Apr 11 2019

Turkey included on U.S. kidnapping watch list

The U.S. State Department has added a new indicator to its travel advisories to flag the high risk of kidnapping in 35 countries around the world, including Turkey and many Middle Eastern and African states.

A “K” label will be added to some travel advisories to better communicate travel risks, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday, one day after President Donald Trump demanded the kidnappers of an American tourist in Uganda be brought to justice. A State Department official said the indicator did not reflect an increase in threat.

“The ‘K’ risk indicator makes it easier to see when there is a risk of kidnapping or hostage-taking to U.S. citizens traveling or living overseas,” the official said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The indicator joins others used in travel advisories, such as “T” for terrorism, “N” for natural disaster and “U” for civil unrest, according to WSJ.

Turkey has in recent years captured dozens of its own citizens abroad, and held several American citizens on criminal charges -- a practice some observers called "hostage diplomacy". Also on Tuesday, Senators Roger Wicker and Ben Cardin introduced a bill that would require the United States to impose sanctions on all senior Turkish officials responsible for what they called the wrongful detentions of U.S. citizens and staff.

The bill refers to American citizen and NASA scientist Serkan Gölge, who has been detained in Turkey for more than two-and-a-half years, as well as American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in Turkey for two years before his release last October.

The countries receiving the “K” label are Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine), Venezuela and Yemen.