U.S. Issues Travel Alert For Europe Because of Threat of Terror Attacks
Concern that terror teams have selected targets, ready to strike.
Oct. 3, 2010— -- The State Department has issued a highly unusual travel advisory alerting Americans traveling to Europe of potential terror attacks.
"The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe," says the advisory. "Current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks."
While the advisory does not name potential targets, it says "U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure." It recommends that U.S. citizens "take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings" and register their travel plans on the State Department's travel registration web site.
The alert was issued because of strong concerns that terrorist teams in Europe have selected their targets and are now ready to strike at airports and tourist attractions, according to multiple law enforcement and intelligence sources.
Intelligence and law enforcement officials have information that the teams could at any time launch a "Mumbai style" terror attack that targets civilians for death or hostage taking. The 2008 Mumbai attack used small arms and explosives to kill 175 people and paralyze the Indian city for days.
The current concerns are for scenarios that include opening fire at airports in Europe as well as executing similar attacks at "soft" targets like tourist attractions or hotels.
According to ABC News sources, the terror plotters have moved through the surveillance stage, checked back in with Al Qaeda in Pakistan and have received the go-ahead to strike.
Officials said earlier that Osama bin Laden had approved or blessed the attack plan.
ABC first reported the threat of Mumbai-style attacks last week. Since then senior intelligence and law enforcement officials have continued high-level meetings to assess the intelligence and weigh the appropriate additional responses.
By Thursday afternoon the unusual travel alert became a topic for discussion.
European and U.S. authorities first learned of the plot over the summer following the capture of a suspected German terrorist who had been training in Pakistan.