The U.S. State Department has warned its citizens of the risks of traveling to Mauritania, and urged extreme caution for those who choose to travel to the African country, because of activities by the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
AQIM continues to demonstrate its intent and ability to conduct attacks against foreign nationals, including U.S. Citizens, the State Department said in a Travel Warning update issued on Thursday.
The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott recommended against all non-essential travel to the border regions of Guidimagha, the Hodh El Charghi and Hodh El Gharbi regions of southeastern Mauritania, the eastern half of the Assaba region (east of Kiffa), the eastern half of the Tagant region (east of Tidjika), the eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Chinguetti), and the Zemmour region of northern Mauritania because of the security risk and the threat of kidnapping to Westerners by AQIM.
AQIM has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.
It is possible that AQIM will attempt retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity,as a result of perceived Western involvement in counterterrorism efforts, the Travel Warning says.
While there have been no known direct attempts against U.S. citizens since 2009, AQIM continues to threaten Westerners.
U.S. citizens have been advised to be alert when frequenting locales associated with Westerners, including hotels, cultural centers, social and recreation clubs, beach areas, and restaurants. They should avoid highly publicized events/venues with no visible security presence.
U.S. citizens driving in Mauritania are reminded to heed warnings to stop at security checkpoints, and should be particularly vigilant when traveling by road outside of populated areas, even when traveling along main routes and highways. U.S. citizens should not venture outside urban areas unless in a convoy and accompanied by an experienced guide, and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. Driving after dark outside of urban areas is strongly discouraged. Landmines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara. Travelers should cross borders only at designated border posts.
The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott strongly encouraged U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Mauritania despite this Travel Warning to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the most up-to-date security information.
by RTT Staff Writer
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