Messages for U.S. Citizens
February 20, 2013
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 July
18, 2012, to provide updated information on security threats and terrorist
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. Current information suggests that al-Qaida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist 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, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.
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.
Africa: A number of al-Qaida 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-Qaida's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced the alliance of the two organizations. Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas are frequent in Somalia. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack Somali authorities, African Union Missions in Somalia and non-military targets. Additionally, the terrorist group al-Qaida 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. 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; attacks have increased since their attack on the UN building in the capital of Abuja last year. The president of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in certain areas in response to activities of extremist groups. AQIM and related extremist groups have threatened to attack and kidnap Westerners in Mali and the region in response to the U.S.-supported French intervention in Northern and Central Mali, where the political conditions remain fluid, and the Malian government has yet to reassert control over its northern provinces.
U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed attacks, robberies, and kidnappings for ransom by pirates. Merchant vessels continue to be hijacked in Somali territorial waters, while others have been hijacked as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya in international waters.
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 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.
Before You Go
The Department of State encourages 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 "A Safe Trip Abroad" on our website, http://travel.state.gov/.
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
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 Messages, all of which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov. Stay up to date by bookmarking our website or downloading our free Smart Traveler iPhone or Android App for travel information at your fingertips. 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).