Embassy Update & Travel Warning

by Nathan Hamm on 6/3/2005 · 6 comments

Here’s a second source on David’s tip.

Based on a recent email from the spouse of a US embassy employee I just read, it appears that the evacuation order is not so voluntary, but is required for spouses and families.

And there’s a new travel warning for Uzbekistan (actually, another source on the embassy evac story though it doesn’t say it’s mandatory). The whole thing’s in the extended entry, but as David W. pointed out in a comment, this is new:

The United States Government has received information that terrorist groups are planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan in the very near future. Due to the nature of the threat, the Department of State has authorized the departure from Uzbekistan of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent. American citizens currently in Uzbekistan should consider departing Uzbekistan via available commercial options.

Entire warning below

Travel Warning

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520


June 2, 2005

This Travel Warning is being issued to remind U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist actions in Uzbekistan. The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of U. S. Embassy personnel and urges all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Uzbekistan. This Travel Warning supercedes the Public Announcement of May 27, 2005.

The United States Government has received information that terrorist groups are planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan in the very near future. Due to the nature of the threat, the Department of State has authorized the departure from Uzbekistan of non-emergency personnel and all eligible family members of the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent. American citizens currently in Uzbekistan should consider departing Uzbekistan via available commercial options.

Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,Al-Qaida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active in the region. These groups have expressed anti-U.S.sentiments and may also attempt to target U.S. Government or private
interests in Uzbekistan. The Department of State urges Americans in Uzbekistan to exercise extreme caution, including avoiding large crowds,celebrations, and places where Westerners generally congregate. In the past, these groups have been known to conduct kidnappings, assassinations and suicide bombings.

Uzbekistan experienced a wave of terrorist violence in 2004. Three suicide bombings occurred in July 2004 in Tashkent, including one outside the U.S.Embassy. Other targets included the Israeli Embassy and the Uzbekistani Prosecutor General’s Office. The Islamic Jihad Union released a statement claiming responsibility for these attacks. Multiple attacks also occurred in Tashkent and Bukhara in late March and early April 2004. These attacks used suicide bombers, mainly focused at police and Uzbek private and commercial facilities. In late July,approximately 15 people pled guilty in an Uzbekistan court to charges related to the attacks. The Islamic Jihad Union also claimed responsibility for these operations.

In 2003, the U.S. Embassy received information indicating that terrorist groups had planned attacks against hotels in Uzbekistan frequented by Westerners, as well as against other institutions affiliated with or representing foreign interests. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. As security is increased at official U.S. facilities, terrorists and their sympathizers seek softer targets. These may include facilities where Americans and other foreigners congregate or visit, such as residentialareas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events, and resorts.

In addition, on May 13, armed militants stormed a local prison, released its prisoners, and then took control of the regional administration and other government buildings. By the end of the day fighting broke out between government forces and the militants. There were reports indicating that several hundred civilians died in the ensuing violence. There were no reports of U.S. citizens who were affected by these events.

Although the city is reportedly calm at the present time and all registered American citizens in Andijon have reported with the Embassy, Americans are advised to limit unnecessary travel to the Andijon province due to small pockets of unrest. Some U.S.-sponsored or supported humanitarian organizations have decided at this time not to return to Andijon.

Other U.S. government agencies continue to operate and travel normally throughout the region. According to the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs,border crossings and all airports, except in Andijon, are currently open.The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent continues to employ heightened security precautions. U.S. citizens should report any unusual activity to local authorities and then inform the Embassy.

The Uzbek Government maintains travel restrictions on large parts of the Surkhandarya province bordering Afghanistan, including the border city of Termez. Foreign citizens intending to travel to this region must obtain a special permission card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad.

Americans traveling to or remaining in Uzbekistan despite this Travel Warning are strongly urged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website,https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Uzbekistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S.Embassy in Tashkent may close temporarily for general business from time to time to review its security posture. The U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan is located at 82 Chilanzarskaya St., Tashkent, Uzbekistan 700115. The telephone number is 998-71-120-5450. The fax number is 998-71-120-6335.The website is http://www.usembassy.uz. Travelers should also consult the Department of State’s latest Consular Information Sheet for Uzbekistan, the Central Asia Regional Public Announcement, and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States or Canada, and 202-501-4444 from overseas.

Mamura Azizova Consular Specialist U.S. Embassy Tashkent, Uzbekistan tel. 998-71-120-47-18/19; 120-54-50 fax. 998-71-120-54-48/6335 e-mail: azizovam@state.gov

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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jonathan p June 3, 2005 at 8:42 am

Reading this statement in its entirety is somehow more reassuring. Of course, I wasn’t at this meeting, but I can’t imagine I would leave at this point if I were still there. (I’ve been to two of these “town meetings” in Tashkent before and I vowed never to go back to one. They were a giant waste of time: nothing specific was ever said, no questions were answered directly, I left understanding nothing I hadn’t already understood from talks with friends, taxi drivers and others. The gist of the meeting each time was: “Something could happen to you, so be careful.” Well, thanks alot.)

I know I’m crazy but, based on the specifics mentioned in the release above, Dolkun could have been on to something when he wondered in an earlier post whether the U.S. threat assessment could be being manipulated by “intelligence” gathered from Uzbek sources who want people to believe that terrorism is a bigger threat than it really is.

Nathan June 3, 2005 at 9:08 am

I didn’t get a chance to reply to Dolkun’s comment until just now, but I have my doubts that we’d be receiving information about a group that is largely active in Pakistan from the Uzbek intelligence services. And, Uzbekistan’s self-serving explanation has been that it’s all Hizb ut-Tahrir.

I know how these things seem. What does give me pause is advising citizens to leave. Not that I necessarily would either, but I think that this is more serious than before.

Not that I’ve paid the closes attention to the warnings the last few years, but they seemed to be similar to when I was there. And when I was there, there actually were terrorist incursions just about every summer. Seemed like it slacked off for 2002 and 2003, but they might be back.

Dan Darling June 3, 2005 at 11:30 am

The attacks scaled down in 2002-2003 because much of the IMU was busy recovering from the damage inflicted against it during Operation Enduring Freedom.

david_walther June 3, 2005 at 3:21 pm

Jonathan—I know these meetings used to be bullshit. I haven’t been to one for two years, I only went to this one because people I know at the embassy showed real concern. These people I know at the embassy work in the Defense section…

This meeting was very different than the others. I’m a liberal, I’m pissed off and cynical about “American intelligence” in general, as an Australian friend of mine jabbed the other day, it’s a contradiction in terms after the embarassment of “WMDs” in Iraq.

But though I’m not getting ready to leave yet, I am probably going to get a Kazakh visa in case I have to. I don’t know anyone who is leaving who isn’t being evacuated or is just following their normal summer schedule, but though it’s hard to see right away from the embassy warning, this whole thing is very different than the old ones.

What has me particularly nervous, to be honest, is the section of the warning against soft targets like night clubs and restaurants—not particularly because I go to them all the time, but because they may be perfect targets, and here’s why: the best restaurants and night clubs in Tashkent are all double targets, because they not only are frequented by foreigners (and sometimes even US soldiers on weekend leave) but the best ones are also owned by either the Karimov family or his clan…

Basha, the biggest and newest club that includes a movie theater that has exclusive rights to show all the most popular and highest grossing films (US and Russian), is widely “known” to be owned by Gulnoza Karimova. It also hosts impossible, exclusive concerts by all the hotest names in Russian music, starting at $300 a ticket. On 5 June Seryoga, the Russian rapper, will be having a concert there and I’m assuming (I sure as hell don’t go to these things, but I’ve asked around) that anyone who is “anyone” in the young Tashkent rich and famous (the sons and daughters of the ruling clans) will all be there.

It’s also right across from a major hotel and on a busy intersection–not to mention it’s just outside of a neighborhood populated by tons of expats and their offices, including Peace Corps. (This is the corner of Qunaev and Shota Rustaveli).

I don’t know about Basha, cause I don’t know anyone who ever goes there, but I understand that the younger of the terrible two, Lola K, is a regular at her own club-on-the-canal, Catacomba. If you to find a bunch of foreigners in Tashkent at night, that’s pretty much the place to look, and damn if you might not get one of the Ks and half her friends in one shot…

The “hotel formerly known as the Sheraton” (they quit paying their franchise fees, I guess)
is apparently owned by the Tashkent Hokim. The list basically goes on and on.

I don’t know, I’ve been here for awhile–not as long as a lot of people have, but already longer than most PCVs stay… last year during the literal shooting in the city I was not all that worried, although there was an actual battle going on about ten miles down the same road where I lived. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s just that it’s time for the seasonal attacks or whatever, but this one I am actually taking seriously. I’ll be as happy as everyone else if it all turns out to be bullshit, but I don’t think you can say this warning or that meeting was “just like the other ones” by any means.

jonathan p June 5, 2005 at 8:47 am

Thanks for your comments. I, too, was never worried about any of the summer warnings on travel, etc., and never lived the lifestyle of a rich and famous person in Tashkent. So the embassy warnings usually amused me more than anything else. I hope you’re not right about things this time, though. We shall see… Be safe, man.

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