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Extremists Threaten Americans in Pakistan, Kashmir

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Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

South Asia

The downing of a Pakistani military aircraft by India on Aug. 10 further raised the temperature on the simmering subcontinent. Other developments of interest to travelers:

Pakistan: Growing evidence indicates that “extremists based in Afghanistan are preparing to attack U.S. interests in Pakistan in the near future,” the State Department announced while renewing its long-standing travel warning on Pakistan. Responding to American concerns, Pakistani police earlier this month tightened security for U.S. citizens and diplomats in Islamabad. The measures followed threats by an Islamic party in Pakistan to attack Americans if the United States launched an attack on Afghan-based terrorist sponsor Osama bin Laden.

India: Because of the threat of terrorism, the State Department is warning Americans of the dangers of travel to the state of Jammu and Kashmir through mid-September, especially the cities of Jammu and Srinagar, along with the Kashmir Valley and the surrounding mountains. Last month, a terrorist group announced a “ban” on the travel of all Americans to Kashmir. The group is believed to be connected to the kidnapping of five Westerners in Kashmir in 1995; their fate is not known.

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Middle East

Iran: Kidnappers believed to be drug traffickers seized four European tourists from their hotel and demanded the release of two people from an Iranian prison. The three Spaniards and an Italian were abducted in the city of Kerman, about 500 miles southeast of Tehran, eight days ago. Iran has been trying to crack down on drug smuggling from its neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Two weeks ago, a group of Islamic vigilantes harassed some of the thousands of foreign tourists who were in the city of Isfahan to view the solar eclipse, an official Tehran newspaper reported. Calling the harassers “thugs,” the paper said they chanted “Death to America” and were critical of “the style of dress of the female tourists.”

Worldwide

The State Department this month issued a fresh caution to Americans to be careful when abroad. In what has become familiar wording, the department said it was responding to no specific threat but sought to “emphasize its ongoing concern for the security for Americans overseas.” Travelers should keep a low profile, vary routes and times for travel and be suspicious of mail from unfamiliar sources.

Latin America

Mexico: With summer travel continuing in full swing, the State Department once again reminds travelers of the danger of carrying a gun into Mexico, whether by automobile, boat or aircraft. Mexico has severe penalties for the importation of firearms without written authorization from the Mexican government. Each year dozens of Americans are arrested or fined in Mexico for weapons violations, and about 35 U.S. citizens are currently in Mexican prisons for that reason. It does not matter if the gun’s owner is licensed in the United States or if the weapon is brought into Mexico unintentionally. Nor does it matter if the traveler is with the U.S. military or law enforcement.

Briefly. . .

Russia: Jewish leaders announced plans to tighten security, including the installation of metal detectors at Moscow synagogues, after a bomb was found at a synagogue last month, the second such incident involving a Jewish target within a month. . . . Belgium and France: In Antwerp, Belgium, a McDonald’s restaurant was destroyed by a fire thought to have been set by the British-based Animal Liberation Front, which has targeted fast-food spots as part of its campaign for animal rights. In the southern French town of Millau, farmers ransacked the building site of a new McDonald’s to protest U.S. duties recently imposed on luxury European goods, including Roquefort cheese. . . . Nepal: Maoist groups have threatened to take action against American-affiliated nongovernmental organizations, the State Department warns in an announcement effective until Sept. 21. Americans in Nepal are urged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Katmandu and to report any unusual activity to the embassy or to local police. . . . Mexico: The bad-tempered Colima volcano erupted last month for the third time this year, forcing the evacuation of nearly 300 villagers and sending smoke four miles into the air. The 13,000-foot volcano, located on the border of Jalisco and Colima states near the Pacific coast, is Mexico’s most active.

Hot spots: The State Department has dropped the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where a volcano had been active, from its list of places considered dangerous for Americans. Remaining on the travel-warning list are Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Rwanda, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Yemen.

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The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000. Internet address is https://travel.state.gov.

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