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Yemen Threat Forebodes Rise in Mideast Tensions


Middle East

On Jan. 13, the U.S. State Department warned of a possible increase in tensions throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia due to the allied bombing of Iraq.

The first evidence of such increased tensions surfaced in Yemen, where the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa released the following notice Jan. 20: "Recently the Embassy became aware that individuals or groups are distributing leaflets in Sanaa . . . urging readers to kill Westerners, wherever they are. While we are confident that the majority of the Yemeni people will not heed this call, it should not be ignored . . . Specifically, we recommend that everyone review his or her security posture, avoid crowds and limit public exposure . . . ."


Afghanistan: Avoid travel here. Factional fighting continues in the capital city of Kabul, and the country is gradually being carved into three autonomous territories by rival warlords. There is no diplomatic mission in the country representing U.S. interests.

India: Tensions remain high in India after the razing of a mosque by Hindu extremists in the northern city of Ayodhya in December. Violence raged in Bombay and Ahmedabad in January, and travelers to Indian cities should keep a close watch on local press reports for potential trouble spots.

Malaysia: Drinking liquor or beer in public places, including in bars, discos and nightclubs, will be banned starting July 1 in Kelantan state. The Islamic-led state government allows non-Muslims to buy alcoholic beverages from official outlets, but starting in July, all consumption will have to be done at home.

Philippines: Kidnaping for ransom remains a serious problem in the Philippines, although the victims usually are not foreigners. An American resident businessman was kidnaped in Manila's Makati financial district Jan. 25, but escaped the next day after being beaten and Keep a low profile and avoid overt signs of wealth such as expensive watches.


Egypt: Despite government assurances to the contrary, militant Muslim attacks on tourists continue in southern Egypt. A bus carrying Japanese tourists was fired on in Assiyut Jan. 5, but no one was injured. Travelers should exercise special caution in the regions of Assiyut and Minya.

Morocco: The crime rate in urban areas is relatively high. Tourists have been targeted for assault, mugging, theft, pickpocketing and harassment by locals trying to act as guides. Hire guides only through hotels and travel agencies.

Senegal: The popular Casamance region continues to be the site of unrest. Rebels fighting for independence have stepped up their attacks in recent months, with hundreds killed and thousands fleeing across the border into Gambia. Avoid travel to the Casamance.

Togo: Avoid travel here. During protests against President Gnassingbe Eyadema in the capital city of Lome on Jan. 25, police fired on pro-democracy demonstrators, killing 20, and attacks on civilians by the army have caused thousands of citizens to leave Lome.

Zaire: Avoid all travel here. At least 45 people, including the French ambassador, have been killed in two days of military riots; some 300 Belgians were evacuated last Sunday, and French soldiers are in place to evacuate French citizens if necessary.

South America

Peru: An American Airlines aircraft was hit by gunfire while taxiing on the runway after landing at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima Jan. 22. Other terrorist incidents occuron a regular basis. Avoid all travel to Peru.

Habegger and O'Reilly are San Francisco-based free-lance writers.

World Travel Watch is a monthly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Because conditions can change overnight, always make your own inquiries before you leave home. For more information on safety concerns in countries you may be visiting, contact the Citizens Emergency Center, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520, (202) 647-5225.

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