The State Department issued an alert on Monday to US citizens traveling to Europe about a “heightened risk of terrorist attacks,” particularly over the holiday season. “Have an emergency plan of action ready,” the US urged according to NBC.
"Credible information indicates the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL the U.S. gov't acronym for ISIS or Da'esh), al-Qaeda, and their affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events," the travel advisory read.
The State Department urged travelers to avoid large crowds and exercise caution at tourist sites, festivals, large holiday events and outdoor markets. The notice 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 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.
A Dutch counterterrorism official warned last week that between 60 and 80 Islamic State operatives in Europe are preparing to carry out attacks 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.”
The end of the alert notes that "European authorities continue to conduct raids and disrupt terror," and the U.S. is working closely with European allies on the threat from international terrorism.
Earlier this year, terrorists carried out attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, and Turkey this year but the advisory warns of the potential for attacks throughout the continent. The State Department issued a similar alert in May warning that the larger number of tourists visiting Europe in summer months presented greater targets for potential terrorist attacks in public locations including, "major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation."
The advisory is set to expire at the end of February.