Homeland Security

State Dept. Issues New Europe Travel Alert: 'Credible Information' Points to Holiday Attack Plots

An arrivals and departure board is seen behind blown-out windows after an ISIS attack at Zaventem Airport in Brussels on March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

The State Department issued a new travel alert for Europe today, warning American citizens about the potential for attacks particularly as the holiday season approaches.

The alert specifically noted that U.S. citizens “should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets.”

“Credible information indicates the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events,” the notice continued. “U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility that extremist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks during this period with little or no warning.”

“Terrorists may employ a wide variety of tactics, using both conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.”

ISIS’ Rumiyah magazine has been giving guidelines on different terror tactics in their first three issues, including choosing random victims such as teens playing sports in a park, conducting random knife attacks on gatherings or lone passers-by, and plowing a heavy vehicle into a parade or political rally crowd in the model of the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France.

Last month, soon after the offensive to retake Mosul was launched, U.S. officials warned that ISIS could stage a “spectacular attack” to draw attention away from their losses at the hands of the Iraq-led coalition. In a rare break from their usual propaganda last week, ISIS admitted losing a handful of districts in Mosul to Iraqi forces.

The commander for U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria also warned that “an external plot” for a terror attack was being fomented in Raqqa, ISIS’ capital in Syria.

Pressed on what that external threat could entail, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters last month that he didn’t want to discuss specific intelligence but “we actually aren’t sure how pressing it is, and that’s what’s worrying us.”

“So we’re not sure, we know they’re up to something. And it’s an external plot, we don’t know exactly where, we don’t know exactly when. You can understand this because you’ve been following these kinds of terrorist plots for a number of years, and we’re gonna try to hit if off,” he said.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula also recently published a new issue of their English-language Inspire magazine — the premiere DIY guide for lone jihadists — analyzing the Sept. 17 attacks on a race in New Jersey, a street in Manhattan and a shopping mall in Minnesota.

Al-Qaeda praised all of the operations as an “exceptional success” for achieving a goal of “reviving fear and terror at a time when successive American administrations lie to their people, convincing them that they have crushed ‘terrorist’ groups and disrupted their capabilities and therefore the American citizens live in a peace, safe and stable life.” The issue reviewed pressure-cooker bomb construction, locations and camouflage in order to cause the most harm.

The new State Department warning notes that “while extremists have carried out attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, and Turkey in the past year, the Department remains concerned about the potential for attacks throughout Europe.”

U.S. citizens are urged to check recent security messages from the U.S. Embassy in their destination city and “exercise vigilance when attending large holiday events, visiting tourist sites, using public transportation, and frequenting places of worship, restaurants, hotels, etc.”

The State Department issued an updated Turkey travel warning the day before June’s ISIS attack on the Istanbul airport.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, though, recently issued a travel alert for Turks coming to the United States, warning of post-election protests and “racists and xenophobic incidents.”

“Considering the risks, we advise our citizens living and traveling to U.S. to follow local media, to follow the warning of our embassy in Washington and American security forces, to stay away from protests, to increase their security in work space and to apply to local security when there is a racist or xenophobic attack while keeping calm,” the statement said.