The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the risks of travel to Tunisia and recommends that U.S. citizens in Tunisia maintain a high level of vigilance in light of recent terrorist attacks on sites frequented by tourists.
The Tunisian government has shown its commitment to addressing security concerns and has visibly augmented its security presence at tourist locations, but challenges remain. This Travel Alert expires on September 30, 2015.
U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution in Tunisia when frequenting public venues that are visited by large numbers of foreigners, such as: hotels, shopping centers, tourist sites, and restaurants. Two recent attacks targeting tourists killed a number of foreign nationals: March 18, 2015, at the Bardo Museum in Tunis; and June 26, 2015 near Sousse at the Riu Imperial Marhaba and Riu Bellevue Park hotels. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for both attacks. U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility of kidnapping. On July 4, President Caid Essebsi declared a 30-day state of emergency that grants security forces more authority to maintain civil order, enabling the government to focus on combating terrorism. This state of emergency was extended on August 3 for an additional 60 days, expiring October 2. The Minister of Interior has stated that the state of emergency will assist in securing hotels and tourist areas.
Terrorist organizations have also targeted Tunisian security forces and government installations. The Tunisian government officially designated the group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T), a group with known anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments, as a terrorist organization on August 27, 2013. The Tunisian government continues security force operations against AAS-T, ISIL, and al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Protests, demonstrations, and civil unrest can occur with little warning throughout the country. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and demonstrations, as even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful have the potential to become unpredictable. When the last significant protests took place in Tunisia in the summer of 2013, they were non-violent and not directed against U.S. citizens or foreigners. U.S. citizens should be aware of anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiment held by several groups in country. U.S. citizens should also be alert and aware of their surroundings. Travelers should monitor local events, report suspicious activity to the local police, and take appropriate steps to bolster personal security.
Travelers contemplating trips to the interior of the country should assess local conditions and routes when making travel plans. In particular, all travel south of the designated military zone in the south must be coordinated in advance with Tunisian authorities. Also, travel to either border should be avoided, if possible, given the periodic security incidents along the border regions, including the Mount Chaambi region near the Algerian border where security operations continue against armed extremists. The Tunisian National Guard encourages persons traveling into the desert to register their travel beforehand. For details on how and where to register, please visit the U.S. Embassy’s desert travel page. No special authorization is required to travel to the desert as far south as Remada. The desert south of Remada is designated as a military zone by the Government of Tunisia. If travelers wish to enter the military zone, for example to travel to Borma, a special authorization is required. Please visit the U.S. Embassy’s desert travel page.
Tunisia shares borders with Algeria and Libya. Developments in Libya continue to affect the security situation along the border areas, and the Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya. Due to tighter security, backups of several hours can occur on the Tunisian side of the border. The Ras Jedir and Dehiba border crossings with Libya may be closed occasionally, and access to both crossings is strictly controlled by Tunisian security forces. Travelers should consult local authorities before travelling to the Libyan border, and should read the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Libya, as well as the Department of State’s Country Specific Information and other international travel safety and security information for Libya and Algeria. Travelers should consult local authorities before travelling to the Algerian border and read the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Algeria. Some crossings may be closed occasionally and access is strictly controlled by Tunisian and Algerian security forces.
Government security forces, including the army, police, and National Guard, are visibly present throughout Tunisia. Under the state of emergency, the Ministry of Interior is granted broad powers and may ban rallies and demonstrations. The Minister of Interior, as well as local governors, have the prerogative to put any individual under house arrest, if considered a threat to national and public security; and to search houses and conduct other activities without requiring prior judicial authorization. Security personnel, including plain clothes officials, may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. It is against Tunisian law to photograph government offices and other security facilities. Suspicious incidents or problems should be reported immediately to Tunisian authorities and the U.S. Embassy. Travelers should remain alert to local security developments and heed directions given by uniformed security officials. U.S. citizens are urged to always carry a copy of their passport as proof of nationality and identity and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Tunisia.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned abroad sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under security restrictions which vary by country of assignment. Embassy Tunis travel regulations require advance notification to Embassy security officials of travel outside greater Tunis. These measures occasionally prevent the movement of U.S. Embassy officials and the provision of consular services in certain areas of the country.
Unless otherwise indicated in a public announcement, the U.S. Embassy is open for all routine American Citizens Services by appointment. U.S. citizens needing emergency assistance do not need an appointment. The Embassy will notify U.S. citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Visit the Embassy website to check the latest changes to Embassy hours or services.
For further information:
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Tunisia.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia located at North East Zone Berges du Lac, North of Tunis 2045 La Goulette, at +216 71 107 000, 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +216 71 107 000.
- Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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