US issues southeastern Turkey travel warning over threats
WASHINGTON - Reuters
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the situation in Syria from the Treaty Room at the State Department in Washington, DC on August 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBThe United States tightened security at diplomatic missions in Lebanon and Turkey on Friday because of threats, ordering personnel out of Lebanon and offering to evacuate those in Adana in southeastern Turkey.
The State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling in Lebanon and southeastern Turkey, and urged Americans in the rest of Turkey "to be alert to the potential for violence."
Officials did not offer specifics about the threats, which were revealed less than a week before the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and amid an intensifying U.S. debate over President Barack Obama's plans to strike Syria.
"Given the current tensions the region, as well as potential threats to U.S. government facilities and personnel, we are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution to protect our employees and their families, and local employees and visitors to our facilities," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
The statements did not mention Syria, where Washington says troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a poison gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21.
In Lebanon, officials ordered non-emergency personnel and their family members out of the country "due to threats," the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said in statement.
The State Department urged "U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns."
In Turkey, U.S. officials offered voluntary evacuation to reduce its diplomatic presence at the consulate in Adana, Turkey, "because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel."
"The Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members," the State Department said in a statement.
It also recommended "that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey."
The U.S. government will pay to fly out those who wish to leave Adana, a U.S. official said.
Americans who remain in Lebanon or southeastern Turkey should remain vigilant and make their own emergency plans, officials said.
Early last month, nearly 20 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa were closed when the United States said it had picked up unspecified terrorism threats. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was closed for more than two weeks.