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US State Department advice on travel in Turkey
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The Independent Online
For years, urban and rural acts of terrorism throughout Turkey have caused loss of life and injury to government officials, civilians and some foreign tourists. While most incidents have occurred in eastern Turkey, one terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claims to target tourist sites and tourist-oriented facilities in western Turkey as well, in an effort to inflict economic harm on the country.

In 1994, PKK bomb attacks at some of Istanbul's most popular tourist attractions, including St Sophia and the covered bazaar, resulted in the death of two foreign tourists. In August 1995, several bombings in Istanbul resulted in two deaths and 36 injuries. Due to PKK bombings on local inter-city buses, travellers may be subject to security baggage-screening by the Turkish National Police.

Terrorist acts by the PKK continue throughout the eastern provinces. These attacks are against not only Turkish police and military installations, but also civilian targets, including public ground transport. Most attacks have been at night, but daytime incidents do occur. The PKK has kidnapped foreigners in eastern Turkey to generate media attention for their separatist cause. A number of foreigners, including Americans, have been held by the PKK and eventually released. In 1995, Mount Ararat was declared a special military zone; access is now prohibited.

The following provinces in the south-eastern part of the country have been under a state of emergency since 1978: Van, Hakkari, Sirnak, Batman, Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Siirt, Bitlis, and Bingol. The provinces of Elazig, Mus and Mardin are considered "sensitive areas", and are designated one level below "state of emergency" status.

Travellers are cautioned not to accept letters, parcels or other items from strangers for delivery to the above areas. The same advice applies to requests to take items from those areas. There are indications that the PKK terrorist group has attempted to use foreigners for this purpose. If discovered, individuals could be arrested for aiding and abetting the PKK - a serious charge.

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