Today, the U.S. Department of State upgraded its travel warning for Mali to a Level 4, the highest level, warning travelers “Do Not Travel”. The French and Malian militaries have been locked in an escalating struggle with terrorist groups in the country. Just last week, the French military alleged they neutralized 33 terrorists in Mali and in late November, ISIS claimed to have killed 30 Malian soldiers there.
The report states the following…
“Violent crime, such as kidnapping and armed robbery, is common in Mali. Violent crime is a particular concern during local holidays and seasonal events in Bamako, its suburbs, and Mali’s southern regions. Roadblocks and random police checkpoints are commonplace throughout the country, especially at night. Terrorist and armed groups continue plotting kidnappings and attacks in Mali. They may attack with little or no warning, targeting night clubs, hotels, restaurants, places of worship, Western diplomatic missions, and other locations frequented by foreigners.”
No diplomatic assistance
It’s no secret that while State Department warnings should be paid attention to, they are susceptible to politicization, but in this case there is one line in the warning that you should absolutely consider — The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the northern and central regions of Mali as U.S. government employee travel to these regions is restricted due to security concerns. This means that if you happen to be in these areas, the U.S. government is unable to extract you or come to your aid if something goes wrong. The good news is that you likely wouldn’t ever find yourself in these areas (unless you’re traveling to Timbuktu) as the capital of Bamako is at the Southwestern end of the country.
What else to know
Regardless of the risk of partisanship with travel warnings, it should be noted that Level 4 – Do Not Travel warnings are not handed out on a whim. Only those countries, often failed states, that are deemed the most dangerous to Americans receive a Level 4. Some other examples include North Korea, Yemen, and Libya.
If you find yourself in Mali, be sure to read the State Department’s full warning which will list specific actions you should take to help protect yourself and your assets.