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Echoing Israel, US issues emergency warning of ‘credible threats’ in Turkey

US embassy urges tourists to avoid Istanbul, Antalya, day after Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau orders nationals out of country citing immediate terrorist danger

A Turkish policeman runs after an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on March 19, 2016. (AFP / Bulent KILIC)
A Turkish policeman runs after an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on March 19, 2016. (AFP / Bulent KILIC)

The United States embassy in Turkey on Saturday warned American citizens of “credible threats” to tourist areas in Istanbul and the resort city of Antalya, a day after Israel warned of “immediate risks” of attacks.

“The US Mission in Turkey would like to inform US citizens that there are credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya,” read the emergency travel warning published on its official website.

“Please exercise extreme caution if you are in the vicinity of such areas,” read the statement.

On Friday night, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a rare statement underlining a recent travel warning calling on Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey, and urging those currently there to leave as soon as possible.

“Following a situational assessment, we are reiterating and sharpening the high level of threat in Turkey,” Friday’s statement from the bureau said.

“Real and immediate terror threats remain throughout the country,” the statement continued, urging Israelis in Turkey to “avoid crowded tourist areas, follow instructions of local authorities and get out as soon as possible.”

The warning, which raised the terror risk in Turkey from level 2 (high concrete threat) to level 1 (highest concrete threat level), came following a terror attack in central Istanbul last month, in which three Israelis were killed and several others wounded. The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.

File: Emergency services inspecting the area following a suicide bombing in central Istanbul, Turkey, March 19, 2016. (Burak Kara/Getty Images via JTA)
File: Emergency services inspecting the area following a suicide bombing in central Istanbul, Turkey, March 19, 2016. (Burak Kara/Getty Images via JTA)

The Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, issued an initial travel warning in the wake of the attack, saying Islamic State terrorists in Turkey had “high capabilities” of carrying out further attacks against tourist targets.

The fresh alert stressed that the threat of jihadist attack was valid for the entire country, not just Istanbul or other major tourist attractions.

“There are immediate risks of attacks being carried out in the country, and we stress the threat applies to all tourism sites in Turkey,” Israel‘s counter terrorism bureau said.

Simha Dimri (L), 60, Yonathan Suher (C), 40, and Avraham Goldman (R), 69, the three Israelis who were killed in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, March 19, 2016. (Photos courtesy of the families/Facebook via JTA)
Simha Dimri (L), 60, Yonathan Suher (C), 40, and Avraham Goldman (R), 69, the three Israelis who were killed in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, March 19, 2016. (Photos courtesy of the families/Facebook via JTA)

Tens of thousands of Israelis visit nearby Turkey each year, despite strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

A Wednesday report on Channel 2 news said that despite the travel warning, over 110,000 Israelis were planning to vacation in Turkey during the upcoming Passover holiday.

IS has been blamed for four of six bombings that have rocked Turkey in the past eight months, including a double suicide attack at a peace rally in the capital, Ankara, in October that left 103 people dead.

A radical offshoot of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) claimed the other two attacks.

In the wake of the string of attacks, the US diplomatic corps in March ordered the families of American diplomats and military personnel to leave posts in southern Turkey over security concerns.

The travel warnings come amid heightened security concerns throughout Turkey due to the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

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