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Travel Advisory

Fears Rise After Bus Bombings in Moscow

July 28, 1996|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times

Russia

Two explosions in 24 hours ripped through trolley buses in Moscow in mid-July, injuring at least 23 people and raising fears that Chechen rebels had brought their fight to the Russian heartland. There were no claims of responsibility for the bombings, which came one month after the bombing of a Moscow subway train that killed four people. But Russia's national security chief labeled the first trolley attack an act of terrorism, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered increased security in and around the capital. U.S. citizens in Russia "are advised to carry their passport and visa with them always and to remain patient when delayed by security checks," according to the State Department. "While there have been no specific threats made against Americans, travelers should exercise caution because of the possibility of street demonstrations or acts of terrorism."

Africa

South Africa: The world's worst tuberculosis problem is in South Africa, according to the World Health Organization, with 10 people infected every hour. The TB infection rate there is 311 per 100,000 people, compared with the world average of about 250.

On the subject of crime, police arrested more than 1,000 people in and around Johannesburg over a 10-day period after announcing an all-out war on criminals. About half those arrested were illegal immigrants, and some of the charges were car theft, robbery, gambling, fraud, and drug and firearm possession.

In a particularly visible case in September, meanwhile, five men were convicted of an attack on three British tourists and a New Zealander, in which two of the three women were gang raped. The attack occurred in a remote part of the former Transkei homeland.

Latin America

Mexico: An army patrol was ambushed by members of a new rebel group on a remote road in the southern state of Guerrero on July 16, Mexican media reported. A teenager was reported killed and two men were injured when a civilian truck was caught in the cross-fire. It was believed to be the first attack on the army by the so-called Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which first surfaced last month (june) when dozens of armed men claiming membership in the group made showed up at a political rally in a Guerrero village.

In late June, at least four people were wounded in a gunfight between police and EPR guerrillas near the Guerrero state capital, Chilpancingo, according to reports.

Briefly . . .

Spain: A rash of bombings this month, many of them at or near tourism sites, signaled a resumption of the Basque group ETA's violent campaign for independence. One of the bombs injured 35 people at Tarragona airport, the main gateway to the Mediterranean resorts south of Barcelona. Another went off at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, a prime tourist attraction.

Egypt: A 56-year-old American woman working for the Defense Intelligence Agency was stabbed to death at the front entrance of the deluxe Semiramis Inter-Continental Hotel in Cairo in what the Pentagon called a "vicious, random attack." Police arrested an Egyptian who reportedly had a history of psychiatric problems.

Israel: Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews threw rocks and bottles at motorists driving down a Jerusalem street on a recent Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and were dispersed by police. The State Department reports that visitors who were driving cars or "immodestly dressed" on Saturdays have been assaulted in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Hot spots: State Department travel warnings are in effect for Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, 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.

Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly.

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