Washington, Feb 3(ANI): The United States has warned its citizens against travelling to Pakistan owing to militant threats, saying that terrorists have "disguised themselves as Pakistani security forces personnel to gain access to targeted areas."
"The presence of Al-Qaida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan," the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the US Department of State said in a statement.
Noting that the Pakistan Government had heightened security measures, particularly in major cities, it said 'threat reporting' indicated that terrorist groups "continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events."
"U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures and to maintain good situational awareness, particularly when visiting locations frequented by Westerners," it added.
While US citizens had been victims of attacks in the last few years, reports of religious intolerance had risen in 2010, said the travel warning, pointing out that members of minority communities, including a US citizen, were victims of targeted killings in Pakistan, and that there was also an increase in accusations of blasphemy against Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
It also warned US citizens against travelling to any restricted region without obtaining official permission by the Government of Pakistan in advance, as failure to do so 'can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities.'
The cautionary statement further said that "rallies, emonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout akistan on very short notice. Demonstrations have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character, and U.S. citizens are urged to avoid large gatherings."
"Local authorities are generally less responsive and do not operate with the level of professionalism that U.S. citizens may be accustomed to in the United States," the statement noted.
The Embassy reiterated its advice to all US citizens to take measures for their safety and security at all times. "These measures include maintaining good situational awareness, avoiding crowds, and keeping a low profile," it said.
In what seemed a reference to the double murder accused US diplomat Raymond Davis' case, it also said some media reports "have recently falsely identified U.S. diplomats - and to a lesser extent U.S. and other Western journalists and NGO workers as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel." (ANI)