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Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement

Issued by U.S. State Department

Nov 08, 2007

This Public Announcement is being updated as the Department of State continues to alert Americans to ongoing security concerns in the Middle East and North Africa, including Iraq.  U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.  This message supersedes the Public Announcement issued on May 14, 2007.

Credible information indicates terrorist groups seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa.  Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings, and assassinations.  While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat in many areas, use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents, must be considered a possible threat.  Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.  Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas, and public areas where people congregate, including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas.  Three suicide bomb attacks in July and September of 2007 in Algeria killed more than 80 people.   In July 2007, suspected al-Qaida operatives carried out a vehicle-borne explosive device attack on tourists at the Bilquis Temple in Yemen, which resulted in the deaths of eight Spanish tourists and their two Yemeni drivers.  There was a series of bombings in Morocco in March and April 2007, two of which occurred simultaneously outside the U.S. Consulate General and the private American Language Center in Casablanca.  Additionally, an attack took place on the American International School in Gaza in April 2007.  These events underscore the intent of terrorist entities to target facilities perceived to cater to Westerners.  Potential targets are not limited to those companies or establishments with overt U.S. ties.  For instance, terrorists may target movie theaters, liquor stores, bars, casinos, or any similar type of establishment, regardless of whether they are owned and operated by host country nationals.  Due to varying degrees of security at all such locations, Americans should be particularly vigilant when visiting these establishments.

The violence in Iraq, clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, clashes between terrorist extremists and the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the ongoing political instability in Lebanon have the potential to produce demonstrations and unrest throughout the region.  In addition, the Department of State continues to warn of the possibility for violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests in the region.  Anti-American violence could include possible terrorist actions against aviation, ground transportation, and maritime interests, specifically in the Middle East, including the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa.

The Department is concerned that extremists may be planning to carry out attacks against Westerners and oil workers on the Arabian Peninsula.  Armed attacks targeting foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia that resulted in many deaths and injuries, including U.S. citizens, appear to have been preceded by extensive surveillance.  Tourist destinations in Egypt that are frequented by Westerners were attacked in April 2006 resulting in many deaths and injuries, including Americans.  Extremists may be surveilling Westerners, particularly at hotels, housing areas, and rental car facilities.  Potential targets may include U.S. contractors, particularly those related to military interests.  Financial or economic venues of value also could be considered as possible targets; the failed attack on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia in late February 2006 and the September 2006 attack on oil facilities in Yemen are examples. 

    Americans considering seaborne travel near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been several incidents of armed attacks and robberies at sea by pirates in the last year. Military action by U.S. and allied navies in several subsequent incidents resulted in the capture or death of pirates threatening international commerce.  No U.S. citizens have been hurt in these attacks.  When transiting around the Horn of Africa or in the Red Sea near Yemen, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, and maintain good communications contact at all times.

On occasion, the travel of official personnel at embassies and consulates is restricted because of security concerns, and these posts may recommend that private U.S. citizens avoid the same areas if at all possible.  Services to U.S. citizens in countries abroad may be affected if employees' movements are restricted.  If this happens, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  In case office hours are reduced, U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance should telephone the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before visiting in person.

In addition, U.S. citizens planning to travel to the Middle East or North Africa should consult the Department of State's country-specific Public Announcements, Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement and other information, available on the Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.  Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. and Canada and, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

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