Saturday, May 7, 2005

Most Dangerous Destinations with help from iJet Intelligent Risk Systems of Annapolis, Maryland, lists the most dangerous travel destinations for 2005:

Afganistan: With former Taliban and al Qaeda operatives still at large, U.S. citizens and employees of international NGOs are constantly at risk of kidnapping and assassination. Military operations, frequent terrorist attacks and landmines make travel throughout the country nearly impossible, and Afghan authorities have a limited ability to ensure the safety of visitors. The United Nations was forced to suspend operations temporarily last year after the number of attacks on international aid workers grew.

Cote d'Ivoire
: The Cote d'Ivoire has been in political turmoil since a military coup in 1999. The country is currently back in civilian control, but November 2004 saw a violent clash between the Ivorian government and rebel forces, leading to widespread demonstrations, rioting and looting in the coastal city of Abidjan. Public health has deteriorated greatly, and yellow fever and cholera are great risks to travelers.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: U.N. Peacekeeping Forces have been stationed here since a 1999 cease-fire was established between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and five regional states. Despite the formation of a transitional government in 2003, the area remains highly unstable, and the U.N. reports frequent violent clashes between tribal groups, armed military forces and government troops. Bribery and unauthorized detention is commonplace upon entering or leaving the country. The Ituri region is particularly prone to ethnic tension, rape and sporadic violence.

Haiti: The death in mid-April of a Philippine U.N. Peacekeeper in Haiti is only the latest symptom of the country's political instability. Haiti has no organized police force to speak of, and armed gangs roam the streets participating in spontaneous attacks on each other and on civilians. Criminal activity, including looting, car jacking and kidnapping, is common, and the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince has established a curfew of 9 P.M. to 5 A.M. to protect its employees.

Iraq: Daily reports of car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations in Iraq keep it in the headlines, even after the relatively peaceful elections in January. Former Baathists, international terrorists and miscellaneous criminals make the country almost impassable for civilians, as well as for the military. The kidnapping and execution of Americans, Europeans and Asians is a common terrorist technique, as is the use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which are hastily constructed and hidden in land mines or roadside litter.

Kyrgyzstan: This small country in Central Asia was left to fend for itself when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It has since come under scrutiny from the U.N. because of its proximity to Uzbekistan and possible ties to the extremist group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda. Landmines throughout the country--and especially along the border with Uzbekistan--make travel extremely dangerous. The U.S. Embassy is carefully monitoring places that are likely to attract groups of Westerners for signs of potential terrorist attacks or suicide bombings.

Liberia: A protracted civil war has left Liberia one of the world's poorest countries. As a result, armed robbery and theft are commonplace, especially among international visitors. The high national unemployment rate means that street fights, political rallies and demonstrations are well-attended and can quickly spiral out of control. The State Department advises visitors not to travel alone or after dark if they must visit Liberia.

Somalia: Like Gambia or North Korea, Somalia is a "tracker country" in iJet lexicon, meaning iJet has few, if any, on-the-ground sources. The country has no U.S. Embassy or other U.S. presence of any kind. Inter-clan fighting and attacks against relief workers and international aid agencies are common, and the Mogadishu region, which is contested by many racial groups, is especially dangerous. Ships in the Indian Ocean off the Eastern coast of the country are at risk from sea-faring robbers. Somalia was the worst-hit country in Eastern Africa by the recent tsunami, and water contamination and waterborne disease have since been a major concern.

Sudan: Sudan's ongoing civil war has made the country practically uninhabitable, although the U.S. State Department believes a long-awaited peace agreement may be in the works. Still, recent reports of genocidal activity in Darfur, clashes between government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and ongoing reports of terrorist threats and general banditry mean you should steer clear if you can. Hostility towards U.S. foreign policy is widespread.

Togo: Togo's hotly contested presidential elections on April 24 have given rise to a new wave of violence. A favorite of leisure travelers in the early 1990s because of its beautiful beaches, the country's political unrest over the last 15 years has made visitors think twice about going, and rightly so. Protests in Lomé, the coastal capital, are violent and frequent, and sporadic violence and protests occur all over the country. Communication is difficult, especially around Lomé, as all commercial radio has been cancelled and phone lines cut. U.S. citizens are not at any greater risk than other foreigners, although several have reported being harassed by native Togolese who mistook them for French. U.S. Embassy personnel must abide by a 6 P.M. to 8 A.M. curfew.

Zimbabwe: Unemployment and inflation have effectively devastated the Zimbabwean economy. Annual March parliamentary elections are a particularly tense time, as election-related vote rigging and intimidation spark violence and unstable political rallies, especially in the high-density city of Harare. Commercial farms, home to government supporters who act with impunity from the law, are particularly dangerous to foreigners. Food and fuel shortages are widespread.

Most Dangerous Destinations 2005

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