Days before the busiest travel days of the year, the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert cautioning Americans of the risk as “current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.”
“These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests,” the department said in the alert, which runs through Feb. 24.
“Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services. In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali. ISIL/Da’esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.”
The State Department warned that U.S. citizens “should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation,” “be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places,” and “exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.”
Consular services in Brussels will be closed on Tuesday as Belgium remains on high alert over concerns that Paris terrorist Salah Abdeslam returned to his native country and of associated ISIS cells or plots in the country.
The Embassy said it would only be open for U.S. citizen emergencies.
“The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that the current threat level remains at Level 4 (serious threat of immminent attack) for Brussels, and Level 3 (high) for the rest of the country,” said the message to American citizenship, which also noted that at Brussels National Airport screening passengers were being asked to turn on their electronic devices including cell phones.
Several messages for Americans to shelter in place were also issued throughout the weekend.
“We’re going to continue to provide updated security information to U.S. citizens as soon as it becomes available. And we are doing that via Facebook, Twitter,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters today. “We also strongly encourage U.S. citizens who are traveling or residing abroad in Belgium to enroll their travel plans using the smart traveler enrollment plan. That allows us to update everyone in real time.”
The State Department didn’t issue the travel alert until after the daily briefing with reporters.