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Most US diplomats ordered to leave Lahore

Most US diplomats ordered to leave Lahore

Aug 09, 2013 - 16:43

WASHINGTON (PANinfo-icon): The US on Friday ordered the evacuation of nonessential government personnel from Pakistaninfo-icon’s eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, because of a specific threat to the consulate there, a US official said.

The State Department warned Americans not to travel to Pakistan, with the nonessential staff being shifted from the consulate in Lahore to the capital, Islamabad.

 “We are undertaking this drawdown due to concerns about credible threat information specific to the US consulate in Lahore,” a senior State Department official told Pajhwok Afghan News, saying the department was taking appropriate steps to protect their employees and others who might be visiting their facilities.

An updated Travel Warning has also been issued. It warned US citizens remaining in Lahore to limit their nonessential travel within Pakistan, be aware of their surroundings whether in their residences or moving about, make their own contingency emergency plans, enroll their presence in Pakistan through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin or emergency contact information, the State Department official said soon after the issuing of a new travel alert for Pakistan.

It added the presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups posed a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occurred against civilian, government, and foreign targets, it added.

“Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations. The government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities,” the travel warning said.

Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where US citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom, it said.

In early July, a powerful bomb exploded at a busy market street in Lahore killing at least four people and wounding nearly 50. Lahore is considered Pakistan's cultural capital and has a population of at least 10 million people.

A CIA contractor shot to death two Pakistanis in Lahore in January 2011 who he said were trying to rob him. The incident severely damaged relations between Pakistan and the US. The contractor, Raymond Davis, was released by Pakistan in March 2011 after the families of the victims were paid over $2 million.



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