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World - Africa

Where are U.S. citizens easy targets for terrorists?

Military operations in Afghanistan make it a high-risk destination for U.S. travelers  
August 8, 1998
Web posted at: 12:17 p.m. EDT (1617 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One of the reasons why the anti-U.S. bombings in Kenya and Tanzania caused such a shock was because neither of the countries had been considered a high-risk nation for U.S. citizens by Washington.

State Department guidelines, outlined on its Internet Web site, noted, for instance, only that Kenya was in a "political transition" which had sparked "localized areas of civil disorder." U.S. authorities merely urged Americans to take "basic security precautions."

For Tanzania, too, the State Department simply cautioned that "travelers should avoid political rallies and gatherings."

However, some security specialists did not appear to be too surprised by the latest terrorist attacks and maintain that State Department warnings are generally not much help in avoiding such bloodshed.

CNN's Charles Bierbauer reports on security threats to Americans
Windows Media 28K 56K

"It's in the nature of the beast. Rarely do you get good intelligence information that you can pass on to U.S. citizens that would allow them to take evasive action," terrorism expert Larry Johnson told CNN.

Trouble spots identified by the State Department include the following countries:

  • Afghanistan: military operations, land mines and kidnappings.

  • Albania: refugees from Kosovo increase instability.

  • Colombia: violent crime, drug lords and kidnappings.

Police break up packages of drugs in Colombia, where trafficking increases dangers for U.S. visitors  

The U.S. authorities have for instance also made it clear that Washington will not negotiate with kidnappers in cases of hostage takings. And Americans abroad are advised to register with U.S. embassies so that embassy staff can more easily find and identify U.S. nationals.

The U.S. authorities have also responded to a threat by Osama bin Ladin, a wealthy Saudi Arabian who finances terrorist operations and who in March last year declared a "jihad (holy war) against the United States."

The State Department took the threat seriously and issued a travel advisory extending from the Persian Gulf through the Middle East to South Asia.

Bin Ladin's organization is now among the groups under scrutiny for a possible connection to the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Correspondent Charles Bierbauer contributed to this report.

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