BEIRUT: The American Embassy in Lebanon warned U.S. citizens Sunday to avoid certain “Western-style” establishments and if possible to leave the country, citing heightened security concerns.
“Following recent bombings in Beirut and other instances of violence that have occurred in Lebanon in recent months, the U.S. government strongly urges U.S. citizens in Lebanon to exercise extreme caution and to avoid hotels, western-style shopping centers, including western-style grocery chain stores, and any public or social events where U.S. citizens normally congregate, as these sites are likely targets for terrorist attacks for at least the near term,” the statement read.
“The U.S. Embassy further urges all U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to safety and security concerns,” said the statement, which was also tweeted by the official embassy Twitter account.
“ U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks,” it continued. “The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers to provide emergency services may be limited.”
Sunday’s cautionary notice was more specific than general warnings issued in the past, but an embassy spokeswoman emphasized that the intention was to increase awareness, not induce panic.
“I can’t comment on specific intelligence,” she told The Daily Star. “We have very good relations with Lebanese security offices and we work together.”
“We do not say there is going to be an attack,” she said, adding that the statement was jointly drafted by the embassy in Beirut and the U.S. State Department.
Regarding the singling out of hotels and Western-style establishments, the spokeswoman said: “These are places where traditionally, U.S. citizens may congregate ... we want them to be vigilant when visiting these places.”
She said the statement reflected the unpredictable nature of recent violent attacks, including the bombing just over a week ago in Downtown Beirut, an area that, until recently, was considered relatively safe.
“We just want to make Americans aware that really, no place is off-limits,” she said.
The U.S. Embassy’s statement follows decisions by a number of countries, many of them in the Gulf, to renew or issue their own travel warnings. Over the weekend, the Kuwaiti Embassy called on its citizens to leave. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also asked their citizens to leave the country for their own safety.