Nepal Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Apr 08, 2004
This Travel Warning updates U.S. citizens on the security environment in Nepal, including continued anti-American threats, growing Maoist extortion and attacks on government forces, and disruption of civilian road transportation. This supersedes the Travel Warning dated December 22, 2003.
The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Nepal. The U.S. Embassy continues to receive reports of Maoist demands to cease developmental and social welfare projects by U.S.-affiliated non-governmental organizations from certain areas of the country. Rebel Maoist spokesmen continue to publish anti-American rhetoric and to threaten U.S.-associated humanitarian organizations. In November 2003, one such program in Butwal was terminated early and moved to Kathmandu in response to rebels' threats.
There is a continuing high volume of reports of Maoist threats, intimidation, harassment, robbery and extortion against foreigners on popular trekking routes, roads and in tourist areas. The U.S. Embassy has received two reports of American trekkers being detained by Maoists, in one case for several days. Businesses identified with the U.S. have been physically attacked. Some private vehicles transporting foreigners (including two Americans) were stopped by Maoists and burned after passengers were forced to disembark. Interrupted telephone services to many trekking areas caused by rebel destruction of communications infrastructure make it difficult and sometimes impossible to locate travelers or to arrange medical evacuations should emergencies occur.
Maoist insurgents recently have mounted concerted military assaults on Government security forces and civilian facilities in the headquarters of Bhojpur and Myagdi Districts, in the hills of eastern and mid-western Nepal. More such attacks are possible without warning in any part of the country. One attack was on the town of Beni, astride a main trail into the Annapurna trekking area from the southwest. A dramatic increase in Maoist extortion incidents occurred last fall along the southern and western portions of the Annapurna Trekking Circuit, including injuries by Maoists to some foreigners. The Embassy advises against trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp or in the southern and western portions of the Annapurna Circuit until Maoist extortion and attacks are discontinued.
Maoists in the field may not strictly follow the programs announced by the Maoist leadership. For example, Maoist leaders recently announced road closures (blockades) of certain western and southern districts of Nepal. The Embassy received, however, widespread reports of Maoist cadres forcefully blocking major roads throughout the country, including roads to Tibet, India, Chitwan, Pokhara, and Jiri.
Rebel tactics also include attacks on Nepalese Government facilities and public and private vehicles, including buses; indiscriminate bombings; assassination attempts against Nepalese officials; and imposition of strikes ("bandhs"). The random nature of Maoist attacks and security force operations create a risk of U.S. citizens being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a violent incident.
In March 2004, three bombs were detonated in Thamel, the main tourist hub in Kathmandu. During last fall's tourist season, Maoists burned down part of a resort near the Chitwan Wildlife Preserve after the foreign tourists staying there were given short notice to vacate. No casualties were reported in those incidents. On March 21, 2004, a group of Maoist rebels bombed and destroyed the control tower of the airport used to carry tourists to the Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal's Chitwan district.
On October 31, 2003, the Department of State designated the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a terrorist organization under Executive Order 13224. This designation blocks Maoist assets in the U.S. or held by U.S. citizens wherever located, and bars most transactions with the Maoists, including but not limited to the making or receiving of any contribution of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of the Maoists.
U.S. citizens who travel to Nepal despite this Travel Warning should factor the potential for violence into their plans and maintain a low profile while in Nepal. U.S. citizens should avoid public demonstrations, particularly during national strikes or "bandhs," when many businesses are closed and the lack of public transport or taxis can make travel to and from Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara and other airports difficult. Given increased incidents of Maoist violence on all roads used by tourists outside the Kathmandu Valley, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid road travel outside the Kathmandu Valley at this time.
While U.S. official personnel continue to conduct travel outside the Kathmandu Valley, such travel is subject to review and approval on a case-by-case basis. U.S. citizens are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for the latest security information before undertaking travel to outlying areas, and to travel by air whenever possible. U.S. citizens also are urged to register with and obtain updated information on travel and security from the Consular Section of the Embassy by accessing the Embassy's home page at http://www.south-asia.com/USA, by e-mail to [email protected], or by personal appearance at the Embassy. The U.S. Embassy is located at Pani Pokhari in Kathmandu, telephone (977) (1) 441-1179; fax (977) (1) 444-4981.
Further information on travel to Nepal may be obtained from the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, 1-317-472-2328 from overseas, or via the Internet on the Department of State's home page at http://travel.state.gov.