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Pakistan targets US visitors for visa issues

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Washington – In a long and detailed Travel Warning, the State Department Monday said the number of U.S.

Washington – In a long and detailed Travel Warning, the State Department Monday said the number of U.S. citizens arrested, detained, and prosecuted for overstaying their visas in Pakistan this year has “increased markedly across the country.”

According to the report, Americans throughout Pakistan have been “arrested, deported, harassed, and detained for overstaying their Pakistani visas or for traveling to Pakistan with the inappropriate visa classification.”

The Travel Warning, updated from February 2, 2011, noted that Americans who try to renew or extend their visas while in Pakistan “have been left without legal status for an extended period of time and subjected to harassment or interrogation by local authorities.”

The stark warning continues to point to the threat to Americans from al Qaeda, Taliban and militant sectarian groups throughout Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s government has increased security measures, especially in the major cities, it said, terrorists focus on places where Westerners congregate, including shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events.

Terrorists, the State Department says, “have disguised themselves as Pakistani security personnel to gain access to targeted areas” and some Pakistani media reports recently have falsely identified U.S. diplomats, journalists and employees of Non-Government Organizations as spies or as private security personnel.

The Travel Warning includes a detailed list of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, the latest on May 20, when a U.S. consulate vehicle in Peshawar was attacked, killing one person and injuring twelve.

Travel by foreigners to a number of areas, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA,) is restricted and the Travel Warning cautions that U.S. embassy and consulate personnel sometimes are not able, because of security restrictions, to provide services for U.S. citizens.