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Shootings in Laos prompt travel alert

Recent shootings on a road between two major tourist destinations in Laos have prompted the State Department to issue a travel alert.

Road 13 connects Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Vang Vieng, whose tourist attractions — tubing, kayaking and rock climbing, among them — are the draw.

On March 1, five people were wounded by gunfire on Road 13, similar to an attack Jan. 14 on a tourist bus, the State Department alert said. U.S. Embassy personnel may not travel on certain stretches of the road.

The State Department did not mention a motive in its March 7 alert, but Radio Free Asia noted that construction on a dam had perturbed many in local communities. Among the injured in the March 1 attack were Chinese workers, who are doing some of the work on the dam.

Info: www.lat.ms/1QyKSDP

Worldwide caution

On March 3, the State Department updated a July 29 Worldwide Caution that gives an overview of terrorist threats by region.

In Africa, it notes that "Al Shabab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas are frequent in Somalia" and that the terror group "retains its demonstrated capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory in Somalia and in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Djibouti."

On Monday, the Pentagon reported that a drone air strike against an Al Shabab training camp about 120 miles north of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, killed 150 people. Al Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, was planning an attack, the Pentagon said.

The Associated Press also reported last week that the Australian navy had intercepted a cache of weapons headed for Somalia.

The State Department caution notes that Europe continues to be "potentially vulnerable" to terrorism.

Info: www.lat.ms/1OXWqMD

Turkey

On Feb. 29, the State Department issued a warning on travel to southeastern Turkey and said U.S. citizens should be careful throughout the country. This was an update of a Feb. 4 warning.

Recent attacks have "targeted popular tourist sites, U.S. government buildings, police and other local authorities throughout Turkey," the State Department said.

Travel in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border could be dangerous, it noted, and it also urged Americans to avoid crowds, especially at tourist areas.

Info: www.lat.ms/1Fq7Qut

Russia

Russian divers spent more than an hour on a 335-foot dive in the White Sea, the Russian Geographical Society reported, making it the deepest recorded below-ice dive on record. Water temperatures were nearly 30 below zero, but divers reported seeing life at that depth.

Austria

Be careful about belching in Austria. A Vienna bartender was fined after an after-dinner burp erupted that police said was too loud. The diner had just finished a dinner of a doner kebab.

The restaurant where the incident occurred decided to treat the bartender to a two-day all-expenses-paid trip to Turkey, known for its doner kebabs, a Turkish dish usually cooked vertically on skewers.

The company also paid the man's $77 fine, Associated Press reported.

Kyrgyzstan

You might also want to mind your manners in Kyrgyzstan, where a joke about sausage led to a Scottish man's deportation, UPI.com reported.

On New Year's Eve, the man reportedly posted to Facebook an unsavory comment about the horse-meat sausage known as chuchuk.

Authorities at first said this was a crime under the country's hate laws.

Despite his posted apology, he was arrested and could have spent five years in jail. The legal system eventually decided he had not stirred up any ethnic violence, but apparently the documentation that allowed him to work in Kyrgyzstan was faulty and he was deported.

Sources: The U.S. State Department, Radio Free Asia, Reuters, Associated Press, UPI.com

travel@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 13, 2016, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "FOREIGN BRIEFING - An alert for Laos" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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