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Sri Lanka Travel Warnings

Issued by U.S. Department of State

Jun 13, 2008

This Travel Warning provides updated security information and alerts American citizens traveling to or living in Sri Lanka about the continuing danger of terrorist attacks throughout the country.  This supersedes the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka dated February 8, 2008.

The Department of State urges American citizens to evaluate carefully the risks of travel to Sri Lanka and specifically warns Americans against travel to northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka.  Since early January 2008, fighting between the Sri Lankan military, paramilitary groups and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has increased, and bomb explosions in densely populated areas have killed dozens of civilians, including in some areas frequented by foreign tourists.  Although there is no specific indication that American citizens or institutions have been targeted, there is a heightened risk of American citizens becoming victims of violence just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.   American citizens who decide to travel to Sri Lanka despite this Travel Warning 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, and government and military vehicle convoys, which are frequent targets of LTTE attacks.  Americans are also strongly advised against using public transportation in Sri Lanka, as civilian buses and trains have increasingly been the targets of terrorist bomb attacks in recent months. U.S. Government personnel are currently prohibited from using these modes of transportation.

On June 6, 2008, 22 civilians were killed and 70 injured by an anti-personnel mine aimed at a passenger bus in Colombo.  The same day, two more people were killed by another anti-personnel mine detonated in a passenger bus in Kandy.  On May 31, 2008, a grenade attack on a bus stop in Wellawatta killed two people and wounded 10.  On February 3, 2008, 14 civilians were killed and approximately 100 were injured when a suicide attacker detonated an explosive device inside the main railway station in Colombo.  The same day, seven were injured when a grenade was detonated at the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo.  On February 2, 2008, a bomb on a bus from Kandy, headed for Anuradhapura, exploded in Dambulla and killed 18 civilians and injured over 50.  On January 8, 2008, a government minister was killed and several persons were injured when his vehicle was attacked on the road between Colombos international airport and central Colombo.  In 2007, the LTTE also attacked an Army camp in Yala National Sanctuary, and the Katunayake Air Force Base in Colombo was attacked by LTTE aircraft, causing brief suspension of operations at the adjacent Bandaranaike International Airport.  Foreign tourists were not specifically targeted in these attacks and none were injured.

While the government has effectively controlled the eastern part of the country since July 2007, security is not yet assured.  Some LTTE members and larger numbers of armed paramilitary members are active in the area, leading to instability and incidents of violence.  This situation is likely to continue for some time.  Americans are particularly warned against travel to LTTE-controlled areas in the north, which may pose severe hazards.  

Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to areas north of a line following the highway from Puttalam through Anuradhapura to Polonaruwa, Bibile, and Pottuvil in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka is restricted, and unofficial travel is prohibited. 

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 even for only a few days, are strongly urged to register with the Embassy.  Registration will allow the embassy to provide direct information on the security situation as necessary.  Registration is done on-line and can be done in advance of travel at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/. Information on registering can also be found at the Embassy website: http://srilanka.usembassy.gov or at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_1186.html.

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 Worldwide Caution, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.  In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, outside the U.S. and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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