Somalia Travel Warning
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Somalia. This replaces the Travel Warning dated October 24, 2014, to update information on security concerns.
There is no U.S. Embassy or other formal U.S. diplomatic facility in Somalia at this time. Consequently, the U.S. government is not in a position to assist or effectively provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia. In light of this and continuous security threats, the U.S. government recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.
The security situation in Somalia remains unstable and dangerous. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia continue to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and other non-military targets. Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia. In addition, there is a particular threat to foreigners in places where large crowds gather and Westerners frequent, including airports, government buildings, and shopping areas. Inter-clan and inter-factional fighting can flare up with little or no warning.
While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaida affiliate, has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora. In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.
Al-Shabaab-planned assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia. On December 25, 2014, al-Shabaab conducted an attack within the Mogadishu International Airport secure perimeter resulting in the deaths of at least eight individuals, including one U.S. citizen. Al-Shabaab remains intent on conducting attacks at popular restaurants, hotels, and convoys. This year, there have been at least four prominent hotel attacks located in the heart of the Somali capital. One U.S. citizen was killed in those attacks. Separately, in late April, a car bomb detonated adjacent to a favorite eatery frequented by government ministries and presidential palace officials. In late-June, a car bomb targeted United Arab Emirates military instructors near a military hospital, killing at least three Somali soldiers. Additionally, in January, a suicide car bomber killed at least six people in a strike apparently aimed at a Turkish government convey the day before that country’s president was to arrive in Somalia.
Kidnappings remain a daily threat in Somalia – to include Somaliland and Puntland - in addition to larger assaults, assassinations, and grenade attacks. Beyond the high profile attacks noted above, al-Shabaab has also claimed responsibility for other regional terrorist attacks.
Pirates and other criminals have specifically targeted and kidnapped foreigners working in Somalia. In January 2012, a U.S. citizen was kidnapped while on work-related travel in Somalia and in October 2011, a U.S. citizen aid worker living in Somalia was also kidnapped. In both cases, as well as in recent kidnappings of other Westerners, the victims took precautionary measures by hiring local security personnel, but those hired to protect them may have played a role in the abductions. A strong familiarity with Somalia and/or extensive prior travel to the region does not reduce travel risk. U.S. citizens considering travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, are advised to obtain kidnap and recovery insurance, as well as medical evacuation insurance, prior to travel.
Additionally, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid sailing near the coast of Somalia as attacks have occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast in international waters. Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure by pirates and having their crews held for ransom in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia. Somali pirates captured and killed four U.S. citizens aboard their boat on February 22, 2011. If transit around the Horn of Africa is necessary, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, maintain good communications contact at all times, and follow the guidance provided by the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA). You should consult the Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.
The United States continues to be concerned about the risks to U.S. civil aviation operating in the territory and airspace of Somalia due to the hazards associated with terrorist and militant activity. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has prohibited U.S. civil aviation from flying below flight level (FL) 260 in the territory and airspace of Somalia. For additional background information regarding FAA flight prohibitions and advisories for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.
For further information:
- See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Country Specific Information for Somalia.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy in Kenya located on United Nations Avenue, Nairobi, at +254 (0) 20 363 6451 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +254 (0) 20 363 6170.
- Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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