Safety and Security
Bishkek is a large city of 1.1 million people. The greatest threats to tourists and travelers are traffic accidents and street crime. That said, the country continues to stabilize itself after the violence of 2010. Terrorism is an enduring threat, especially in the southern part of the country.
The Department of State suggests that U.S. citizens limit travel to the Batken Oblast where violence broke out several times in recent years. Ethnic, political, and socio-economic tensions continue to exist in southern Kyrgyzstan, including the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, the second and third largest cities in Kyrgyzstan, although there have been no widespread incidents of violence since 2010. As of December 2012, however, the immediate threat of violence appears to have subsided in the south, although ethnic, political, and socio-economic tensions continue to exist.
Travel of U.S. government employees to Batken is currently restricted. Land mines in Batken Oblast and near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border continue to be a concern. Areas along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik borders continue to have small, but sometimes violent and deadly, skirmishes between border guards on both sides, and often include civilians. Organized crime and narcotics trafficking are widespread in southern Kyrgyzstan.
In late 2010, Kyrgyz security forces carried out a series of operations against groups the government claims are Islamic extremists seeking to destabilize the country. These security operations resulted in the death or arrest of several suspects, and several members of the Kyrgyz security forces. These militants are blamed for carrying out a home invasion, planting a car bomb near a Bishkek police station, and detonating an improvised explosive device outside the venue of a large trial in downtown Bishkek resulting in some property damage and minor injuries.
In late November 2010, Kyrgyz Special Forces mounted an operation against suspected terrorists in Osh, resulting in the deaths of all four suspects and the wounding of two special-forces officers. In October 2012, the Kyrgyz government also arrested five individuals with alleged ties to terrorists and extremist groups. Additionally, Kyrgyz security officials found and confiscated large caches of weapons, including machine guns and explosive materials.
Though the situation is now relatively stable, demonstrations can break out without advance notice. During times of political unrest, demonstrators often gather in front of the Presidential Administration building (White House), the Parliament, and on Alatoo Square in Bishkek’s city center. The Embassy does not always have advance information regarding demonstrations. All U.S. citizens are reminded to avoid the vicinity of any protests, because even protests that are intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.