Worldwide Caution alert issued in advance of 9/11 anniversary

Worldwide cautionAmericans traveling abroad are reminded to be aware of the threat of terrorist actions and violence the U.S. State Department said this week as it urged worldwide caution and a global concern for an increased threat of terrorism as the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 draws closer.

“The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. The Department of State believes there is an enhanced potential for anti-American violence given the death of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011” the department said in a statement.

The department said U.S. citizens should be aware of potential terrorist attacks on public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.

“Extremists have targeted and attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation, and maritime services. In the past several years, these types of attacks have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid, Glasgow, and New York City.”

Because of the protests that have swept across northern Africa and the Middle East since spring, the State Department warned U.S. citizens in those regions to be alert for the potential for violence and avoid areas of demonstrations if possible.
“U.S. citizens are warned that demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violent clashes,” the statement said. “U.S. citizens are reminded that demonstrations and riots can occur with little or no warning.”

The department also warned Americans to take “extreme caution” when traveling by sea near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea “as there has been a notable increase in armed attacks, robberies and kidnappings for ransom by pirates.”

Flickr photo by two gypsy hearts

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Explore 9-11 app an accurate, interactive story

Explore 9 11 appComing up in September, New York’s 9/11 Memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan will be open to the public. An iPhone app created by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum looks to be a great preview. Featuring a seven-stop walking tour of the area around the World Trade Center, images related to the events of 9/11 along with an interactive time-line of the day’s events and aftermath, the Explore 9/11 app tells an accurate, interactive story.

A seven-stop walking tour of the area around the World Trade Center, accompanied by audio and photo narration tells events of the day and its aftermath by first responders, rescue workers, volunteers, and those who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan on 9/11. While the walking tour takes place in Lower Manhattan, the tour content is accessible to users anywhere.

Images related to the events of 9/11 and their aftermath relate to wherever users happen to be in the area. Photos may be viewed in Augmented Reality-technology mode which overlays images on the camera view. All photos were contributed to the museum through 911history.org, a collection of stories, videos, and photos submitted by people who experienced 9/11 charged to remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women, and children murdered by terrorists in the attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.
The Explore 9 11 app also features an interactive timeline of the day’s events and aftermath including links to witness photos taken during these time blocks.

The app can operate in an offline mode for non-U.S. visitors who have disabled data roaming. In this mode, all tour content is still accessible. The app includes a map of free WiFi hotspots near the tour route for downloading “Explore” photos from the vicinity.

For more information on the 9/11 Memorial visit 911memorial.org.


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Terrorist attacks forces closure of Russian ski resort

Terrorst attacks in Russia have left three dead and ski resorts closed.A wave of terrorists attacks in Russia last weekend has left three dead and a burgeoning tourist region closed off to travelers. Those attacks prompted Russian officials to impose a a counter-terrorism regime in two areas of the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria near Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

The first attack occurred last weekend when a bus carrying travelers to a ski resort was stopped on the road by five men claiming to be police officers. When the travelers asked to see their identification, the men opened fire on them, killing three and injuring two others.

Other attacks included blowing up a tower supporting a ski gondola, which plummeted to the ground with four passengers aboard. Fortunately they survived with only minor injuries. The leader of a local village wasn’t so lucky, as he was shot dead on the street. Hours later, the hotel at a nearby ski resort was evacuated when a car packed with explosives was discovered parked outside.

The attacks are believed to be the acts of Muslim separatists hoping to to build an Islamic state in the North Caucasus. Rebel activity in the region has been on the rise in recent weeks, and there have been a number of clashes with local police and military. Five suspected rebels were killed over the weekend in a response to the latest wave of terrorism.

Because of the recent terrorist activity, the Russian government has enacted the counter-terrorism regime in an attempt to crack down on the rebels. That means that local resorts are closed for the time being, and travelers are being discouraged from visiting the region.

This move comes as a major blow to Russian tourism efforts. The Mt. Elbrus region is being marketed as a major ski area and with the 2014 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place there, the last thing the need is instability and security issues. Unfortunately, that is exactly what they have for now.

If you were planning a spring break escape to the Northern Caucasus mountains, you may want to rethink those plans for now.

[Photo credit: Reuters]




Breaking news: Suspected bomb found on German airline

bombA flight from Namibia to Germany was delayed earlier today after a suspected bomb was found in a suitcase. The package included a detonator, batteries, and a clock, the BBC reports. Details are unclear at this moment and it is not known if the device was an actual bomb or simply meant to intimidate.

The suspected bomb was found before it was loaded onto an Air Berlin flight from Windhoek to Munich. The flight was delayed for several hours as all passengers and luggage were checked. It has now safely completed its journey.

Germany has recently upped its security because of intelligence that an attack was imminent.

An interesting detail in this case was that the suitcase had no destination sticker, suggesting that it did not go through normal check-in procedures.

[Photo courtesy user Arcturus via Wikimedia Commons]

Somaliland: the other Somalia

There are some places you just can’t consider for a vacation. While even Iraq has recently opened up to carefully handled tours, Somalia remains out of bounds. What with an Islamist movement proudly proclaiming its ties to Al-Qaeda, and a decades-long civil war between rival clans, there’s no chance of exploring the Somali culture and landscape, right?

Actually, that’s only half true.

The Republic of Somaliland is the northern third of what most maps show as Somalia. Anyone paying attention to the news knows that Somalia hasn’t been a unified nation for quite some time, but this one region, a little larger than England and home to 3.5 million, has managed to bring stability and a developing democracy to its people. Born out of the colony of British Somaliland, it gained independence in 1960 and immediately joined former Italian Somaliland to create what we now know as Somalia. A brutal dictatorship and a civil war later, it declared independence in 1991 and has quietly built a nation as the rest of Somalia disintegrated into chaos.

But no other country recognizes Somaliland as an independent state, which makes it very hard to get international investment and attention. Now Somaliland officials are hoping an increase in tourism will help to literally put their country on the map. It already has regular contact with its neighbors Ethiopia and Djibouti, and has representatives in several major capitals. The Tourism Ministry is busy making plans and there’s a good website highlighting Somali Heritage and Archaeology.

%Gallery-84671%With a countryside only thinly populated by nomads, Somaliland has good potential for safaris. Lions, cheetahs, zebras, antelope, and other animals are easily spotted. Even more stunning are the well-preserved paintings at Laas Geel, believed to be some of the oldest in Africa. They’re located near the capital Hargeysa and remained unreported until 2002. Colorful paintings of hunters and animals date back an estimated 9,000 years.

Other towns to check out are Barbera and Zeila, two ports with excellent coral reefs as well as old colonial buildings from British and Ottoman times. More important than bricks and mortar, though, is the chance to interact with a culture that has had comparatively little contact with the outside world. This is a rare chance to see a country unaccustomed to tourism, where there are no “tourist sites” and “local hangouts”. For the adventure traveler, it’s still pretty much uncharted territory.

After almost 20 years of independence, Somaliland is beginning to get some recognition from adventure travelers. The most recent edition of Lonely Planet Ethiopia has a short section on the country, and three young backpackers recently posted a video of their trip there on YouTube. A reporter from the Pulitzer Center has also covered the country on an online video. Somaliland could become the adventure travel destination of the new decade.

While Somaliland has some good potential, travelers should take care. Government bodyguards are required (costing $10 a day each) and there are few facilities for visitors. The country has also attracted the ire of Al-Shabab, an Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda that wants to take over the Horn of Africa. In 2008 a series of deadly car bombings blamed on Al-Shabab left two dozen dead in Hargeysa. Also, the countryside is not yet safe enough for foreigners to travel overland from Ethiopia on public transport. There are regular flights to Hargeysa from Addis Ababa and other regional capitals. The office for Somaliland in Addis Ababa (which is not recognized as an embassy by the government of Ethiopia) can issue visas and give advice. If you do decide to go, it’s best to plan well in advance and talk to the government as soon as possible.