U.S. State Dept. Updates Mali Travel Warning, March 21, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 21, 2014. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Mali, given continuing aspirations of terrorists to conduct attacks.  We strongly warn against travel to the northern parts of the country and along the border with Mauritania, particularly in areas that are not patrolled and where there is little to no security presence.  There remains ongoing conflict in northern Mali and continuing threats of attacks on and kidnappings of westerners and others.  While the security situation in Bamako and southern Mali remains relatively stable, the potential for attacks throughout the country, including in Bamako, remains.  There are also ongoing security concerns and military operations taking place in the northern and western parts of the country.  Mali continues to face challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of extremist and militant factions.  This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated July 18, 2013.  

Mali held peaceful presidential and legislative elections in the summer and fall of 2013, with high voter turnout and minimal reports of conflict, launching a substantial improvement in what had been a tenuously fluid political situation during the transition.  Despite these positive events, substantial concerns remain regarding the security situation throughout Mali. 

Extremist and militant elements, including al Qaeda in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO), and other groups continue to be present in northern Mali, although they have been mostly dislodged from major population centers, including Gao and Timbuktu.  In January 2014, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the militant leader responsible for the attack on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, declared his continued intention to attack France and her allies for the ongoing military intervention in northern Mali.  The security situation in the north remains fluid as evidenced by multiple rocket attacks near Gao and the February 17, 2014 launching of three rockets near Timbuktu airport.  Terrorist groups have stepped up their rhetoric calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on westerners and others, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.  Affiliates of AQIM claimed responsibility for the November 2, 2013 abductions and murder of two French journalists in Kidal, and violent incidents involving suicide bombings, explosives, and land mines in various locations in the north continue to occur.  On December 14, 2013 a suicide car bomb killed two Senegalese U.N. peacekeepers and destroyed the only operating bank in Kidal.  A MUJAO leader recently claimed credit for the February 8, 2014 abduction of four International Red Cross Committee members and another NGO aid worker who were driving between Gao and Kidal.  On February 26, 2014, two aid workers were seriously injured when they struck a mine as they drove from Kidal to the airport.  Additionally, periodic public demonstrations continue to occur throughout Mali; these have largely been peaceful, if sometimes of a confrontational nature in northern locations and at university locations in the south.  

Most organizations that temporarily suspended operations in Mali, or withdrew some family members and/or staff following the spring 2012 coup and counter coup, have now recommenced operations and allowed family members and staff to return, but continue to exercise caution and impose varying levels of security restrictions.  The U.S. Embassy, which allowed dependents to return on July 18, 2013, continues to operate normally.  The Embassy will continue to monitor the security situation closely, and will update U.S. citizens via Security or Emergency Messages for U.S. Citizens posted on the Embassy’s website.

The U.S. Embassy has instructed Embassy employees and their family members to be cautious when traveling within Bamako and to authorized locations outside of Bamako, generally in the southern parts of the country.  It encourages U.S. citizens to exercise caution, remain vigilant, maintain situational awareness at all times, and take appropriate security precautions to ensure personal safety.  U.S. citizens throughout Mali should develop personal contingency plans and travel on main roads.  Malian security forces are regularly updating security safeguards, including checkpoints and other controls on movement in Bamako and around the country.  A United Nations peacekeeping mission has also been deployed in Mali and is programmed to have more than 12,000 personnel in Mali when fully operational.

The Government of Mali may periodically impose or lift curfews or impose other restrictions, such as a ban on public demonstrations, as security needs dictate, although it has not done so since the 2013 presidential elections.  U.S. citizens should stay attuned to local news announcing such potential measures, and comply when they are in effect.  For internal safety and security reasons, the U.S. Embassy may also, without advance notice, periodically impose a temporary curfew or other restrictions on U.S. Embassy employees should the need arise.  Such advice and restrictions will be shared with the private U.S. citizen community and posted on the Embassy’s website.  U.S. citizens should carefully consider adopting similar safety measures.

U.S. citizens should also note that the Embassy has restricted travel by U.S. government employees and their dependents in Mali.  Travel is generally permitted in Bamako; the northern Koulikoro Region along National Roads 1, 4, and 14 (RN1, RN4, and RN14) from Kolokani to Banamba through Mourdiah; all southern parts of the Koulikoro Region; all of the Sikasso region; parts of the Segou Region, from the cities of Souba, Segou, and San along National Road 6 (RN6); and areas in that region to the south.  Prior notification to the Embassy’s Security Officer is required only for overnight travel within these zones, though general road safety and security precautions for travel are still advised.  The travel policy reflects the Embassy’s assessment of the current security situation in this region of Mali.  Travel to all other areas for personal or official purposes remains restricted or prohibited, and is approved solely on a case-by-case basis after a careful security review.  The Embassy reviews its travel restrictions on a regular basis.  If you plan to travel to Mali, particularly to destinations outside of Bamako, you should consult the U.S. Embassy’s website or your host organization(s) for the most recent security assessment of the areas where you plan to travel.

Senou International Airport in Bamako is open for business and scheduled flights are proceeding normally.  Some international flights have occasionally been canceled due to low travel volume, but travelers have typically been notified in advance.  Travelers wishing to depart the country should check with commercial airlines for the airport’s operational status, and flight and seat availability, before going to the airport.

The U.S. Embassy reminds all U.S. citizens of the potential risk of terrorist activity throughout Mali.  U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution, to be particularly alert to their surroundings, and to avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.  U.S. citizens are further encouraged to exercise prudence if choosing to visit locations frequented by westerners in and around Bamako. 

The U.S. Embassy may close temporarily from time to time, except for emergency business, to review its security posture in response to warnings or events.  U.S. citizens currently in Mali despite this Travel Warning should enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  By enrolling, you’ll receive security updates, and the Embassy can contact you more easily in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information for Mali and the Worldwide Caution, both located on the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. 

The U.S. Embassy in Bamako is located in ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297.  The Embassy’s mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali.  The telephone number, including for after-hour emergencies, is 223 2070-2300.  The consular fax number is 223 2070-2340.



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