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Travel Advisory

Robbers Target Non-Cambodians

June 23, 1996|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly


Cambodia: Armed robberies of foreigners in Phnom Penh are increasing, the Reuters news service reports, and police have set up nighttime roadblocks in the seven high-crime districts of the capital. In a typical crime described by a British aid worker, motorcycle-riding robbers in poorly lighted residential areas target "people from industrialized nations" as they head home on foot or motorbike at night. The U.S. Embassy reports nine such incidents in one recent week, and describes police as unreliable and venal. In one embassy account, an American expatriate was struck by a policeman when she refused to offer him a bribe after her car was involved in an accident. Thefts from foreign-owned vehicles have also become commonplace in the city.

Latin America

Mexico: A picture of widespread police corruption--and even attacks by police on tourists--emerges from an investigative report by the Los Angeles Times' Mexico City Bureau. Officials in the capital acknowledge corruption and brutality in the ranks, and more than 900 of the city's police have been dismissed in the past 18 months. But Times foreign correspondent Mark Fineman quotes U.S. law enforcement officials as saying privately that they do not trust their Mexican counterparts. In one of several such accounts, two tourists from New York state described being abducted by uniformed police outside Mexico City's international airport, tortured and robbed of thousands of dollars, then dumped on the street two hours later, bleeding and with second-degree burns. U.S. and Mexican officials insist that such cases are exceptions.


Spain: A series of three terrorist bombs in the southern city of Cordoba killed an army sergeant and wounded nine people in the first attacks blamed on Basque separatists since Spain's new conservative government took office last month. The bombs followed a warning by Spanish officials that Basque terrorists could be planning a large-scale attack, possibly in Madrid, the capital. The last incident of terrorism in Madrid was in March, when a car bomb exploded outside a police station. The incoming Spanish government has promised to take a tougher stance against Basque separatists. The State Department terms civil disorder rare in Spain, and describes the Basque terrorists as a small group, adding that Americans have not been targeted.

Briefly . . .

Kenya: Armed bandits attacked and robbed a convoy of German tourists in western Tsavo National Park, 155 miles south of Nairobi. The bandits halted the seven minibuses, and stole money and a wristwatch before they were driven off by the Kenya Wildlife Service guards who were traveling with the convoy.

Nicaragua: An American election observer and her driver were kidnapped in a jungle region of northeastern Nicaragua, then released the next day, the Associated Press reported. They were held by former members of the Contra guerrillas, who have resurfaced in armed gangs in parts of the country.

India: Police issued a nationwide alert after two deadly bombings attributed to Kashmiri militants last month. One bomb left at least 16 people dead and 38 wounded at a busy shopping area in New Delhi. The second killed 14 and wounded 33 aboard a bus traveling from India's premier tourist site, the Taj Mahal. No foreigners were known to be among the dead.

Guatemala: A 64-year-old woman became at least the third American to be kidnapped in Guatemala in the last three months. Janice Thomas, who lives in the Villa Canales suburb of Guatemala City, was abducted by armed men while driving her car in May. Her family reportedly received a ransom demand. There has been no further word.

Hot spots: The State Department has added the Central African Republic to its list of places where Americans are warned not to travel, and has deleted Tajikistan. Others on the list are Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Colombia, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.

* The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000.

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