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Friday, September 11, 2009

AQIM's Ramadan Kidnapping Plans

This is an excerpt from a new US government travel advisory. Several advisories like this were issued suggestingAQIM has an explicit plan to kidnap Americans for ransom. Nothwithstanding the statement below, I believe the American Citizen shot and killed on June 23rd was killed because he was a Christian, not because they were attempting to kidnap him.

-Shimron Issachar

On August 8, 2009, a suicide bombing near the French Embassy in Nouakchott injured two French guards and one Mauritanian citizen. The bomber is believed to have acted on orders from AQIM. On June 23, 2009, a private U.S. citizen was shot and killed in Nouakchott in an apparent kidnapping attempt by individuals associated with AQIM. Terrorists also killed 11 Mauritanian soldiers out on patrol approximately 40 miles from the northern town of Zouerate in September 2008. The Israeli Embassy and an adjoining nightclub frequented by Westerners were attacked in Nouakchott in February 2008. In December 2007, terrorists shot and killed four French tourists and wounded a fifth near the town of Aleg in southeastern Mauritania. Two days later, terrorists killed four soldiers near the town of El Ghallaouiya in northern Mauritania. The perpetrators of these attacks are all believed to be linked to AQIM.

As a result of these safety and security concerns, Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its volunteer program in Mauritania. The State Department, Peace Corps, and Embassy Nouakchott are continually evaluating the security situation in preparation for a return of the Peace Corps’ volunteer program at the first possible opportunity.

Travelers should avoid all non-essential travel to the Hodh El Charghi region of southeastern Mauritania, the eastern half of the Tagant region of central Mauritania (east of Tidjika) and the Zemmour region of northern Mauritania due to increased AQIM activities in these areas. Travel in the unpopulated areas of eastern Mauritania (areas east of Zouerate and Chinguetti and north of Nema) is strongly discouraged unless traveling with Mauritanian government escorts, due to the threats of terrorism and banditry.

U.S. citizens should not venture outside of urban areas unless in a convoy and accompanied by an experienced guide, and even then only if equipped with sturdy vehicles and ample provisions. There have been reports of banditry and smuggling in the more remote parts of Mauritania. Landmines also remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara. Travelers should cross borders only at designated border posts.

Given AQIM's threats to attack western targets in Mauritania and the region, and due to indications of a desire to kidnap Westerners for ransom, U.S. citizens should remain aware of their surroundings at all times and maintain good personal security practices, including always locking their homes and cars, varying routes and time of travel, and avoiding drawing attention to themselves. When going out, they should avoid being part of large, highly visible groups of Westerners, and avoid sitting in areas that are easily visible from the street when in restaurants or cafes. U.S. citizens should be particularly alert when frequenting locales associated with Westerners, including cultural centers, social and recreation clubs, beach areas, and restaurants.

The Rest @ Overseas Security Advisory Council

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