The US State Department has added a new indicator to its travel advisories to flag the high risk of kidnapping in 35 countries around the world, including Turkey and many Middle Eastern and African nations.
A “K” label will be added to some travel advisories to better communicate travel risks, the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday, one day after President Donald Trump demanded that the kidnappers of an American tourist in Uganda be brought to justice.
A State Department official said the indicator did not reflect an increase in threat.
“The ‘K’ risk indicator makes it easier to see when there is a risk of kidnapping or hostage-taking to US citizens traveling or living overseas,” the official said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The indicator joins others used in travel advisories, such as “T” for terrorism, “N” for natural disaster and “U” for civil unrest, the WSJ said.
Turkey has in recent years captured dozens of its own citizens abroad and held several American citizens on criminal charges — a practice some observers have called “hostage diplomacy.”
On Tuesday Senators Roger Wicker and Ben Cardin introduced a bill that would require that the United States impose sanctions on all senior Turkish officials responsible for what they called the wrongful detention of US citizens and local consulate staff.
The bill refers to dual Turkish-American citizen and NASA scientist Serkan Gölge, who was convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organization earlier this year and sentenced to seven years, six months in prison.
US pastor Andrew Brunson was among those jailed in the aftermath of the coup. He was released last October.
“While the Turkish government made a step in the right direction with the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson last October, more needs to be done for Turkey to show good faith and act like a NATO ally,” said Republican Senator Thom Tillis, one of six original sponsors of Tuesday’s bill.
The countries receiving the “K” label are Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine), Venezuela and Yemen.