United States withdraws staff from Lahore consulate
Washington: The US today evacuated all non-emergency staff from its consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore, citing specific terrorist threat against the facility.
It also issued a travel warning advising all citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Pakistan amid a worldwide alert over Al-Qaeda intercepts.
"Today, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency US Government personnel from our Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan. We are undertaking this drawdown due to concerns about credible threat information specific to the US Consulate in Lahore," a senior State Department official told PTI.
As such, the State Department is taking appropriate steps to protect its employees and others who may be visiting its facilities, the official said on condition of anonymity as the US issued an updated travel warning for Pakistan.
Noting that the presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups pose a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan, the travel advisory asked them to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.
US citizens remaining in Lahore despite the travel warning previously in effect should limit non-essential travel within the country, be aware of their surroundings whether in their residences or moving about, make their own contingency emergency plans, enrol their presence in Pakistan through the Smart Traveller Enrolment Program (STEP), the Senior State Department Official said.
According to the travel warning, across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets.
"Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities," the travel warning said.
"Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where US citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom," it said.
Most of al Qaeda's core leadership is believed to reside in Pakistan, and the city of Lahore is home to other extremists sympathetic to the group. Lahore is well-known as a base for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States.