The State Department has issued an alert to US citizens about a “heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe,” particularly during the holiday season. “Have an emergency plan of action ready,” officials say.
“US citizens should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets,” it said in a statement, adding that there was credible information that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates continued to plan attacks in Europe, “with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”
The State Department added that US 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.”
The Islamic State terrorist group is based mostly in Iraq and Syria, but has also expanded into Libya and Afghanistan. It has been linked to a number of high-profile attacks in large European cities over the past two years, most notably in Paris and Brussels.
The US State Department reminded citizens that extremists had carried out attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, and Turkey in the past year, saying it was particularly concerned about the potential for attacks across Europe.
“US citizens should exercise vigilance when attending large holiday events, visiting tourist sites, using public transportation, and frequenting places of worship, restaurants, hotels, etc.,” the statement stressed.
“Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds, when possible.”
“Have an emergency plan of action ready,” the State Department advised.
The travel alert expires on February 20, 2017.
Between 60 and 80 Islamic State operatives in Europe are preparing to carry out attacks, a Dutch counterterrorism official warned last week, adding that the terrorist group is asking its militants to forgo traveling to Syria or Iraq and take the fight to Europe instead.
There are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 European terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria, warned Dick Schoof, the Netherlands’ National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism, adding that “the chance of attack in the Netherlands is real.”