The USA has issued a second travel advisory, within seven days, warning its nationals to exercise increased caution while travelling across Bangladesh.
The travel advisory warned US citizens to employ extreme level of caution in Dhaka and Southeast Bangladesh, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts, due to “crime, terrorism, and kidnapping.”
The US Department of State has introduced a new risk indicator for 35 countries, including Bangladesh, to communicate more clearly to American citizens the “risk of kidnapping and hostage taking” by criminal and terrorist actors around the world.
“The new “K” indicator is part of our ongoing commitment to provide clear and comprehensive travel safety information to US citizens so they can make informed travel decisions,” it said in a statement issued from Washington on April 9.
Earlier on April 4, the embassy had issued a travel alert “in light of calls for revenge in the wake of” the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand where five Bangladeshis were among 40 Muslims was killed during prayers.
The US move drew stark criticism from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who requested the Americans to share any related information they had with Bangladesh.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal had also said issuing security alerts across different countries has become a US “practice.”
“We have not received any information on security threats to foreign nationals in our country,” the minister had said. “There are no threats. I do not know why the US has issued a security alert.”
US travel advisory
The US travel advisory warned: “Violent crime, such as armed robbery, assault, and rape, is widespread. Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Bangladesh.
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, restaurants, places of worship, and local government facilities. There is a possibility of terrorist attacks in urban areas despite the heavy police presence,” the advisory said
The US government has also directed its personnel stationed in Bangladesh to live, work, and travel under strict security guidelines. The travel advisory for Dhaka warns of high crime rate, which can be organized or opportunistic, conducted by individuals or groups, and commonly includes fraud, theft, robbery, carjacking, rape, assault, and burglary.
The US Embassy also issued travel advisory for the Southeast Bangladesh, terming the region dangerous. Travel to Khagrachhari, Rangamati, and Bandarban Hill Tracts districts (collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts) was discouraged due to kidnappings and other security incidents.
The US travel advisory, updated on April 9, said Bangladesh’s status remains unchanged at level-2, which advises US citizens to “exercise increased caution” and be aware of heightened risks to safety and security during travel.
The US travel advisories apply up to four standard levels of advice, describe the risks, and suggest clear actions US citizens should take to help ensure their safety. The US issues an overall travel advisory level for a country, but levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country.
But the Department of State issued level-3 for Dhaka and Southeast Bangladesh, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts “due to crime, terrorism and kidnapping”, asking US citizens to reconsider travel to these places.
According to the Department of State, level-1 is the lowest advisory category for safety and security risk, while level-4 is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks.
The travel advisories are based on established risk indicators such as crime, terrorism, civil unrest, natural disasters, health, and other potential risks. The Department issues travel advisories for every country in the world. The list of countries, considered a risk for US citizens of kidnapping or hostage taking, includes Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine), Venezuela, and Yemen.