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Mali Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Jul 30, 2010

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risk of travel to Mali, and continues to recommend against all travel to the north of the country due to the kidnapping threats against Westerners. This replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated November 19, 2009 to update security and threat information.

As noted in the Department of State's Worldwide Caution dated February 12, 2010, the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union, has declared its intention to attack Western targets. As of early July 2010, the Department has been aware of several separate sources of information suggesting AQIM’s ongoing interest in kidnapping Westerners in the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso border area and as far south as Bamako. The U.S. Embassy in Bamako has issued several warden messages regarding these threats, as have the U.S. Embassies in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Niamey, Niger.

On July 24, AQIM executed a French hostage in retaliation for the killing of six AQIM members during a Mauritania launched hostage rescue operation with French assistance in northern Mali. As a result of Western involvement in the raid, it is possible that AQIM will attempt additional retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity. AQIM has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Canadian citizen UN officials in Niger in December 2008, the kidnapping of four European tourists in January 2009 on the Mali-Niger border, the murder of a British hostage in Mali in June 2009, the murder of a U.S. citizen in Mauritania in June 2009, and, most recently, the suicide-bombing of the French Embassy in Mauritania on August 8, 2009.

In addition to threats posed by AQIM and potential hostage takers, confrontations between the Malian military and Tuareg rebel groups occurred in Nampala along Mali’s border with Mauritania in December 2008 and in the region of Kidal in January 2009. The threat posed by AQIM, continued Tuareg unrest, sporadic banditry, and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania all reinforce longstanding security concerns affecting travel to northern Mali.

The Department of State notes that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has designated northern regions of Mali as “restricted without prior authorization” for purposes of travel by U.S. Government employees, contractors, grantees, and their dependents. Prior to traveling to these areas, U.S. Government employees in Mali are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali. This designation is based on the presence of AQIM as well as Tuareg rebel and banditry activity. This restriction does not apply to travelers who are not associated with the U.S. Government, but should be taken into account when planning travel. The restriction is in effect for the region of Kidal; the region of Gao including the road to Ansongo and the border with Niger; and the region of Timbuktu.

U.S. citizens are specifically reminded that these areas include Essakane -- the site of the popular Festival au Desert music festival -- as well as the sites in the regions of Kidal and Gao where many other musical and cultural festivals are traditionally held between December and February. It should be noted that in addition to the potential terrorist and criminal threats, these festivals are located in particularly remote locations, and the Embassy would have extreme difficulty rendering assistance should an emergency occur at one of them.

All U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Mali are urged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Bamako through the State Department's travel registration web site. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali. The telephone number, including for after-hour emergencies, is (223) 2070-2300. The consular fax number is (223) 2070-2340. The Embassy webpage is http://mali.usembassy.gov.

Updated information on travel and security in Mali may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Worldwide Caution, which is available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site.

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