This Travel Alert is being issued to alert U.S. citizens to security concerns in Mali. Due to recent armed conflict, kidnappings, armed robberies, and the presence of landmines, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid travel to northern Mali. Areas of particular concern include the Mali-Niger, and Mali-Algeria borders, the Kidal region, areas north of Timbuktu and the city of Tinzawaten. This Travel Alert supercedes the Travel Alert for Mali issued on November 2, 2007, and expires on August 6, 2008.
Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has a presence in northern Mali, and was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. The presence of AQIM and other armed groups in the north present potential dangers to travelers.
On December 24, 2007, bandits, possibly connected to AQIM, killed four French tourists outside of Aleg, Mauritania. Several days later, four Mauritanian soldiers were killed by suspected terrorists near El Ghallawiya, Mauritania.
On January 3, 2008, four Italians were robbed at gunpoint near Araouane, 150 miles north of Timbuktu by assailants whose affiliation is unknown. This recent activity and the porous nature of Mali's northern borders reinforce long-standing concern about security for travel in northern Mali. The Department of State strongly urges citizens to avoid traveling to Northern Mali, including Timbuktu and Essakane.
On August 26-27, 2007, Tuareg dissidents attacked and kidnapped civilian and military convoys near the Mali-Niger border. On August 30, a truck transporting civilians from Algeria to Tinzawaten hit a landmine, killing at least 14 people. In September 2007, the Malian military garrison at Tinzawatan clashed with armed rebels. While the government of Mali is working to strengthen security in northern Mali and achieve a peaceful settlement, the area remains unstable.
Many people who reside in or visit northern Mali travel with security escorts. However, the August 2007 convoy attack on agricultural researchers (escorted by Malian military personnel) illustrated that this does not ensure safety. U.S. government employees, including those on temporary duty, must be given special permission before traveling north of the Niger River, including to Timbuktu, Essakane, Kidal, Tessalit, Lere, Goundam, and Menaka towns.
Americans planning travel to the northern regions of Mali despite this Travel Alert, including those planning to attend music festivals like the Festival in the Desert in Essakane or Sahara Nights Festival at Essouk, as well as Americans residing or traveling in Mali, are urged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. The U.S. Embassy is located at ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali. The telephone number is (223) 270-2300. The consular fax number is (223) 270-2340. The Embassy webpage is http://mali.usembassy.gov.