US issues new travel warning for Egypt and Jordan

US issues new travel warning for Egypt and Jordan
The US has issued new travel warnings for citizens travelling to Egypt and Jordan, citing 'threats from terrorist groups' in the two countries.
3 min read
24 December, 2016
Egypt and Jordan have been struggling to attract tourists due to increasing militant activity [AFP]

The US state department has warned US citizens travelling to Egypt or Jordan about "threats from terrorist group", citing several attacks that took place in both countries earlier this month.

"There are a number of extremist organiSations, including the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Islamic State group), operating in Egypt," the Egypt travel warning read.

"Over the past two years, terrorist attacks have targeted Egyptian government and security forces, public venues, including tourist sites, civil aviation and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility."

The Western Desert and the Sinai Peninsula - excluding the resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh - were labelled as areas where US diplomatic personnel are prohibited to go "for security reasons".

Despite the Egyptian government's "heavy security presence" at major tourist sites, according to the travel warning, the department of state warned that "terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the country".

The new warning cited the bombing on 11 December of a church adjacent to the main Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, which left 27 people dead, including the attacker.

The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State group.

The travel warning also mentioned an attack two days earlier that left six police officers dead after they were targeted by two roadside bombs, as well as other attacks over the past two years, including the killing of an Egyptian Army Brigadier General and failed assassination attempts on a former grand mufti, a judge, and a deputy prosecutor general.

Jordan travel warning

The Jordan travel warning appeared more specific, with the department of state stating that "terrorist and extremist organisations have expressed a desire to conduct attacks targeting US citizens and Westerners in Jordan".

"Within the last year, Jordanian authorities have notified the US embassy of several disrupted terrorist plots targeting US citizens and Westerners," the warning read.

"In addition, terrorist entities continue to express interest in attacking malls, hotels, restaurants, and other soft targets in country."

It also cited a recent attack on a popular tourist destination in Karak, which left 10 people dead, including a Canadian tourist and seven Jordanian security and police officers.

The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, was followed by a shootout between Jordanian police and IS militants two days later, leaving four members of the security services dead.

The travel warning also included other attacks, including one in November 2015, when a Jordanian police officer killed two US citizen trainers and wounded two others in a shooting at the Jordan International Police Training Center (JIPTC) outside Amman.

US citizens were urged to avoid certain areas in Jordan, including the country's border with Syria and Iraq, "given the continued threat of cross-border attacks".

According to the warning, all US government personnel on official travel must receive prior permission to visit any area within 10 kilometres from the Jordan-Syria border, which includes the town of Ramtha.

Both Egypt and Jordan have struggled to attract tourists in the past few years due to increasing militant activity.