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Published:June 3rd, 2007 06:55 EST
Travel Warning for NEPAL

Travel Warning for NEPAL

By SOP newswire

This Travel Warning provides updated information on the security situation in Nepal and notes the U.S. designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a terrorist organization.  The Department of State remains concerned about the security situation in Nepal and continues to urge American citizens contemplating a visit to Nepal to obtain updated security information before they travel and to be prepared to change their plans at short notice.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 8, 2006.

Despite the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement by the Government and Maoist insurgents and their entry into an interim government, Maoists continue to engage in violence, extortion, and abductions.  Maoists freely roam the countryside and cities, sometimes openly bearing their weapons.  The Young Communist League, a subgroup of the Maoists, continues to extort and abuse people, including threatening Kathmandu-based personnel of a U.S. Non Governmental Organization.  Maoist leader Puspa Dahal (aka “Prachanda”) publicly alleged in March 2007 that royalists were planning to assassinate U.S. government personnel, but Dahal never offered any evidence for his claim.  Furthermore, in a May 1, 2007 speech, Dahal threatened to launch a new campaign of demonstrations and disruptions.

Violent clashes between Maoists and indigenous groups have taken place in recent months in the Terai region, along the southern border with India, in one case resulting in 27 deaths.  Ethnic tensions in the Terai region have spawned violent clashes with police, strikes, demonstrations and closures of the border with India.  The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends against non-essential travel to this region.  Clashes between Maoists and groups who oppose them also recently have extended into Kathmandu.  

In November 2006 numerous resident American citizens reported to the U.S. Embassy first-hand accounts of Maoist cadres demanding food and lodging, often accompanied by threats of physical violence.  In some instances, Nepalese staff of Americans who resisted such demands were beaten.  Since the cease-fire in May 2006, hotels and businesses frequented by American citizens have been targets of extortion demands, forced closures, and have become the focus of demonstrations.  While widespread protests have abated, the potential for demonstrations and disruptions remains high.  During demonstrations, protestors have used violence, including burning vehicles, throwing rocks and burning tires to block traffic.  Given the nature, intensity and unpredictability of disturbances, American citizens are urged to exercise special caution during times when demonstrations are announced, avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming, avoid road travel, and maintain a low profile.  Curfews can be announced with little or no advance notice, and American citizens are urged to consult media sources and the Embassy's website (http://nepal.usembassy.gov) for current security information.

Crime in the Kathmandu Valley, including violent crime and harassment of women, has increased since April 2006.  Travel via road in areas outside of the Kathmandu valley is still dangerous and should be avoided.  Police have reported a number of robberies by armed gangs; in some cases victims were attacked and injured.  The U.S. Embassy reports an increase in crime in some popular tourist areas.  Visitors to Nepal should practice good personal security when moving about, especially at night, and avoid walking alone after dark and carrying large sums of cash or wearing expensive jewelry.  In several reported incidents tourists have had their belongings stolen from their rooms while they were asleep.  In late 2005, two European women were murdered in Nargarjun Forest, a popular tourist destination in the Kathmandu Valley.  The murders occurred within weeks of each other and both involved women hiking alone.  In March 2006, Maoists detained several Polish trekkers after the trekkers refused to pay extortion.  Solo trekkers have been robbed by small groups of young men, even on some popular trails.  Crime, including violent crime, has further increased in 2007, and police are unwilling or unable to arrest criminals who claim Maoist affiliation.    

U.S. official personnel generally do not travel by road outside the Kathmandu Valley.  All official travel outside the Kathmandu valley, including by air, requires specific clearance by the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Officer.  As a result, emergency assistance to U.S. citizens may be limited.  Active duty U.S. military and Department of Defense contractors must obtain a country clearance for official and unofficial travel to Nepal.

Although the Government of Nepal no longer considers the Maoists to be terrorists, the U.S. government’s designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” organization under Executive Order 13224 and its inclusion on the "Terrorist Exclusion List" pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act remain in effect.  These two designations make Maoists excludable from entry into the United States and bar U.S. citizens from transactions such as contribution of funds, goods, or services to, or for the benefit of, the Maoists.   

U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nepal are urged to register with the Consular Section of the Embassy by accessing the Department of State’s travel registration site at https://travelregistration.state.gov or by personal appearance at the Consular Section, located at the Yak and Yeti Hotel complex just east of Durbarmarg Street.  The Consular Section can provide updated information on travel and security, and can be phoned directly at (977) (1) 444-5577 or through the Embassy switchboard.  The U.S. Embassy is located at Pani Pokhari in Kathmandu, telephone (977) (1) 441-1179; fax (977) (1) 444-4981, website http://nepal.usembassy.gov

U.S. citizens also should consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Nepal and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement via the Internet on the Department of State's home page at http://travel.state.gov or by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00

Source:DoS