The U.S. State Department has raised the travel advisory level for Turkey and urged its citizens to “reconsider travel to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions.”
In its latest travel update, dated April 9, the U.S. has also warned travelers to avoid areas near Syria and Iraq borders due to terrorism and the risk of kidnapping.
While in general, Turkey is marked in the advisory as Level 3, which stands for “reconsider travel,” areas near the Syria and Iraq borders are regarded as Level 4, which indicates “do not travel” due to civil war in Syria and threat of kidnapping and attacks by terrorist groups.
“Terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, ambushes, car bomb detonations, and improvised explosive devices, as well as shootings, roadblocks, and violent demonstrations, have occurred in these areas,” the advisory said.
It states that terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey.
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.
Terrorists have also previously targeted Western tourists and expatriates,” it warned.
The U.S. authorities closely monitor the events in Turkey, a NATO ally hit by
sporadic violent attacks from the extremist Islamic State (ISIS) organization and the
outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) over the past several years.
The US administration had already banned its civilian and military officials from traveling to southeastern Turkey where the Turkish security forces embroiled in vicious fighting with the PKK elements, and near the Syrian border.
The U.S. government informed in the advisory that it has very limited ability to provide emergency services to its citizens in some of the eastern provinces that include Batman, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Siirt, Sirnak, Tunceli, and Van.
“Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated,” the statement read.
“The U.S. citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey,” the advisory warned, and added: “Participation in demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Turkish government, as well as criticism of the government, including on social media, can result in arrest.”
Staying alert in locations frequented by Westerners, avoiding demonstrations and crowds, staying at hotels with identifiable security measures and monitor local media to adjust plans based on new information are some of the bits of advice given to those who plan to travel to Turkey.
The new designation came days after the release of a California woman who had been held for a week after being kidnapped by gunmen in a national park in Uganda.
Turkey is among the 35 countries for which “K” indicator for the potential to be kidnapped is issued.
In recent years, Turkey has captured dozens of its own citizens abroad and held several U.S. citizens on criminal charges, a practice some observers have called “hostage diplomacy.”