WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Wednesday restricted U.S. service members’ travel to five West African countries, citing recent militant attacks in the region, U.S. defense officials said.
The order limits unofficial travel by U.S. military personnel to Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Ghana, the officials said.
“It’s just increased vigilance given the recent events that have happened in that area of the world,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command.
Gunmen on Sunday killed 19 people at a beachside resort in Ivory Coast. The attack was claimed by al Qaeda’s North African branch, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. [nL5N16N595]
The same group said it was behind a January attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, that killed 29 people as well as a November hotel siege in Mali.
U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the order remains in effect until June 30, and does not restrict official travel to the countries involved.
“Given the recent attacks in western Africa, we felt it prudent to make this decision at this time in an effort to ensure the safety of our personnel,” Baldanza said.
U.S. Africa Command has between 1,000 and 1,200 forces on the continent at any one time, mostly in training and support roles to help local security forces combat militants.
Editing by G Crosse