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Twelve of the World's Most Dangerous Countries: A Very Brief Tour

Thinking of traveling abroad or just interested in what's really going on in the rest of the world? The U.S. Department of State issues warnings to let you know which countries you are best off avoiding (or leaving if you are already there) due to very dangerous conditions involving crime, terrorism, security, health and more.

What follows are 12 of the world's most dangerous countries as of May 2005, ranked by the date they were added to the list (most recent first), according to the Department of State. (Not included on this list containing explanations are countries whose danger status is well-known to most Americans, such as Iraq, though they are included in the second list.)


Terrorist groups around the world have made travel to certain countries extremely dangerous.

1. Haiti
Haiti is in the midst of a volatile security situation, including "the potential for spontaneous demonstrations and violent confrontations between armed groups." The main problem appears to be the lack of an effective police force in much of the country, which leaves a very high potential for:

  • Looting

  • Intermittent roadblocks set up by armed gangs or police

  • Random violent crime, including kidnapping, carjacking and assault

2. Nigeria
Nigeria's lack of law and order, combined with a high potential for violent crimes and fraudulent activity, make it highly unstable. Crimes are committed by regular criminals, as well as people in police and military uniforms, throughout the country. Kidnapping for ransom, particularly of people "associated with the petroleum sector," is common. Other dangers in the country include:

  • Isolated communal violence that erupts without warning due to religious tension between Muslim and Christian communities

  • Violence between rival ethnic groups

  • Road travel

    • Robberies by armed gangs on rural roads and those in major cities

    • Taxis, which may be run by criminals and vehicles may be unsafe

    • Roads may be poorly maintained

  • Nigerian airlines may be poorly maintained and "inadequate to ensure passenger safety"

  • Fee fraud and scams that target foreigners and pose great risk of financial loss

  • Senior al-Qaida leaders have expressed interest in overthrowing the Nigerian government, and links between Nigerians and al-Qaida were uncovered in 2004

3. Saudi Arabia
Terrorist activity directed against Americans is possible (even the United States Mission post in Saudi Arabia is unoccupied for this reason). Terrorist groups may target housing compounds and other areas where Westerners may be present, along with Saudi government facilities. Car bombs and armed assaults involving multiple gunmen have targeted these compounds, and terrorists have "used ambush attacks to kidnap and/or assassinate individual Westerners."

4. Indonesia
Violence and terrorist actions against Americans are possible throughout the country: "Attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against any location ... " Potential targets include those visited by foreigners and other "identifiably American" places including hotels, clubs, shopping centers, restaurants, housing compounds, transportation systems, places of worship, schools or public recreation events. Attacks against individual Americans are also possible.

Further, Americans have been advised to avoid traveling to northern parts of the island of Sumatra, particularly the province of Aceh, because of extensive damage caused by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami, much of which has yet to be restored.


Extremist groups in Yemen and other countries on this list may target Americans or American interests for kidnapping or other attacks.

5. Yemen
Terrorist activities in Yemen make the security threat high. Extremist individuals or groups may attack Americans or American facilities and businesses, particularly in crowds, hotels and restaurants, during demonstrations or while driving in urban centers.

6. Colombia
Violent activity by narcoterrorist groups and other criminals in urban, rural and border areas of the country are high. Americans could be victim to threats, kidnappings and other violence. Violence related to illegal drug trade is also high.

7. Lebanon
Terrorist attacks against Americans, particularly around areas where Westerners are known to frequent, remain high. Also, landmines and unexploded ordnance in south Lebanon and other areas remain a significant risk.

8. Central African Republic
In March 2003, rebel forces took over the government of the Central African Republic, and the group's leader named himself president. He remains in power today, and despite peaceful elections in March 2005, Americans could be at risk, particularly during public gatherings. Armed robberies along roads outside of the capitol have also been reported.

9. Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
Though terrorist attacks in Israel have declined, the threat of violence remains high. "Israeli security services report that they are investigating between 40 and 60 planned terrorist attacks at any given time." Many occur due to resentment against peace efforts and ongoing Israeli military operations. Further, the U.S. government has received information that American interests in Israel could be attacked. These include U.S. official buildings as well as restaurants, businesses, etc. Commercial and downtown areas, including shopping areas, public transportation of all kinds, pedestrian zones, as well as demonstrations, are also a major risk.

10. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)
Wide-scale civil unrest over the next several months may occur as a national elections schedule is implemented. Further, unofficial armed groups and active duty troops are responsible for "pillaging, vehicle thefts, carjackings, extra-judicial killings, rapes, kidnappings, ethnic tensions, and continued military/paramilitary operations." Other risks include:

  • Travelers to this country commonly experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, and may be temporarily detained or required to pay unofficial "special fees"

  • Sporadic attacks by uncontrolled militias in the rural eastern provinces continue

11. Pakistan
Terrorist activity directed against American citizens and interests remains a threat due to Al-Qaida and Taliban elements that operate in the country, along with indigenous sectarian and militant groups. Vulnerable targets include facilities where Americans congregate, such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events.

12. Kyrgyzstan
Clashes between pro-government and opposition forces, along with the resignation of some members of the Kyrgyz government, have made the country highly unstable and added to the potentially dangerous security situation for Americans. Further, increased activity of extremist groups in the area, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida, may be planning terrorist acts against U.S. government facilities, Americans or American interests. Neighboring areas have experienced suicide bombers and other terrorist tactics.

More Dangerous Countries?

The following countries are also part of the U.S. Department of State's Travel Warnings list. If you're looking for information on a country that's not listed here, or would like more information on one that is, the Department offers consular information sheets for every country in the world.

  • Philippines
  • Zimbabwe
  • Liberia
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Algeria
  • Libya
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Sudan
  • Burundi
  • Somalia
  • Kenya
  • Iran
  • Afghanistan
  • Nepal
  • Iraq


U.S. Department of State

Forbes: Most Dangerous Destinations 2005

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