In Amenas installation (undated photo)
In Amenas installation (undated photo)Reuters

The United States has issued a travel alert warning its citizens not to travel to Algeria following massive attack by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in which seven Americans were taken hostage.

On Saturday night, Washington issued a severe travel warning, reminding Americans there is a high risk of abduction and terrorism in Algeria at the present time. The U.S. government also authorized the families of State Department diplomatic staff to leave the country if they wish.

“While the Consular Section is open for public services, the Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens throughout Algeria is limited,” the State Department warned. Americans were urged to “evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety.... Although the major cities are heavily policed, attacks could still potentially take place,” the government noted. 

“The majority of terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur in areas of the country east and south of Algiers,” the statement noted. “The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid overland travel in Algeria.” Americans were advised to “take personal security measures to include stocking adequate reserves of medicine, food, and water for use during an emergency.”

The attack on an oil and gas installation in the southern Algerian town of In Amenas, involved a 30-member terror cell led by a former leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). 

It ended in a standoff after Algerian special ops forces raided the facility, located deep in the Sahara Desert,  in an attempt to rescue more than 40 hostages from approximately 10 different countries.

At least 32 hostages – among them at least one American -- and all 30 members of the terrorist cell were killed in the siege. 

Following the attack – and as a clear nod to the September 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats – the travel warning added a new paragraph. 

“The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned to Algiers sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under significant security restrictions,” the warning continued. “These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, the movement of U.S. Embassy officials and the provision of consular services in certain areas of the country... Daily movement of Embassy personnel in parts of Algiers is limited, and prudent security practices are required at all times. Travel by Embassy personnel within certain areas of the city requires coordination with the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Office.”