This Travel Warning provides updated security information and alerts American citizens traveling to or living in Sri Lanka about the continuing danger of terrorist attacks throughout the country. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Sri Lanka dated October 18, 2007.
The Department of State urges American citizens to evaluate carefully the risks of travel to Sri Lanka and specifically warns Americans against travel to northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka. Since early January 2008, attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against civilians have increased, including in areas frequented by foreign tourists. Although there is no specific indication that American citizens or institutions were targeted, there is a heightened risk of American citizens being victims of violence by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. American citizens who decide to travel to Sri Lanka despite this travel warning should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow prudent security practices. Americans should avoid large crowds and public gatherings and should particularly avoid political rallies, military bases, and government and military vehicle convoys, which are frequent targets of LTTE attacks.
On February 3, 2008, 14 civilians were killed and approximately 100 were injured when a suicide attacker detonated an explosive device inside the main railway station in Colombo. The same day, seven were injured when a grenade was detonated at the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo. On February 2, 2008, a bomb on a bus from Kandy, headed for Anuradhapura, exploded in Dambulla and killed 18 civilians and injured over 50. On January 8, 2008, a government minister was killed and several persons were injured when his vehicle was attacked on the road between Colombo's international airport and central Colombo. On October 15, 2007, the LTTE attacked a Sri Lankan Army camp in Yala National Sanctuary, located in southeastern Sri Lanka. On March 26, 2007, the Katunayake Air Force Base in Colombo came under attack from LTTE aircraft, causing the adjacent Bandaranaike International Airport to briefly suspend operations. Foreign tourists were not specifically targeted in these attacks and none were injured.
In light of attacks against civilian buses and trains, American citizens are strongly advised against traveling by bus or train in Sri Lanka. U.S. Government personnel are currently prohibited from using these modes of transportation.
While the government has effectively controlled the eastern part of the country since July 2007, security is not yet assured. Some LTTE members and larger numbers of armed paramilitary members are active in the area, leading to instability and incidents of violence. This situation is likely to continue for some time. Americans are particularly warned against travel to LTTE-controlled areas in the north, which may pose severe hazards.
Official travel by U.S. Government personnel to areas north of a line following the highway from Puttalam through Anuradhapura to Polonaruwa, Bibile, and Pottuvil in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka is restricted, and unofficial travel is prohibited.
Americans should comply with all instructions from security forces and police when traveling in Sri Lanka. American citizens, including those of Sri Lankan origin, living in Sri Lanka or traveling there for even a few days are strongly urged to register with the Embassy. Registration will allow the embassy to provide direct information on the security situation as necessary. Registration is done on-line and can be done in advance of travel at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/.