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US Citizens Warned Against Travel To Mali

The U.S. State Department has warned its citizens against all travel to Mali because of current political instability, an active rebellion in the north, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners in the north of the country.

As a result of safety and security concerns, the Peace Corps has evacuated all Peace Corps Volunteers from Mali. On April 3, the State Department authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel.

Malian mutineers have refused to return to their barracks, and rival rebel factions are battling each other for control in areas they have seized in the north. The situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable.

In a Travel Warning update issued on Monday, the State Department strongly urged U.S. citizens in Mali to consider their own personal security and contingency plans, including the option of temporarily departing Mali.

On April 2, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed diplomatic, trade, financial, and border closure sanctions on Mali. On April 6, ECOWAS and coup leaders from the National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy (CNRD) signed an agreement announcing their intention to return Mali to constitutional order. This prompted ECOWAS to lift all sanctions imposed on Mali. Also, Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure submitted a letter of resignation to ECOWAS, thereby paving the way for the Constitutional Court to appoint the National Assembly President as interim president, as per the ECOWAS-CNRD agreement. These steps toward the reestablishment of order in Mali are positive, but the details of a lasting solution remain to be demonstrated, says the Travel Warning.

Senou International Airport in Bamako is currently open for business; however, the availability of flights in the future is unpredictable and depends on the overall security situation. U.S. citizens currently living in Mali are advised to temporarily depart the country in light of the current security situation. Persons wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport's operational status and flight and seat availability before traveling to the airport.

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.

This designation is based on an active Tuareg rebellion, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Maghreb (AQIM), as well as banditry in the region. These restrictions are in effect for the regions of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, where separatist rebels now appear to have control. 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.

On April 3, The Department of State authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. Authorized Departure allows for non-emergency direct hire American staff and the dependents of all direct hire American staff to voluntarily return to the United States. U.S. citizens currently in Mali despite this Travel Warning are urged to enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to make it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens have been advised to consult the Country Specific Information for Mali and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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