State Department: Avoid Planet Earth, There Be Terrorists There

Al Qaeda may be up to something, so take no chances.

keep-calm-carry-on

Al Qaeda may be up to something, so take no chances.

YahooNews (“U.S. closes embassies, alerts Americans overseas to terrorist threats in August“):

The State Department on Friday put Americans worldwide on notice for possible terrorist threats, citing the Middle East and North Africa as particular danger spots and suggesting strikes could take place or originate in the Arabian Peninsula.

The department also confirmed a list of 21 diplomatic missions across the Middle East, North Africa and reaching as far as Afghanistan that will be closed on Sunday — President Barack Obama’s birthday — because of a credible security threat

“Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the department warned.

The diplomatic missions affected include those in Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Amman, Jordan; Muscat, Oman; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Algiers, Algeria; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Sana’a, Yemen; Djibouti; Doha, Qatar; Khartoum, Sudan; Nouakchott, Mauritania; and Tripoli, Libya. American diplomatic posts in Israel also will be closed.

Consulates in Dharan and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as well as a consulate in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Erbil, Iraq, also will close.

Sunday is a regular workday in Muslim countries, as well as in Israel.

The alert issued Friday warns that “terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services.”

The department said “U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling” but did not specify what those measures should be.

Keep panicked and carry on.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. rodney dill says:

    Mostly harmless

  2. mantis says:

    That’s some real insightful commentary, James.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: I’ve written on the topic at length over the years. The bottom line is that warnings this broad are useless. What, exactly, do we know from this warning that we didn’t know yesterday? That there are terrorists in the Middle East?

  4. Jeremy R says:

    @James Joyner:

    What, exactly, do we know from this warning that we didn’t know yesterday?

    Isn’t it essentially, we’re seeing a lot of chatter around this time-frame, so do with this information as you will, but you may not want to be adventurous and take an unnecessary risks when traveling?

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Jeremy R: But why would any American travel unnecessarily to the Middle East at this point in time? The region is in a state of virtual civil war even apart from the terrorist threat.

    I’m treating this with bemusement rather than anger, since I get that State is screwed here either way: If something happens and they didn’t make some attempt to warn us, people would be screaming bloody murder. In the more likely event nothing happens, they’ll be accused of crying wolf. But there doesn’t appear to be anything useful here, either.

  6. anjin-san says:

    I knew Obama was mixed up in time travel…

  7. Electroman says:

    @James Joyner: I seriously considered going to Istanbul for a vacation this month – it’s one of my favorite cities. Nutty? Maybe. Florida won out, though.

  8. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    What, exactly, do we know from this warning that we didn’t know yesterday?

    We know they are closing facilities on a specific day in specific cities. That suggests they have at least some idea of a planned attack or attacks. I would want to know if I was traveling in the area.

    But why would any American travel unnecessarily to the Middle East at this point in time?

    Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because they have business in those countries? You do realize a fair number of Americans regularly travel to the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries on that list, right?

  9. Lounsbury says:

    Mate, I live out here. The region is not in a state of civil war. A few specific countries have issues. American diplo pants wetting though is boring. The breathless emails I get from the naive newcomer American brethren out here are no longer funny. Luckily most realise after ~2 yrs that these announcements are pure US diplo ass covering, best understood “Be warned, foreigners are scary, oft do not understand English even when bellowed. Please do try not to get killed, terrible paperwork involved.”

    Of course the absurd hysteria over Benghazi does incentise this silliness

  10. rudderpedals says:

    @Electroman: You can find your Aegean fix here, albeit from the Greek side. Take an afternoon in New Port Richey with the sponge fishermen? They may not be around much longer 🙁

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I can answer that hypothetical. My wife and I are supposed to fly to the Emirates later in the year to do a book thing. Would this warning maybe convince me to stay home? Maybe not, since they’re plumping for Business Class on Emirates. But if I was to be in coach, hell yes.

    To be serious there are marginal trips like that, and we may elect not to go, or to not bring our kids, etc…

  12. Jeremy R says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/world/middleeast/qaeda-messages-prompt-us-terror-warning.html

    The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

    The intercepts and a subsequent analysis of them by American intelligence agencies prompted the United States to issue an unusual global travel alert to American citizens on Friday, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks by operatives of Al Qaeda and their associates beginning Sunday through the end of August.

    It is unusual for the United States to come across discussions among senior Qaeda operatives about operational planning — through informants, intercepted e-mails or eavesdropping on cellphone calls. So when the high-level intercepts were collected and analyzed this week, senior officials at the C.I.A., State Department and White House immediately seized on their significance. Members of Congress have been provided classified briefings on the matter, officials said Friday.

    “This was a lot more than the usual chatter,” said one senior American official who had been briefed on the information but would not provide details. Spokesmen for the State Department and the C.I.A. also declined to comment on the intercepts.

    The importance of the intercepts was underscored by a speech that the Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, posted on jihadist forums on Tuesday. In his address, Mr. Zawahri called for attacks on American interests in response to its military actions in the Muslim world and American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors statements by jihadists.

  13. bill says:

    @Electroman: good for you, Florida needs the tourist dollars more than ever- what with stevie wonder boycotting the state and all!