American Travelers Are Warned: State Department Says Terror Groups Are Planning Attacks Worldwide
Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday crush at U.S. airports, the U.S. State Department issued a Worldwide Travel Alert late Monday afternoon.
The State Department warned of “increased terrorist threats” to travelers, saying its current information “suggests that ISIL” (also known as the Islamic State, ISIS and Da’esh), “al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.” The attacks, State added, could involve a wide variety of tactics and use either conventional or non-conventional weapons. And they could target either official government interests or those of private companies and individuals, or both.
The alert, which extends through Feb. 24, comes 11 days after the dramatic terrorist attacks carried out in multiple locations in Paris that killed 130 people, including at least one American. The men and at least one woman who carried out those attacks are believed by investigators and security experts to have been connected with ISIS.
Parts of France, particularly Paris, remain on high alert for possible follow-on terror attacks. And Brussels, Belgium, continues to be in a near-lockdown state while authorities search for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Moroccan-born man who is believed to be the only survivor of the 8-person team that carried out the attack in Paris. Some officials suspect that Abdeslam actually got cold feet and fled from Paris rather than participate in the attack. Brussels will remain on high alert at least through Monday, officials there say. Schools, which have been closed since late last week, are scheduled to re-open Monday, though that decision could be changed based on any further developments.
The State Department’s warning focuses mostly on risks to Americans outside the United States, but it pointedly did not limit the warning solely to Americans traveling abroad.
The agency said “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… 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 crowed 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,” agency said.
The warning is unlikely to have much impact on the number of American’s flying this week during the long Thanksgiving holiday period. Airlines already expect to fill more than 90% of their available seats during the holiday period, with nearly all of those tickets already having been sold and most being of the non-refundable discounted variety. Internationally, however, plenty of seats remain for sale over the holiday period, which because of its heavy focus on family gatherings typically creates a temporary reduction in demand for international flights.
But because the travel warning – and the news events to which it obviously is tied – extends to Feb. 24, there could be some impact on future travel demand both during the upcoming Christmas-New Year’s holiday travel period and during the non-holiday periods before and after Christmas and New Year’s. Tracking that impact, however, could prove difficult. The three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the six weeks between New Year’s and the Presidents’ Day holiday in February historically rank among the slowest demand periods for air travel. As a result, if demand trails off only a little during that time in response to the State Department’s warning it may be hard to detect from the airlines’ operational numbers, reported monthly.
This article was written by Dan Reed from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.