The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert on Tuesday, just days before the Thanksgiving holiday warning travelers of “increased terror threats” from ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other groups. The alert does not instruct Americans to avoid travel but does urge Americans to exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. The department said that terrorist attacks remain likely as ISIS members return from Iraq and Syria.
The state department alert warned that there’s a continued threat from unaffiliated people planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis,” pointing specifically to large sporting events, theaters, open markets and airlines. An “Alert” is time-limited, often for 90 days, at which it can be reviewed.
An alert is not necessarily stronger or weaker than a caution. The most recent worldwide travel alert was issued in December 2014, and prior to that in August 2013, September 2011, and May 2011. Last week, ISIS released a video making threats against New York City. The video showed Times Square, Herald Square and images of terrorists wearing suicide belts.
We understand it is the goal of terrorists to intimidate and disrupt our democratic society,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We will not submit. It’s crucial that people go about their normal business recognizing the NYPD is providing extraordinary protection for the people of this city.”
The warning is for short-term trips as U.S. citizens travel during the holiday season after the recent terrorist attacks in Mali, Egypt and France. The State Department said foreign fighters who went to Iraq and Syria to train in terrorist camps could soon start coming home.
The alert warns of potential lone wolf attacks, stating, “Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Daesh), al-Qaida, 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 U.S. State Department alert read. The State Department said the U.S. is exchanging information with allies about threats of international terrorism.
The travel alert was issued the same day that Belgium’s prime minister announced that Brussels would remain at the highest alert level for at least another week. The increased security measures following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people have virtually shut down the Belgian capital. State Department spokesman said Tuesday the point of the directive was not to discourage travel but to encourage Americans “to be very prudent, very vigilant.”
U.S. authorities note that there is no specific threat to transportation networks and that precautions to keep travelers safe are being stepped up. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs three of the nation’s busiest airports and other travel hubs, said its police force is on “heightened alert” at all facilities.