The U.S. State Department has ordered civilian family members of the consulate staff in Istanbul to leave Turkey entirely, due to escalating terrorist threats.
“The warning goes beyond the one issued Monday that urged Americans to avoid traveling to southeast Turkey, especially urban centers near the Turkish-Syrian border, because of recent terrorist attacks,” CNN reports.
The new State Department warning, issued on Saturday, says the decision was made “based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.”
The State Department notes that Ankara’s governor has banned all demonstrations in his province until November 30.
The State Department reports:
The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing state of emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey. Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue.
“Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey,” the statement continues:
In the past year, extremists have carried out attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Mali, Bangladesh, Tunisia, and Turkey. Additional attacks in Turkey at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship, and transportation hubs, including aviation services, metros, buses, bridges, bus terminals and sea transport, could occur. Extremists have also threatened to kidnap and assassinate Westerners and U.S. citizens.
This long list of concerns makes it unclear, probably by design, whether the U.S. government is most concerned about ISIS, the Kurdish separatists of the PKK, or even the Turkish government, which is still cracking down on accused supporters of the aborted coup in July.
The statement from State includes assurances that the U.S. consulate in Istanbul will remain open.
Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday over the decision to remove family members from the consulate.
According to this report, Kerry “shared information with Cavusoglu on why such a decision has been taken,” and it had something to do with threats from the Islamic State.