threw rocks and set tires on fire, and security forces responded with tear gas. Several vehicles were vandalized during the unrest, but there were no reports of injuries. Meanwhile, security forces have closed off Tahrir, Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda squares, which are common protest sites.
Iraq (Security threat level - 5): Armed clashes continued in Ramadi on 3 January 2014, with fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advancing through areas of the city and gaining control of an increasing stretch of territory. Similar clashes have taken place in Fallujah, which is also located in Anbar province. According to personnel in Iraq, security forces were able to re-enter areas of Fallujah, but militants from the ISIL still control approximately a quarter of the city. It is unclear how much of Ramadi is under the control of ISIL. The fighting began on 30 December after Iraqi security forces tore town protest tents set up by Sunni groups that were demonstrating against the government. Estimates of casualties vary widely, but security officials in Anbar stated that 31 civilians and 35 militants have been killed since 30 December. The ISIL is also active in Syria and is reportedly linked to the al Qaeda terror network.
Lebanon (Security threat level - 4): A car bombing occurred on the afternoon of 2 January 2014 in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik. The vehicle that was used in the attack contained approximately 45 lb/20 kg of explosives. Authorities suspect that a suicide bomber set off the explosion but have yet to determine this with certainty. The bombing killed at least four people, injured 77 others and caused material damage to buildings and vehicles in the vicinity. The area where the bombing occurred is a stronghold of the Shiite group Hizballah. The bomb had been placed on al-Arid Street, near the former facilities of the Hizballah-controlled television station al-Manar and a few hundred meters from the headquarters of Hizballah's political bureau.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing thus far. However, the location of the incident raises the strong possibility that this bombing is the latest in a series of incidents of sectarian violence. Sectarian tensions and violence have increased in Lebanon as a spillover of the Syrian conflict. Lebanese Shiites -- most prominently Hizballah -- back the regime of Bashir al-Assad, while Sunnis back the rebels. Two other recent bombings in Beirut -- on 27 December and 19 November -- are also suspected to have been related to the same issue. The threat of sectarian motivated attacks will remain high in Beirut and the rest of Lebanon for the foreseeable future.
Haret Hreik is located less than 2 mi/3 km from Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport (OLBA/BEY); however, there is no indication that the bombing affected travel between the airport and central Beirut. Libya (Security threat level - 5): Local Libyan sources reported on 2 January 2014 that the Libyan army has arrested two U.S. citizens in Benghazi and is holding them at the military headquarters in the eastern city. The identities of the Americans -- as well as the circumstances surrounding the arrests -- remain unknown.
Elsewhere in Libya, two foreign teachers were shot and killed outside the city of Sabratha, located approximately 40 mi/70 km west of Tripoli, on 2 January. The victims' bodies were found near an oil and gas complex near the coastal area of Mellitah in western Libya. The teachers were of British and New Zealand descent. Investigators stated that the attackers did not steal from the victims, indicating that the teachers' nationalities and/or appearance may have been the reason behind the attack. The attack comes less than a month after a U.S. teacher was shot and killed in Benghazi. South Sudan (Security threat level - 5): On 3 January 2014 the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Warning for South Sudan, which reads in part as follows: "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in South Sudan depart immediately. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of most remaining U.S. government personnel from South Sudan on January 3, 2014. The U.S. Embassy is therefore no longer able to provide any consular services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 17, 2013, to reflect the deteriorating security situation.
"The U.S. Embassy has further drawn down its personnel on January 3, 2014, and therefore cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in South Sudan. U.S. citizens who are in need of emergency assistance in South Sudan should contact the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi..."
Following the issuance of the Travel Warning, the U.S. Embassy in Juba issued its own Emergency Message, which reads as follows: “On January 3, 2014, the Department of State ordered a further drawdown of U.S. Embassy personnel from Juba because of the deteriorating security situation in the Republic of South Sudan.
“We continue to urge U.S. citizens in South Sudan to depart the country. On January 3, 2014, there will be an evacuation flight arranged by the Department of State to the nearest safe haven country. U.S. citizens should arrive at the Juba Airport no later than 8:00am on January 3. Those who wish to board an evacuation flight need to have in hand: proof of U.S. citizenship, $50 cash for a Ugandan visa, immunization records (yellow card), and no more than one bag which must be labeled. Private U.S. citizens will need to arrange their own transport to the airport and should consider personal safety of that travel in doing so. Evacuation assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible U.S. citizens. Please be aware that each traveler is limited to one bag, and pets cannot be accommodated. All travelers must have travel documentation. Further updates will be provided as information becomes available.
“The U.S. Embassy will no longer able to provide any consular services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan as of January 4, 2014.
“U.S. citizens who are not able to take advantage of the evacuation flight should review their personal security situation and strongly consider taking advantage of any existing commercial flights. We anticipate that the Juba airport will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. January 3 for limited commercial flights.
“Please note that departure assistance is provided on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable. This means that you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach fare on commercial air at the time that commercial options cease to be a viable option, and you will be required to sign a promissory note for this amount and to pay this fare at a later date. You will be taken to a safe haven country, from which you will need to make your own onward travel arrangements. If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance.
“During a crisis, our priority is assisting U.S. citizens. You should not expect to bring friends or relatives who are not U.S. citizens on U.S. government chartered or non-commercial transportation. Exceptions may be made to accommodate special family circumstances, such as when the spouse of a U.S. citizen is a legal permanent resident, or 'green card' holder; however, it is the non-U.S. citizen's responsibility to be sure he or she has appropriate travel documentation for the destination location. Any services provided to non-U.S. citizens are on a space-available basis after U.S. citizens are accommodated.”
Security Threat Level Definitions
1 - Security issues rarely affect individuals or organizations. These locations have an extremely low rate of violent crime.
2 - Locations may have several low-level security issues, but these generally have minimal physical impact on individuals and organizations.
3 - Incidents of violent crime, terrorism and/or extremist activity occur more frequently, but are still sporadic.
4 - Incidents such as armed robbery, carjacking, civil unrest, terrorism and/or extremist activity can occur frequently, and there is a greater risk that security issues could physically impact individuals and organizations.
5 - Locations can be affected by rampant violent crime, volatile situations of civil unrest, frequent terrorist extremist attacks and/or open military conflict.