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State Dept Issues Travel Warnings to 35 Countries for U.S. Travelers

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The State Department announcement comes after American tourist Sue Endicott and her local driver were kidnapped at gunpoint last week in Uganda. An unknown amount of ransom was reportedly paid after the hostage takers demanded $500,000. Four other people were taken at the same time, but they were freed while Endicott and her driver were taken from the park, officials said. Photo Credit: CBS News

On April 9, 2019, the Department of State introduced a new risk indicator to their public Travel Advisories in order to communicate more clearly to U.S. citizens the risks of kidnapping and hostage taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world. The new “K” indicator is part of their ongoing commitment to provide clear and comprehensive travel safety information to U.S. citizens so they can make informed travel decisions.

The Department issues Travel Advisories for every country around the world, offering standardized levels of advice based on established risk indicators such as crime, terrorism, civil unrest, natural disasters, health, and other potential risks. The Travel Advisories for 35 countries have been updated to include a “K” indicator for the risk of kidnapping and/or hostage taking: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine), Venezuela, and Yemen. See the full Travel Advisories for more details: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html.

The change comes after American tourist Sue Endicott and her local driver were kidnapped at gunpoint last week in Uganda.

An unknown amount of ransom was reportedly paid after the hostage takers demanded $500,000.

Four other people were taken at the same time, but they were freed while Endicott and her driver were taken from the park, officials said.

The State Department said it was aware of the rescue.

“We are aware of reports that a US citizen hostage was recovered on April 7 by Ugandan security officials,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN. “Privacy considerations prevent us from commenting further at this time.”

Ugandan police announced Tuesday that they made arrests in the kidnapping, saying that they were “actively investigating” the incident but declining to clarify how many people were detained.

In a statement that appeared on its web site, the State Department said that it “has no greater responsibility than the safety and welfare of Americans overseas. The Bureau of Consular Affairs works closely with the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and the entire U.S. interagency to serve and protect Americans overseas and to prevent and resolve cases of kidnapping and hostage taking. We will continue to update our public information as part of our ongoing commitment to serve U.S. citizens as they travel abroad.”

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