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HOT SPOTS FOR TRAVELLERS

Hot Spots Report

ASIA

Pakistan (Security threat level - 5): Protests occurred on 23 July 2014 in several Pakistani cities over repeated and prolonged power outages. The most significant rallies occurred in Lahore. In the Batapur area of the city, protesters blocked Grand Trunk Road, set tires on fire and threw rocks at passing vehicles. Violence was also reported in Lahore’s Baghbanpura area, and a tense situation developed in Model Town, but it was defused before violence erupted. In addition to Lahore, protests occurred in Multan and Muzaffarabad. Protesters blocked roads, but there were no reports of significant violence. Power outages are a long-standing issue in Pakistan due to a combination of insufficient generating capacity and an inefficient distribution system. Outages typically increase in the summer due to higher demand. Government officials admit that the situation cannot be resolved in the short-term; as a result, further protests over this issue are highly likely in the coming days and weeks.

EUROPE

Norway (Security threat level - 2): On 24 July 2014, the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) warned of a “concrete threat” posed by Islamic militants with combat experience from the civil war in Syria. PST authorities stated that an attack could take place in the country in the coming days, but there is no information available regarding the target of such an attack or how it might be carried out. In a statement issued in regard to the threat (see Government Warnings below), the U.S. Embassy in Oslo noted that “public gatherings, government facilities, businesses, and especially American Embassies tend to be the targets of choice for terrorists and extremist groups. “ This threat extends from Norwegian nationals who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside Islamic militant groups. According to the PST, approximately 50 individuals have traveled to Syria, and half of them have returned to Norway. At this time, however, security authorities have not determined whether any individuals involved in this threat currently reside in Norway. As a general precaution, Norwegian authorities have increased the security presence at border crossings, airports and train stations.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Algeria / Burkina Faso (Security threat levels - 4 / 3): Air Algerie flight AH5017 from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to Algiers, Algeria, disappeared from radar on 24 July 2014, and airline officials have confirmed that the aircraft crashed. The aircraft took off from Ouagadougou Airport (DFFD/OUA) at 0155 local time/UTC and was due to land at Houari Boumediene Airport (DAAG/ALG) at 0510 UTC; it disappeared 50 minutes after takeoff. According to Algerian sources, the aircraft was flying over northern Mali, not far from the Algerian border, when contact was lost. U.N. troops in Mali subsequently stated that the aircraft crashed in northern Mali, but this has not been confirmed. The aircraft was carrying 100 passengers and six crew members. The flight was operated by the Spain-based company Swiftair on behalf of Air Algerie. A statement issued by Swiftair identified the aircraft as an MD83.
Israel (Security threat level - 4): The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) removed the flight ban on Ben Gurion Airport (LLBG/TLV) on 23 July 2014. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which had issued a "strong recommendation" to avoid flying to Tel Aviv, also withdrew its statement. On 22 July the FAA banned U.S. carriers from operating at the airport due to concerns over the threat posed by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The agency stated that it made the decision to lift the ban after considering "both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation." United Airlines will be the first to resume service to Ben Gurion Airport with a flight scheduled to leave  from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey at 1645 EDT (2045 UTC). U.S. Airways, one of three U.S. carriers that operate flights to Israel, had stated on 23 July that it would resume flights between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv. It is not known when, or if, Delta Air Lines will resume flights. The intentions of the various European airlines that have halted flights to Tel Aviv are also unknown at this point.
 

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Central African Republic (Security threat level - 5): On 23 July 2014, the Central African Republic’s (CAR) Muslim and Christian militias signed a ceasefire agreement on the third day of talks in the neighboring Republic of Congo. The development comes one day after representatives of the Muslim Seleka group failed to attend talks on 22 July. Seleka initially demanded that the CAR be partitioned along religious lines, but it dropped this requirement at the urging of mediators. Additional talks are expected in the CAR to work out the details of disarmament and political transition. It remains unclear how the ceasefire will ultimately affect conditions on the ground in the CAR, where the security environment has deteriorated significantly since the Seleka group first began marching on Bangui in December 2012. Reports indicate that fighting between the two sides has continued in the central town of Bambari despite the agreement.
Ghana (Security threat level - 3): Hundreds of Ghanaians are expected to participate in a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Accra on 25 July 2014. The protest was organized after the official embassy Twitter account tweeted a disrespectful comment regarding Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama. The embassy has issued an apology for the tweet, stating that it was sent in error; however, protest organizers are demanding that the unidentified official who issued the tweet be relieved of duty. U.S. nationals and other Western travelers should avoid the area around the embassy during the protest as a precaution.
Nigeria (Security threat level - 5): On 23 July 2014, two bombings took place in the city of Kaduna, the capital of central Kaduna state. The first blast occurred at approximately 1230 local time (1130 UTC) near the intersection of Isa Kaita Road and Alkali Road, next to the popular Murtala Square in the city’s commercial center. Eyewitness reports indicate that a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device, targeting the convoy of a prominent Islamic cleric. The intended target, who had just arrived at the square to deliver a sermon to thousands of supporters, was unhurt in the attack. The cleric is a vocal critic of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram and has been targeted for assassination in the past. Following the attack, his supporters threw stones at security forces deployed to the scene, accusing them of failing to protect civilians. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd. At least 32 people were killed and 14 others were injured in the blast.

Approximately two hours after the first bombing, a second large-scale explosion occurred at a crowded market and motor park in the Kawo area of Kaduna. Local sources indicated that the explosion targeted a senior opposition leader, and that shortly after the blast gunmen opened fire on the leader’s convoy; however, the second target was also uninjured in the attack. A local Red Cross worker stated that approximately 50 people were killed and many others were injured in the second explosion. Following the blasts, the Kaduna state governor imposed a 24-hour curfew in the city to enable security forces to restore order; however, the curfew has since been lifted. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks thus far, Boko Haram is the likely perpetrator given the scope and targets of the attacks.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Italy (Security threat level - 2): On 23 July 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Rome issued a Message regarding upcoming labor strikes. Information on the strikes includes the following: "24-hour Personnel strike at Roma Termini and Tiburtina train stations, Friday July 25 from 21:00 to Saturday July 26 at 21:00.

"There is also an alert for a local [buses and Metro] transportation strike for Monday August 4, from 08:30 to 12:30.

"For last-minute changes by the authorities U.S. citizens are advised to check the media for schedules and updates."

Norway (Security threat level - 2): On 24 July 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Oslo issued an Emergency Message, which reads in part as follows: "This morning, 24 July 2014, the Norwegian government announced that foreign fighters from Syria may be planning an attack in Norway over the coming days. The Norwegian police are not aware of where, when, or in what method this attack could take place. However, public gatherings, government facilities, businesses, and especially American Embassies tend to be the targets of choice for terrorists and extremist groups.

"The Embassy recommends the U.S. citizen community in Norway remain extra alert during this period. Please err on the side of caution over the coming days. Especially now, if you see anything threatening, dangerous, or concerning, please call the Police at 112.

"Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security and follow instructions of local authorities."


SIGNIFICANT DATES

24 July

France: Tour de France
Islam: Laylat al-Qadr
Islam: Ramadan
Venezuela: Simon Bolivar's Birthday

25 July

Costa Rica: Annexation of Guanacaste to Costa Rica (Only for Guanacaste Province. Some schools and businesses close.)
Cuba: National Revolution Day
Ecuador: Anniversary of the founding of Guayaquil (Local holiday)
France: Tour de France
Islam: Ramadan
Middle East: International Quds Day (protests often staged in support of the Palestinian cause, particularly in Middle Eastern countries)
Puerto Rico: Constitution Day (Government offices and banks closed)
Tunisia: Republic Day

26 July

France: Tour de France
Islam: Ramadan
Liberia: Independence Day
Maldives: Independence Day (two day celebration)

27 July

France: Tour de France
France: Final stage of Tour de France in Paris
Iran: Birthday Imam Mahdi
Islam: Ramadan
Maldives: Independence Day (two day celebration)
North Korea: Victory Day (Public holiday)
Puerto Rico: Jose Celso Barbosa's Birthday (Government offices and banks closed)

28 July

Islam: Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)

30 July

Morocco: Throne Day/National Day

1 August

Angola: Armed Forces Day
Barbados: Emancipation Day
Benin: Independence Day
Democratic Republic Of The Congo: Parents' Day
Jamaica: Emancipation Day (Public holiday)
Lesser Antilles / St. Lucia: Emancipation Day
Lesser Antilles / St. Vincent & the Grenadines: Emancipation Day
Nicaragua: Festival of Santo Domingo
Switzerland: National Day (Celebrated in major cities. All government offices and most businesses close. Some locations have celebrations the preceding night.)
Trinidad & Tobago: Emancipation Day

2 August

Costa Rica: Virgin of Los Angeles, Feast of Patroness of Costa Rica
France: Air France strike
Guyana: Freedom Day (Emancipation Day)
Macedonia: Republic Day
Russia: Paratroopers Day (Not a public holiday, but disruptions and sporadic clashes may occur as former paratroopers gather on streets and in parks.)

3 August

El Salvador: Fiesta de San Salvador
Equatorial Guinea: Armed Forces Day
Guinea-Bissau: Anniversary of the Killing of Pidjiguoiti
Niger: Independence Day

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