WASHINGTON — The State Department updated its worldwide caution for U.S. travelers Thursday, stressing that terrorists “are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack to more effectively target crowds, including the use of edged weapons, pistols, and vehicles as weapons” against soft, especially vulnerable targets.
The department has had the worldwide caution in place for a couple of years now, updating it on a regular basis to reflect current threats. Just before Thanksgiving 2015, the worldwide caution warned “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” especially as foreign fighters returned home from Syria and Iraq.
The flow of foreign fighters has slowed to a trickle as ISIS loses its physical caliphate territory. The State Department warns in the new caution that “terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, their associates, and those inspired by such organizations, are intent on attacking U.S. citizens wherever they are.”
Soft targets named as possible sites for an attack include “high-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.), hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, parks, shopping malls and markets, tourism infrastructure, public transportation systems, airports.”
“In multiple regions, terrorists, guerrilla groups, and criminals seek to kidnap U.S. citizens to finance their operations or for political purposes,” the caution adds. “The Department also remains concerned that terrorists could again seek to down aircraft using concealed explosives or hijack commercial flights.”
“Private U.S. citizens should not travel to any country to participate in armed conflict. U.S. citizens are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations can constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a serious crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines.”
The caution notes the risk of Islamic terror attacks in West Africa and countries bordering Somalia, as well as the Middle East and North Africa all the way to South and Central Asia. Travelers are urged to check specific country advisories before planning a trip.
“Terrorist groups continue to plot attacks in Europe as foreign fighters return home from Syria and Iraq, while other individuals may be radicalized or inspired by ISIS propaganda,” the State Department says. “European authorities continue to warn of additional attacks on major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship, and the transportation sector, frequently prompting heightened security at notable public venues and coordinated counterterrorism operations.”