Thursday, February 21, 2013

U.S. State Department Updates Worldwide Caution For U.S. Travelers

Jim Garamone at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 - State Department officials have issued an updated a worldwide caution for Americans traveling overseas.

"The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas," says the caution, published on the department's website Feb. 19.

Officials said the caution updates threats to Americans overseas since the last worldwide caution was issued in July.

Overall, al-Qaida, its affiliated organizations and other terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

"These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings," the caution says. "Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests."

Terrorists may target Americans at high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and other tourist destinations -- in reality, just about anywhere.

"U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure," the caution says.

Al-Qaida and unaffiliated people planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations, but conducted on an individual basis, are a threat in Europe, the State Department caution says, citing as an example the Feb. 1 bombing that killed a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and many other nations in the Middle East have extremists who wish Americans ill, the caution notes. Syria is an active war zone, and Turkey, Iraq and Jordan are receiving refugees from the country.

"No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings, sniper assaults, large and small-scale bombings, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention and torture," the caution says.

Northern Mali remains problematic, and the border area with Algeria is dangerous. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is active and operates throughout the region. Terrorists also have targeted oil processing plants in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Al-Qaida operatives and other extremists are believed to be operating in and around Africa, the caution says. Somalia, Sudan, Chad and other countries in the Sahel region have dangers.

"U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed attacks, robberies and kidnappings for ransom by pirates," the caution says. U.S. military officials said there has not been a pirate attack for months, but that the possibility still exists.

South Asia contains representatives from the U.S. State Department's terror list. Terrorists have launched vehicle-borne explosive attacks, improvised explosive device attacks, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings.

"Such attacks have occurred in a number of South Asian states, including Pakistan, where a number of extremist groups continue to target U.S. and other Western citizens and interests, and Pakistani government and military/law enforcement personnel," the caution says.

"India has experienced terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly," the caution says. "Terrorists have targeted public places in India frequented by Westerners, including luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas."

In Central Asia, many of the same terror groups that operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan maintain cells, and nationalist groups also pose risk.

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