The US government has issued a heavily worded warning about travel to Northern Ireland amid a recent increase in terrorist activities.
The US Consulate in Belfast issued the warning after an attempted car bombing in the city in the lead-up to the busy Christmas shopping season.
The Consulate has also advised American citizens to ‘stay away’ from loyalist protests as they "often turn violent."
The Belfast Telegraph newspaper reports that the US consulate has warned that the threat of terrorism in Northern Ireland is severe and citizens intending to travel to Ulster should exercise vigilance.
A statement from the Consulate General said: “Throughout 2013, a number of protests in and around Belfast have been characterized by violence aimed primarily at the police.
“Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate in to violence. We recommend that US citizens avoid the areas where such demonstrations are occurring.”
The paper reports that the statement also warned innocent bystanders can get caught up in terrorist attacks.
The statement continued: “Most attempted attacks are aimed at law enforcement or military personnel or facilities, but there is risk to anyone in the vicinity of such an attack.
“We urge US citizens to maintain situational awareness and avoid any suspicious activity, vehicles, or packages.”
The statement continued: “The UK government and Police Service of Northern Ireland continue to assess the threat of terrorism in Northern Ireland to be severe.
“We recommend that US citizens avoid the areas where such demonstrations are occurring if possible, and, as always, exercise caution in the vicinity of any parades or protests.”
The warning was issued ahead of flag protests in Belfast city center this week which Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness claims are being organised by elements of the Loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force and the Orange Order.
McGuinness has urged the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party to recognize the potential damage it could cause according to the report.
The paper adds that the Sinn Fein representative also attacked dissident republicans, who he said tried to create mayhem in Belfast, despite having no support in the community.
He said: “I don’t have any doubt as to who’s organizing this parade. This parade is being organized by the UVF. And it is being supported by elements within the Orange Order.”
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