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South Africans travelling abroad urged to be vigilant in the wake of Bin Laden death

26 May 2011 Aon South Africa
Nico Bianco, Executive Head of Risk Consulting at Aon South Africa

Nico Bianco, Executive Head of Risk Consulting at Aon South Africa

Aon South Africa, leading risk manager and insurance brokerage has urged South Africans travelling abroad to take precautions following the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US forces.

According to Nico Bianco, Executive Head of Risk Consulting at Aon South Africa, Bin Laden’s death has raised the potential for terrorist attacks against western interests around the world and caused some western governments to issue travel security warnings and increase security at their embassies.

“The very nature of such an incident will certainly spur a desire to conduct reprisal attacks by the Jihadist community,” explains Bianco. “Travellers to high risk countries, particularly business travellers who travel frequently to countries where terrorism risks are high to extreme, need to be vigilant over the forthcoming period.”

Aon has identified a number of countries who are at risk from reprisal attacks, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, some European countries which support the US-led coalition on terror, including the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain and Italy, have further cause for concern as they already have elevated terrorism levels.

Other countries that face continued risks include Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Algeria, Mali and Mauritania as they have active and capable Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organisations. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have regional active Al-Qaeda affiliations. There is also the concern of unrest by radical Islamist activists in the above listed countries including Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and some Western countries.

Bianco says although overseas business meetings or holiday arrangements cannot be cancelled or postponed indefinitely, travellers can implement several measures to minimise exposure to an attack.

“Companies need to acknowledge the importance of their corporate responsibility and should invest in sending their employees to security awareness training seminars through certified risk management firms. Risk management companies address key methodologies that a traveller can implement while overseas, which allows them to formulate basic awareness skills from arrival to departure while being able to confidently carry out their tasks in-between. These may include choosing appropriate methods of transport; assessing safety measures at hotels; identifying suspicious behaviour, and the type of information one should not exchange with strangers.”

Aon suggests that employers and employees should implement a few strategies in order to forearm themselves:

· Research or obtain regular news briefs about the country being visited;

· Make use of accurate and up-to-date country risk analysis reports;

· Establish reliable local sources as driver’s and guides or translators;

· Make use of Close Protection services where necessary;

· Keep a low profile and limit your exposure to popular tourist hotspots frequented by westerners, such as bars and nightclubs;

· Avoid high profile areas such as western embassies, consulates and local government buildings;

· Implement a daily check-in service with a designated contact point. Have a contingency plan in place, such as an escalation process using local personnel and/or associates if the traveller becomes unreachable at the time of the scheduled check-in;

· Avoid areas where political gatherings take place;

· Never leave your luggage unattended or in the care of another person;

· Avoid using busy public transportation hubs;

· Keep on the move and avoid travelling at night;

· Be aware of suspicious behaviour and report unattended baggage to the authorities.

Bianco further explains; "If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut instinct and move away from the area. This is often a valuable asset that is often overlooked but can prove to be important when it comes to safeguarding oneself.

"South Africans generally have a heightened sense of awareness to their surroundings, being alert to the potential risks from criminal elements at home. However, we tend to drop our guard when visiting other countries where the perception exists that crime rates are likely lower. In this day and age we need to adopt a more intensive mindset and always keep a keen sense of awareness to our surroundings, particularly in regions where other serious forms of risks to personal well-being exist."

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