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Travel Advisory

Americans Target of Kidnappings in Colombia

August 25, 1996|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Latin America

Colombia: Already red-flagged by the U.S. State Department as a risky place for Americans to travel, Colombia became the subject of a more urgent State Department warning this month. Addressing Americans who may travel in or around the city of Cali, the department said guerrillas have targeted foreigners and their businesses for possible kidnappings. All U.S. citizens in the area are advised to exercise caution. The warning, which originated with the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, was based on information about the rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The guerrillas may also mount "hostile operations" against Colombian government offices in Cali, according to the warning.


More stringent--and intrusive--anti-terrorism security measures are becoming a fact of life in many of the world's cities and airports, according to reports by The Los Angeles Times and Newsday. In Moscow, where bombs attributed to Chechen separatists have killed and injured mass-transit riders, the 150 subway and nine central train stations now look like armed camps. In Britain, police can stop and search cars, and stop and frisk pedestrians in areas where IRA terrorist activity is suspected--even the British Museum. In the face of Algerian terrorism, France has deployed paramilitary troops at railroad stations and sealed garbage cans near the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Security-conscious Israelis, perhaps most of all, are used to sometimes returning to find their car trunks popped open and a note from police saying the car was searched.

Briefly . . .

Mexico: The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City reports that a U.S. citizen and a Mexican friend, walking in the capital at 3 a.m., were taken into custody by police, who shook down the American for all the money he was carrying. The police then took him to a cash machine, where he was forced to withdraw more money.

Comoros: The Indian Ocean island republic's new leader has banned the import of alcoholic drinks, except by diplomats or for sale in hotels to foreigners. President Mohamed Taki Abdul Karim, who was elected in March, has also assailed short skirts on women.

Corsica: A Corsican nationalist was killed last month and 11 people were injured by a powerful car bomb in the city of Bastia on the Mediterranean resort island. A week earlier, three bombs damaged two bars and a fishing boat in various locations. Violence is often attributed both to separatist guerrillas and gangsters.

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.

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