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Sri Lanka Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Dec 23, 2008

The Department of State warns American citizens traveling to or living in Sri Lanka about the continuing danger of terrorist attacks throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka dated June 13, 2008 and highlights changes in locations of security concerns, and notes recent terrorist attacks.

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.  All of the Northern Province remains dangerous. In Anuradhapura District of the North Central Province, the areas north of Medawachchiya, the A14 road, and the road from Medawachchiya and Horowupatna are dangerous.  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.

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.

Recent incidents include an October 28, 2008 LTTE aircraft attack that damaged the main power plant in Colombo, and a suicide bombing on October 6, 2008 that killed 28 civilians and injured 80 at the opening of a political party office in Anuradhapura.

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 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 May 26, nine civilians were killed and 84 injured in a train bombing in Dehiwala. 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. 

Americans are also advised to avoid government buildings, military installations, and government vehicle convoys.  On January 8, 2008, a government minister was killed and several persons were injured when his vehicle was attacked on the road between Colombo’s 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 in much of the Eastern Province 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.   

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.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The Embassy's telephone number during normal business hours Monday through Friday is (94) (11) 249 8500. The after-hours emergency telephone number is (94) (11) 249 8888. The Consular Section fax number is (94) (11)-249 8590. The Embassy's web site is http://srilanka.usembassy.gov/. The Consular Section has a specific email address dedicated to American Citizens Services at The general email address for the consular section is The Embassy in Colombo also covers the Republic of Maldives.

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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