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Add the popular resort destination of Jamaica to the list of troubled hot spots around the world that the U.S. Department of State warns citizens to avoid.

The department has issued a travel alert -- one step down from a full travel warning -- advising against travel to Kingston, Jamaica, and surrounding areas because of escalating violence in the country.

With thousands of heavily armed police and soldiers clashing with defenders of a gang leader sought by the United States, access to the Norman Manley International Airport has been blocked on an intermittent basis, the alert said. Some flights have been canceled.

"The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area," the State Department said. The government has canceled official travel into Kingston, and warned U.S citizens in the country to monitor local news and radio reports before leaving their homes or hotels.

The offices of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston were closed last week. Only essential staff were told to report to work.

Americans planning on traveling to Jamaica should contact their air carriers regarding flight status.

Updated information will be posted on the the U.S. Embassy's Web site at kingston.usembassy.gov and the U.S. Department of State's travel Web site at www.travel.state.gov. Travelers can also obtain information on security conditions by calling 888-407-4747.