US warns against travel to Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Sunday, 28 June 2009, 13:49 GMT]
The United States this week Saturday warned “American citizens traveling to or living in Sri Lanka about the potential for continued instability, including possible terrorist attacks.” Despite Sri Lanka’s announcement of victory over the Tamil Tigers, the remnants of the LTTE remained and Sri Lanka’s “security posture remains heightened.” The US especially warned against travel to the North and East, given the “possibility of renewed [LTTE] insurgency” and the continued activity by government-backed paramilitaries in the Northeast. "In some cases, foreigners of Sri Lankan origin may be detained without their embassy being notified," the statement said. "The activities of journalists, researchers, aid workers, and volunteers receive particular attention," the release added.

The text of the US travel warning follows:

The Department of State warns American citizens traveling to or living in Sri Lanka about the potential for continued instability, including possible terrorist attacks. This replaces the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka dated December 22, 2008, to update information on security incidents, safety concerns in specific regions of the country, and potential problems for U.S. citizen travelers.

On May 19, 2009, the Sri Lankan government announced that it had achieved victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed insurgent group, after more than 25 years of civil conflict. Despite the conclusion of hostilities, remnants of the insurgency group remain. The Government of Sri Lanka’s security posture remains heightened.

The Department of State urges American citizens to evaluate carefully the risks of travel to Sri Lanka and specifically warns Americans against travel to the Northern Province and most of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka due to the presence of uncleared land mines and the possibility of renewed insurgency. Armed paramilitaries remain active in the Eastern Province. Consular assistance to American citizens detained in the north and east may be significantly delayed. Travel to all of the Northern Province remains potentially unsafe, in particular travel to the following areas: Anuradhapura District of the North Central Province; the areas north of Medawachchiya; the A14 road; and the road from Medawachchiya and Horowupatna. Non-official travel by U.S. Government personnel to the Eastern Province, other than the A6 road corridor and Trincomalee Town in Trincomalee District and areas in Ampara District south of the A4 road and west of Maha Oya, is prohibited. Travel in some parts of the country remains highly restricted by the Sri Lankan government, with particular sensitivity concerning the large number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps.

American citizens of Sri Lankan origin may be subject to additional scrutiny upon arrival and while in the country. In some cases, foreigners of Sri Lankan origin may be detained without their embassy being notified. The activities of journalists, researchers, aid workers, and volunteers receive particular attention. The Government of Sri Lanka encourages Sri Lankan citizens to report foreigners who are suspected of carrying out activities not consistent with the national interest and/or their visa category.

Although no terrorist incidents have taken place since the government’s declaration of military victory over the LTTE in May 2009, there remains the possibility that remnants of the organization may attempt to carry out attacks. In 2008 and early 2009, bomb explosions in densely populated areas killed dozens of civilians, including some areas frequented by foreign tourists. Although there is no specific indication that American citizens or institutions have been targeted, American citizens risk becoming victims of violence by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. American citizens who decide to travel to Sri Lanka should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow prudent security practices. Americans should avoid large crowds and public gatherings and should particularly avoid political rallies, military bases, government and military vehicle convoys, and high security zones, which have been frequent targets of LTTE attacks. Americans are also advised against traveling by bus within Sri Lanka, as civilian buses have often been the target of past terrorist bomb attacks. American personnel in the U.S. Mission are currently prohibited from traveling by public bus.

Recent incidents include a suicide bomb attack on January 2, 2009, near the Air Force Headquarters in Colombo which killed two and injured 32. On October 9, 2008, a suicide bomb attack on the convoy of a government minister killed one and injured six in the suburbs of Colombo. On October 6, 2008, 28 civilians were killed and 80 injured in a suicide attack on the opening of a political party office in Anuradhapura. Foreign tourists were not specifically targeted in these attacks and none were injured.

Americans should comply with all instructions from security forces and police when traveling in Sri Lanka. American citizens, including those of Sri Lankan origin, whether living in Sri Lanka or traveling there for only a few days, are strongly urged to register with the Embassy online via the Department of State travel registration page or in person. Embassy contact information is as follows:

U.S. Embassy Colombo
210 Galle Road
Colombo 03
Sri Lanka
Telephone: +94 11 249 8500
Emergency after-hours telephone: +94 11 249 8888
Facsimile: +94 11 249 8590
Email (American Citizens Services issues): ColomboACS@state.gov
Email (general Consular inquiries): ConsularColombo@state.gov

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its consular information documents, including the Country Specific Information for Sri Lanka and the Worldwide Caution, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (except U.S. federal holidays).


Chronology:


External Links:
US: Travel Warning: United States Department of State

 

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