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TRAVEL ADVISORY

Protesters Threaten Trouble in Prague Streets During World Bank Meeting

September 03, 2000|EDWARD WRIGHT | Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Europe

Czech Republic: Because of the threat of violent demonstrations at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting in Prague this month, Americans may want to consider avoiding "non-urgent travel" to the city, the State Department says in an announcement effective until Oct. 1. Street violence afflicted World Trade Organization talks in Seattle last December, and anti-capitalist protest groups have vowed to disrupt the Sept. 26 to 28 economic forum in Prague, which is expected to draw about 15,000 participants from more than 180 countries. The possibility of trouble has caused many Prague residents to plan to move their families out of town during that week, and many businesses will operate on reduced staffing.

Spain: Police have stepped up security across Spain in response to an intensified terror campaign in which more than a dozen deaths by bombings and shootings have been attributed to Basque separatists since December. The security includes beach resorts, which are crowded with tourists during Spain's high season. Many of the attacks have occurred in the Basque country in northern Spain. On Aug. 7, a car bomb exploded in the Basque city of Bilbao, killing four suspected terrorists. A day later, another car bomb struck an upscale residential and shopping district in Madrid, injuring 11 people. The State Department has issued no recent caution on travel to Spain. Its standing consular information sheet notes that the Basque terrorist movement "remains active" but that Americans have not been targeted.

Russia

The death count rose to 12 after a bomb explosion in a crowded pedestrian underpass in the heart of Moscow. Two Americans were among the scores injured when the bomb went off during the evening rush hour Aug. 8 at Pushkin Square. Police suspected Chechen terrorists and heightened security throughout the capital. Although Chechen rebels have denied responsibility, authorities blamed them for bombings in Moscow and southern Russia last fall that killed almost 300 people.

Australia

Authorities in Sydney, already concerned about possible disruption of the Summer Olympics by Aboriginal activists and environmentalists such as Greenpeace, are expecting an estimated 10,000 more protesters will use the Games to publicize their economic agenda. Members of the so-called S-11 Alliance, which consists of more than 70 student, union and environmental groups, are expected to try to disrupt the World Economic Forum, which begins Sept. 11 in Melbourne, then travel by buses to Sydney for the Sept. 15 opening of the Games. Because some of the protesters are believed to have been involved in violent demonstrations at the WTO meeting in Seattle, Sydney police have been conferring with their Seattle counterparts.

Asia

South Korea: Several anti-American incidents in recent months have led the State Department and U.S. military commanders in South Korea to advise Americans to keep a low profile. In June, a U.S. Army doctor was stabbed to death in broad daylight while walking with two friends in a busy shopping district in Seoul. Nine days earlier, a military wife who was shopping was beaten by a Korean who screamed anti-American slogans. Thousands of South Koreans took to the streets in protest in July after the U.S. military acknowledged dumping formaldehyde into Seoul's Han River, a major source of drinking water for the capital. Americans visiting South Korea may check with the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul for security information.

Briefly . . .

Israel and the Territories: There is "an increased possibility for terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza," the State Department says in a notice effective until mid-December. American travelers should be mindful of their security, avoid public buses and be careful when near bus stops or crowded areas. . . . Latvia: Two explosions occurred in a popular shopping mall in downtown Riga on Aug. 17, and there may be a risk of similar incidents throughout this month, according to unconfirmed reports received by the U.S. Embassy. Americans visiting Latvia are advised to be careful in the capital and surrounding areas. . . . France: Two people posing as police officers tried to extort money from two Chinese tourists as part of a sham identity check in Paris, Reuters news service reported. The tourists, who were Chinese police officers, gave French police a good description of the racketeers. The phony police turned out to be Romanians--and wound up in custody of the real police. . . . India: A German tourist kidnapped by Muslim militants in the troubled Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in July is believed to have been killed, according to a state government official. The tourist had been traveling alone through India since mid-June. Many nations, including Germany and the United States, warn their citizens that travel to Jammu and Kashmir can be dangerous.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings at (202) 647-5225. Internet address is http://travel.state.gov.

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