US issues warnings over Sudan and Tunisia - Financial Times
The US state department on Saturday ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential US government personnel from its embassies in Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against any travel to the two countries because of security concerns over rising anti-American violence.
Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the state department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens, said Victoria Nuland, the departments representative.
In Tunisia, the warning advised Americans that the international airport in Tunis is open and encouraged all US citizens to depart on commercial flights. It said Americans who chose to remain in Tunisia should use extreme caution and avoid demonstrations. On Friday, protesters climbed the walls into the US embassy in Tunis, wrecking cars in the parking lot, damaging the entrance building and setting fire to a gym and a neighbouring American school that is now unusable.
In Sudan, the warning said that while the Sudanese government has taken steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups, some remained and have threatened to attack western interests. The terrorist threat level remains critical throughout Sudan, the department said. It noted that US officials were required to travel in armoured vehicles and to get permission to travel outside Khartoum, where crowds burnt part of the German embassy and tried to storm the US embassy on Friday.
A US official said on Saturday that Sudans government was holding up the deployment of an elite Marine team that the US planned to send to Khartoum to boost security at the embassy.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, called top officials from seven countries on Saturday to discuss the situation after a wave of protest and violence over an anti-Muslim film that has swept across the Middle East and elsewhere in recent days. An obscure, amateurish movie called Innocence of Muslims that mocks the Prophet Mohammed sparked the outrage.
On Tuesday, protesters in Egypt breached the walls of the US embassy in Cairo and then well-armed extremists attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya. Since then, protests have spread to more than 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa and south-east Asia. While most were peaceful, marches in several places exploded into violence, including Tunisia and Sudan.
Mrs Clinton on Saturday spoke to the prime minister of Libya, the president of Somalia, and the foreign ministers of Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, said Ms Nuland of the US state department.
With Mustafa Abushagur, the Libyan prime minister, Mrs Clinton spoke about the importance of detaining and prosecuting the consulate attackers, Ms Nuland said. The prime minister expressed confidence that the attackers would be brought to justice, noting that the government was already starting to take action, she said.
With the Egyptians, Turks and Saudis, Mrs Clinton thanked them for their condemnations of the violence and spoke of the need to ensure security at diplomatic missions, Ms Nuland said. Mrs Clinton and Mohamed Kamel Amr, the Egyptian foreign minister, also agreed that while the film may be offensive and reprehensible, it cannot be used as justification for violence, Ms Nuland added.
Mrs Clintons calls and the state department travel warnings came as President Barack Obama paid tribute to the Americans killed in Benghazi in his weekly radio address and denounced the anti-US mob protests that have followed.
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