Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
Worldwide Caution

Worldwide Caution

April 11, 2014

 

The Department of State has issued this Worldwide
Caution to update information on the continuing threat of
terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and
interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens are reminded
to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take
appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated September 25,
2013, to provide updated information on security threats
and terrorist activities worldwide.
 
The Department of State remains concerned about the
continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and
other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests
overseas. Kidnappings and hostage events involving U.S.
citizens have become increasingly prevalent as al Qa`ida
and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance
their operations through kidnapping for ransom
operations. Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and
al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly
effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom
money to fund the range of their activities. Kidnapping
targets are usually Western citizens from governments or
third parties that have established a pattern of paying
ransoms for the release of individuals in custody. Current
information suggests that al-Qa'ida, its affiliated
organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan
and encourage kidnappings of U.S. citizens and Westerners.
U.S. citizens should closely monitor Travel Warnings and
Alerts, as well as Country Specific Information, on the
Department of State's travel website to review the latest
safety and security information for destination countries.
 
Information also suggests that al-Qa'ida and its
affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist
attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions,
including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics
including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings,
hijackings, and bombings.
 
Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-
conventional weapons, and target both official and private
interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile
sporting events, residential areas, business offices,
hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools,
public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist
destinations both in the United States and abroad where
U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during
holidays.
 
In early August 2013, the Department of State
instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain
closed or to suspend operations August 4 through August 10
because of security information received. The U.S.
government took these precautionary steps out of an
abundance of caution and care for our employees and others
who may have planned to visit our installations.
 
U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for
terrorists to attack public transportation systems and
other tourist infrastructure. Extremists have targeted and
attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation,
and maritime services. In the past, these types of attacks
have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid,
Glasgow, and New York City.
 
EUROPE: Current information suggests that al-Qa'ida,
its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups
continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. and
Western interests in Europe. Additionally, there is a
continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons
planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations
but conducted on an individual basis.  In the past several
years, organized extremist attacks have been planned or
carried out in various European countries. In October 2013
and twice in December 2013, suicide bombers targeted mass
transportation in Volgograd, Russia, killing at least 70
people. In May 2013, in London, two Islamic extremists,
unaffiliated with any group, killed a British soldier.
The reported reason for the attack was to avenge the
deaths of Muslims killed by British soldiers. On February
1, 2013, an individual detonated a bomb at a side entrance
to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, killing one Embassy guard
and injuring others. The Revolutionary People's Liberation
Party/Front (Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi/Cephesi or
DHKP/C) claimed responsibility on its website for the
attack. The DHKP/C has stated its intention to commit
further attacks against the United States, NATO, and
Turkey. European governments have taken action to guard
against terrorist attacks, and some have made official
declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.
 
MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA: Credible information
indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks
against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North
Africa. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about
possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities,
businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.
Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen,
including al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Security threat levels remain high in Yemen due to
terrorist activities and civil unrest.
 
A number of extremist groups operate in Lebanon. As a
result of spillover violence from the Syria crisis, Sunni
groups are active and Hizballah, a group designated by the
U.S. government as a terrorist organization, is also
present. Sunni extremists have escalated the frequency and
scope of indiscriminate bombings and small arms attacks
against Lebanese Shia targets in Beirut, in addition to
other locations throughout the country including Hermel
and Arsal in eastern Lebanon. Other incidents, sometimes
attributed to sectarian retaliatory actions, have occurred
along the coast in Sidon and in Tripoli in northern
Lebanon. Many of the attacks have targeted specific
individuals or venues, but in all cases have resulted in
death and harm to passersby in the vicinity. Although
there is no evidence these attacks were directed
specifically at U.S. citizens at this time, there is a
real possibility of "wrong place, wrong time" harm to U.S.
citizens. On February 19, twin suicide car bombings
targeting the Iranian Cultural Center in a southern Beirut
suburb killed at least seven people and wounded over 128
others. The al-Qa'ida-linked Abdallah Azzam Brigades
claimed responsibility for the attack. The same group also
claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing on
November 19, 2013 that targeted the Iranian Embassy in
south Beirut, which left at least 25 dead, and 150
injured. On December 27, 2013, a car bomb in downtown
Beirut killed former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah, and
seven others, while injuring more than 70.
 
Iraq is experiencing levels of violence not seen since
2007, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL,
formerly known as al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI)), is
increasingly resurgent. Although U.S. interests have not
been targeted directly, the threat of attacks against U.S.
citizens, including kidnapping and terrorist violence,
continues, even in Baghdad's International Zone.  Bahrain
continues to see bouts of sectarian violence, with Shi'a
insurgents conducting increasingly lethal IED attacks
against Bahraini Government targets to include facilities
and security forces. Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic
Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates are active throughout
North Africa. In Algeria, terrorists sporadically attack
Westerners and Algerian government targets, particularly
in the Kabylie region, and near Algeria's borders with
Libya and Mali. Terrorists have targeted oil processing
plants in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In Libya,
various groups have called for attacks against U.S.
citizens and U.S. interests. For instance, in October and
December 2013, extremist groups in Libya made specific
threats against U.S. government officials and U.S. non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Libya.
Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially
U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S.
government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that
they may be targeted by extremist groups seeking to injure
or kill U.S. citizens, and should act accordingly with
extreme caution. In addition, on December 5, 2013, a U.S.
citizen teacher resident in Benghazi was killed in a
drive-by shooting near his home.
 
Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United
States. U.S. citizens should remain cautious and be aware
that there may be a more aggressive focus by the Iranian
government on terrorist activity against U.S citizens.
Continuing political and social unrest in Egypt has led to
large demonstrations that have turned violent.
 
No part of Syria should be considered immune from
violence, and throughout the country the potential exists
for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings,
sniper assaults, large and small-scale bombings, and
chemical attacks, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention,
and torture. There is also a threat from terrorism,
including groups like ISIL and al-Nusrah Front as well as
other extremist groups.  Tactics for these groups include
the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, use of small and
heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices in major city
centers, including: Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs,
Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. Public places, such as government
buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, have been
targeted. Since the start of the uprising against Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad's regime in March 2011, the
United States has received reports of 256 foreigners
kidnapped in Syria, 80 of whom are still in captivity.
The majority of the victims are journalists and aid
workers.
 
AFRICA: A number of al-Qa'ida operatives and other
extremists are believed to be operating in and around
Africa. In February 2012, the emir of U.S-designated
Foreign Terrorist Organization al-Shabaab and al-Qa'ida's
leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced the alliance of the
two organizations. Al-Shabaab has taken credit for the
attack on the shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya on September
21, 2013, which claimed the lives of over 60 people and
injured over a hundred more, including U.S. citizens. In
the past year and a half, there have been numerous other
attacks involving shootings, grenades, or explosive
devices in Kenya. Over 100 people died in these attacks,
and more than 200 people were injured.  No U.S. citizens
were among the casualties. Fourteen grenade and improvised
explosive device (IED) attacks have occurred in Nairobi,
illustrating an increase in the number of attacks and an
advance in the sophistication of attacks.
 
Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage
taking, and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated
areas are also frequent in Somalia. Terrorist operatives
and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent
to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in
Somalia, and non-military targets such as international
donor offices and humanitarian assistance providers.
Additionally, the terrorist group al-Qa'ida in the Lands
of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has declared its intention
to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (an area
that stretches across the African continent between the
Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea to include Senegal, Mali,
Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea). It has claimed
responsibility for kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, and
the murder of several Westerners throughout the region,
including southern Algeria. Violent extremist elements
including, but not limited to Ansar al-Dine, the Movement
for Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO), al-Qaida in the Lands of
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and extremists tied to the newly
formed al-Murabitun, remain active in the region. AQIM-
related threats against Westerners in Mali and elsewhere
increased following the initiation of the U.S.-supported,
French-led intervention in northern and central Mali,
where the security environment remains fluid. In
neighboring Niger, terrorists formerly associated with
AQIM conducted suicide attacks targeting a French mining
facility and a Nigerien military compound in Agadez in
late May of 2013.
 
The loosely organized group of factions known as Boko
Haram continues to carry out significant improvised
explosive device and suicide bombings in northern Nigeria,
mainly targeting government forces and innocent civilians.
Boko Haram and splinter group Ansaru have also claimed
responsibility for the kidnappings of several Western
workers and tourists, both in northern Nigeria and
northern Cameroon; Ansaru has murdered virtually all of
its hostages in the face of real or perceived rescue
attempts, while Boko Haram allegedly received a large
ransom payment for the release of a French family abducted
near a tourist park in northern Cameroon. Late 2013 saw an
increase in Boko Haram attacks and clashes with Nigerian
government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram
has also targeted women and children for kidnapping,
reportedly kidnapping women in northern states for
marriage as "slave brides." Boko Haram is known to descend
on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking
police and military installations, and setting fire to
private homes. In 2013, extremists have also targeted both
Nigerians and foreign nationals involved in polio
eradication efforts in northern Nigeria. Extremists
attacked a school in northeast Nigeria, killing over 40
students, and have called for further attacks on
educational institutions. Several agencies that have
partnered with the U.S. government in the field of public
health development in northern Nigeria have curtailed
their activities in response to these threats. The
president of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in
three northeastern states in response to activities of
extremist groups.
 
U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn
of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, or in the southern Red Sea
should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed
attacks, robberies, and kidnappings for ransom by pirates.
The threat of hijacking to merchant vessels continues to
exist in Somali territorial waters and as far as 1,000
nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya
in international waters. There has also been a recent rise
in piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea,
including hijackings.
 
U.S. government maritime authorities advise mariners
to avoid the port of Mogadishu and to remain at least 200
nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. In addition, when
transiting around the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea,
or in the Red Sea, it is strongly recommended that vessels
travel in convoys and maintain good communications at all
times. U.S. citizens traveling on commercial passenger
vessels should consult with the shipping or cruise ship
company regarding precautions that will be taken to avoid
hijacking incidents. Commercial vessels should review the
Department of Transportation Maritime Administration's
Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime
advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in
the region. Review our International Maritime Piracy Fact
Sheet for information on piracy in the southern Red Sea,
the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean.
 
SOUTH ASIA: The U.S. government continues to receive
information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also
be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S.
government facilities, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests.
The presence of al-Qa'ida, Taliban elements, Lashkar-e-
Tayyiba, indigenous sectarian groups, and other terror
organizations, many of which are on the U.S. government's
list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, poses
a potential danger to U.S. citizens in the region.
Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their
willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S.
citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.
Their actions may include, but are not limited to,
vehicle-borne explosive attacks, improvised explosive
device attacks, assassinations, carjackings, rocket
attacks, assaults, or kidnappings.
 
Such attacks have occurred in a number of South Asian
states, including Pakistan, where a number of extremist
groups continue to target U.S. and other Western citizens
and interests, and Pakistani government and military/law
enforcement personnel.  Suicide bombing attacks continue
to occur throughout the country on a regular basis, often
targeting government authorities such as police
checkpoints and military installations, as well as public
areas such as mosques, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens
are increasingly targeted for kidnapping.  No part of
Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and
throughout the country the potential exists for hostile
acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other
Western nationals at any time. Elements of the Taliban and
the al-Qa'ida terrorist network, as well as other
insurgent groups hostile to the Government of the Islamic
Republic of Afghanistan, remain active. Insurgents
continue to target various U.S. and Afghan government
facilities, including a sophisticated, multiple-explosives
and small-arms assault against the U.S. Consulate in Herat
which killed two security guards and injured another 20 in
September 2013. Insurgents also are increasingly targeting
U.S. and foreign security convoys traveling in Kabul. In
early February 2014, a lone vehicle borne improvised
explosive device detonated in close proximity to a U.S.
security convoy, killing three civilian contractors. There
is an ongoing threat of kidnapping and assassination of
U.S. citizens and non-governmental organization (NGO)
workers throughout the country.
 
India has experienced terrorist and insurgent
activities that may affect U.S. citizens directly or
indirectly. Anti-Western terrorist groups, some of which
are on the U.S. government's list of designated Foreign
Terrorist Organizations, have been active in India,
including Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-
Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen,
Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e
Tayyiba. Terrorists have targeted public places in India
frequented by Westerners, including luxury and other
hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques,
and restaurants in large urban areas.
 
CENTRAL ASIA: Supporters of terrorist groups such as
the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa'ida, the Islamic
Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement
remain active in Central Asia. These groups have expressed
anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S.
government interests.
 
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC: Information from confirmed
sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed
terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning
attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in
the East Asian and Pacific region. Extremist groups in the
region have demonstrated the capability to carry out
attacks in locations where Westerners congregate.
 
There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines,
specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu
Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the
island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao. U.S.
citizens should defer non-essential travel to the Sulu
Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of
international travelers and violence linked to insurgency
and terrorism there. U.S. citizens should continue to
exercise extreme caution if traveling to Mindanao. In
2013, separatist and terrorist groups increased the tempo
and scale of their activities and confrontations with
Philippine security forces, with increased bombings,
attacks on civilians and political leaders, and battles
with security forces. In September 2013, elements of the
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) occupied portions of
the city of Zamboanga and engaged in a lengthy battle with
security forces which reduced large parts of the city to
rubble.
 
The U.S. government has designated two groups, Jemaah
Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), as Foreign
Terrorist Organizations. JI is linked to al-Qa'ida and
other regional terrorist groups and has cells operating
throughout Southeast Asia. On November 15, 2013, gunmen,
linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group, raided a resort on Pom Pom
Island off the eastern coast of Sabah, killing a tourist
from Taiwan and taking his wife hostage. On December 20,
Philippine authorities recovered her in a forest near the
village of Talipao on the island of Jolo. Some media
reports indicated she was released in exchange for a
ransom payment. On December 2, Royal Malaysia Police
announced the arrest of two suspects in Semporna, eastern
Sabah, allegedly linked to the attack. Kidnappings-for-
ransom occur in these areas. In addition to incursions on
the coastal and island resorts themselves, criminal or
terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying
tourists in the area.
 
 
Before You Go
 
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens living
overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). When you enroll
in STEP, we can keep you up to date with important safety
and security announcements.  Enrolling will also make it
easier for the Embassy to contact you in the event of an
emergency.  You should remember to keep all of your
information in STEP up to date; it is particularly
important when you enroll or update your information to
include a current phone number and e-mail address.
 
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a
high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and
take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal
security.  For additional information, please refer to
Traveler's Checklist.
 
U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a
heightened state of alert.  These facilities may
temporarily close or periodically suspend public services
to assess their security posture.  In those instances,
U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to
provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  U.S.
citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and
maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate.
 
As the Department of State continues to develop
information on potential security threats to U.S. citizens
overseas, it shares credible threat information through
its Consular Information Program documents, including
Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Country Specific
Information, and Emergency and Security Messages, all of
which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs
website at http://travel.state.gov/. Follow us on Twitter
and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as
well.
 
In addition to information on the internet, travelers
may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States
and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll
line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from
8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time
(except U.S. federal holidays).