Last week, following the bombings in Brussels, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for all of Europe, and yesterday, it issued a revised warning for Turkey. The language is important: According to the State Department, “alerts” are used for “short-term events” and expire once those events pass. They are used in the case of elections, health risks, or temporarily elevated risks of terrorism. “Warnings” are for locations experiencing long-term instability and presenting higher risks for travelers. “We want you to know the risks of traveling to these places and to strongly consider not going to them at all,” the State Department says about countries that carry active travel warnings.
The State Department’s updated travel warning for Turkey replaces the one issued after March 13, when a car bomb exploded in the capital Ankara, killing 37 people. Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a Kurdish nationalist group, claimed responsibility. Since the beginning of 2016, nearly 100 people have been killed in five separate attacks carried out by ISIS-linked groups and Kurdish separatists. The new warning specifically urges people not to travel to Turkey’s southeastern region, which borders Syria, and to stay away from large crowds and popular tourist destinations around the country.
Additionally, the State Department has ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from Adana, which hosts a U.S. Consulate office. It has also restricted official trips to Turkey to “mission-critical” travel only.
Meanwhile, on Monday the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau raised its travel advisory for Turkey to “level 2,” one level away from its highest warning, citing a “high concrete threat.” The advisory advises Israeli citizens currently in Turkey to “depart as soon as possible.” On March 19, three Israeli tourists were among those killed by a ISIS-linked suicide bomber in Istanbul. According to Reuters, the elevation of Israel’s warning comes on the heels of Turkey’s own warnings to its citizens, to stay away from crowded areas and exercise extra vigilance. At the same time, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalid also said, “One should refrain from moves that lead to the suspension of daily lives, in a way which would be welcomed by the terrorists.”