U.S. bans travel from 8 southern African countries to curb security concerns

A new group of governments plans to restrict travel from eight southern African countries due to security concerns, the government said Thursday.

The directive, which won’t apply to U.S. citizens until later this year, will limit travel by citizens of Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland to only those countries for reasons of health, national security or political conditions.

The government says that travel by other citizens from the countries will be allowed for financial reasons and temporary mission trips. (Foreign employees of non-profit organizations and aid agencies may also apply for exceptions.)

The directive applies to citizens under 18 years old, those 65 years of age or older and U.S. citizens (unless an exception is issued).

The move comes amid increasing concerns about the use of terrorist groups in the region as an impetus for traveling. At a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, cited dangers from extremism and the rise of terror groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State as the primary reasons for his decision to travel to Africa later this year.

The Southern African Development Community, the region-wide regional organization, requested the U.S. government to consider a travel restriction on foreign nationals, and those eight countries were identified as the most hazardous.

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