US bars diplomats from 19 African countries

Updated at 16:24 on 8 October 2015

The US has restricted access to non-essential travel for government officials, their immediate families and other guests from 19 African countries for up to 90 days as the country raises its aviation security after the murder of a federal aviation official.

The Foreign Relations Department said on Tuesday that the restrictions were taken after the shooting at the US embassy in Libya of a US embassy employee, Timothy Smith, on 31 August.

“The embassy is currently attempting to identify and apprehend the person responsible,” it said.

Greece, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jamaica, Chad, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Guinea, Gambia, Mali, Tunisia, Senegal, Yemen, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Cameroon, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Somalia, Timor-Leste, and Montenegro are not affected by the travel restrictions.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the measures are in place for 120 days. They were announced on Sunday.

“In keeping with these actions and the screening of all travel and tourist activities to the United States for individuals entering non-emergency civilian occupations, the department has decided to implement measures on certain countries whose travel to the United States is not an essential function for government employees in the United States,” he said.

“These affected countries are based on their security environment, the risks posed to the travelling public, and the important non-essential services these affected countries provide to the United States,” Kerry said.

Kerry said the decision was made with input from a diverse group of industry, public health, law enforcement, security and other US agencies.

“This decision reflects our shared interest in improving our homeland security measures while also ensuring that our citizens travelling to other countries have access to the locations and facilities that they need to complete their destinations,” he said.

Many North African countries have faced a number of terrorist attacks in recent years and in May, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for an attack at the Djibouti port that killed at least 21 people.

Western governments have raised concerns about Islamist terror groups that have established cells in North Africa.

The increased risk of terror attacks has prompted Western governments to impose travel restrictions on citizens from some North African countries.

The British government has limited some tourists’ access to the North African countries of Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, among others.

– With additional input from AFP

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