US State Department issues global travel alert: What you should know

Citing an increase in terrorist threats, the US State Department has issued a rare worldwide travel alert.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Travelers check in at the American Airlines kiosks at the San Francisco International Airport Sunday, in San Francisco

The US State Department has issued a rare global travel alert for possible travel risks due to “increased terrorist threats.” 

While there is no specific threat in the United States, the department warned that people should be more vigilant after recent multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali.

In a message posted on its website, the State Department said: "Current information suggests that [Islamic State], Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions."

Noting that extremists have targeted “large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services,” the travel alert tells travelers to “exercise vigilance” while in public and “avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events."

While the government has regularly issued individual country travel alerts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, worldwide alerts are rare.

"Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of [Islamic State] return from Syria and Iraq," it said. "Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis."

The warning comes as the world grapples with the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured hundreds and a hotel siege in Mali in which 19 people died.

Meanwhile, Belgium’s capital Brussels spent much of the last few days in lockdown over fears of militant attacks.

The travel alert will remain in place until Feb. 24, 2016.

The advisory comes just as America's busiest travel week of the year gets under way. Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group for the airline industry projects that around 25.3 million expected to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday, the highest level since the 2008 economic downturn.

The full alert follows:

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. 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.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.  This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.

Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq.  Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.  In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali.  ISIL/Da’esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt. 

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.  Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places.  Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.  U.S. citizens should monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.  Persons with specific safety concerns should contact local law enforcement authorities who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country.  U.S. citizens should:

  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.  Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.  
  • Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
  • Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Foreign governments have taken action to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.  Authorities continue to conduct raids and disrupt terror plots.  We continue to work closely with our allies on the threat from international terrorism.  Information is routinely shared between the United States and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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