US orders families of embassy employees to depart Nigeria due to heightened risk of terrorism

The content originally appeared on: CNN

Abuja, Nigeria
CNN

The State Department has ordered non-emergency US embassy employees and their family members in Abuja, Nigeria to leave the country “due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks there.”

The department also issued a “Level 3” travel advisory for the entire country, urging: “Reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime.”

Earlier this week, the State Department authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members, having earlier warned of planned terror attacks in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

“Targets may include, but are not limited to, government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations,” its October 23 advisory said of the alleged plots.

In an updated travel advisory issued Thursday, the State Department flagged 15 other Nigerian states in its “Do Not Travel” list due to risks ranging from terrorism to kidnapping and criminal activities perpetrated at sea.

In a similar advisory to British nationals, the UK government advised against nonessential travel to the Nigerian capital, while warning against all travel to 12 Nigerian states.

A popular Abuja mall closed its doors Thursday for the protection of staff and customers, its management said, adding that it was reviewing the security situation in consultation with authorities.

Nigeria’s police chief, Usman Alkali Baba, said there were “no imminent threats” in the country’s Federal Capital Territory.

“The Inspector General of Police, therefore, allays the fear of residents in the FCT and admonishes them to go about their lawful businesses and normal social lives/engagements as all hands are on deck to nip any security threat in the bud and respond to distress calls promptly,” a statement by his office said Thursday.

“The IGP similarly reiterates the commitment of the Nigeria Police to eliminating all threats, as well as protection of lives and property of all residents of the country,” the statement added.

Insurgency has remained rife in northeastern Nigeria, even as the country also struggles to contain motorbike riding gangs known locally as ‘bandits’ who carry out deadly attacks on communities in the northwestern region.

Nigeria also grapples with widespread kidnappings for ransom and maritime crimes in its southern region.

Hundreds of prisoners were broken free in a prison raid in the country’s capital in July. According to authorities, all inmates linked to Boko Haram escaped during the attack.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the raid.