U.S. State Department Issues Mali Travel Warning
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali due to ongoing fighting in northern and central Mali, fluid political conditions, the loss of government control of Mali’s Northern provinces, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of westerners. While the security situation in Bamako remains relatively stable, the recent escalation of hostilities around Mopti in northern Mali has heightened tensions throughout the country. Mali continues to face challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of factions linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated January 10, 2013.
The Malian government has banned all public demonstrations and, on January 11, Interim President Dioncounda Traore declared a State of Emergency in Mali, which went into effect on January 12. The state of emergency, which will last for 10 days with a possibility for extension, enables the government to take extraordinary measures to deal with the crisis in the north. As a result of safety and security concerns, some organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organizations, have temporarily suspended operations in Mali or withdrawn some family members and/or staff. The U.S. Embassy will continue to monitor this situation closely and update U.S. citizens via Emergency Messages which it will post on the U.S. Embassy Bamako website.
Embassy Bamako instructed embassy employees and their dependents to be cautious when traveling within Bamako, and encourages U.S. citizens to exercise caution, remain vigilant, maintain situational awareness at all times, and take appropriate security precautions to ensure personal safety. The Embassy strongly advises against any travel in the Segou region due to increased troop movement and the potential for checkpoints and military activity. U.S. citizens throughout Mali should develop personal contingency plans, avoid all unnecessary travel, and travel on main roads. Malian security forces are likely to increase their security safeguards, including checkpoints and other controls on movement in Bamako and around the country.
Northern Mali remains under the control of Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and other groups. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) was allied with Ansar al-Dine and shared control over Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal. During June and July of 2012, Ansar al-Dine and MUJAO, aided by AQIM, turned on the MNLA, ejecting it from major cities and seizing control over the north. Islamists destroyed ancient tombs in Timbuktu and implemented sharia law in the cities they hold. On November 20, 2012, a French citizen was kidnapped by MUJAO from Diema, Koulikoro region, and terrorist groups have stepped up their rhetoric calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on Westerners, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.
On January 10, the northern town of Konna was taken by Islamic extremist elements, but after French military intervention and heavy fighting, extremists have been driven out of the city. Supplies and troops are being continually transported via convoys on main roads throughout the country as the fighting continues. While things currently remain calm in Bamako, events in the north have heightened tensions throughout the country.
U.S. citizens should also note that the Embassy has forbidden all travel by U.S. government employees and their dependents to regions north of the city of Mopti. This designation is based on insecurity in areas adjacent to this area, including the presence of AQIM and the threat of kidnapping, as well as banditry in the region. U.S. citizens planning to travel to Mali, particularly to destinations outside of Bamako, should consult the Embassy 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 currently open for business and scheduled flights are proceeding normally. Some international flights have occasionally been canceled due to low travel volume, but travelers have been notified in advance. 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.
In this period of heightened tension, the U.S. Embassy reminds all U.S. citizens of the risk of terrorist activity in Mali, including in Bamako. 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. “