US issues warning over 'kidnap threat' at Machu Picchu

The US embassy in Peru has issued a warning to tourists of a "credible" threat that kidnappers could be targeting Americans in the area around the legendary Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Embassy personnel have been barred from any personal travel to the area around the southern city of Cusco, though the embassy in Lima expressed confidence in Peru's ability to protect foreign nationals.

"The embassy has received information that members of a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap US citizen tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area," it said in a statement.

"Possible targets and methods are not known and the threat is credible at least through the end of February 2013," it added, urging tourists to be extra vigilant and monitor local news stations for updates.

When contacted, embassy spokeswoman Leslie Goodman declined to offer more details about the origin of the threat or those thought to be behind it. She did say no kidnappings had been reported before the alert was issued.

An average of 3000 tourists each day come from all over the world to visit Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire, and the nearby citadel of Machu Picchu, according to local authorities.

Cusco is about 1100 kilometers southeast of the capital Lima.