The U.S. government is telling Americans to be vigilant while traveling abroad due to the threat of possible terrorist attacks. The warning comes as many Americans are preparing to travel for the holidays.
For the first time in about a year, the State Department on Monday issued an alert for worldwide travel. The department noted that information points to possible attacks in many regions by different groups, including ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, and by individuals inspired by recent events. The alert is in place until Feb. 24, 2016.
Brussels remains on lockdown due to an imminent terrorist threat following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and an assault on a hotel in Mali a week later that left at least 19 people dead. ISIS also has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 31 bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.
The State Department said travelers should be cautious in public places and on public transportation and should avoid large crowds and crowded places. It noted that recent attacks had targeted big sporting events, theaters, open markets and airlines. The department offers the following tips for U.S. travelers:
- Follow instructions from local authorities. Remain informed by monitoring local media and other information sources and change your plans accordingly.
- Be ready to go through more security screening and expect possible disruptions.
- Make sure your family knows how to get in touch with you while you’re traveling.
- Consider enrolling in the department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It allows travelers to file their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy and Consulate and receive relevant safety information during your trip. It also allows the U.S. and your family to contact you during an emergency.
The department issues an alert for short-term events that travelers should consider when planning their trips. It has issued only four worldwide travel alerts previously in May 2011, September 2011, August 2013 and December 2014. The department will issue a warning, which is a higher level, when it believes U.S. citizens should avoid the country altogether due to civil war, unstable governments or ongoing violence or crime. Travel warnings issued this month cover North Korea, Afghanistan, Kenya, Chad and Burundi.
More than 4.7 million Americans traveled overseas (excluding to Canada and Mexico) in November and December last year, with 31 percent traveling to Europe.