The State Department issued a new Worldwide Caution on Thursday that warned about the ongoing terrorist threat to U.S. citizens across the world from groups like ISIS and al Qaeda.
"Current information suggests that ISIL, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions," the State Department said in a release updating the Worldwide Caution, using another name for ISIS.
"Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. "
The new alert replaced a previous alert issued in July of last year, months before ISIS launched terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people last November. Authorities believe that ISIS continue to plot attacks against U.S. and Western interests worldwide, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia, the new alert stated.
The State Department warning cited major terrorist attacks that have been carried out in France, Belgium, Mali, Turkey, and other countries, and emphasized that U.S. citizens are at risk of kidnapping by operatives from ISIS, al Qaeda, and other groups. It noted that terrorists targeting U.S. citizens at home and abroad generally focus on places that attract crowds, including sporting events, hotels, restaurants, and public transportation systems.
"Extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons and target both official and private interests," the State Department warning said. "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."
The alert included information about threats in various regions, including Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and parts of Asia. It noted that "credible information" indicated that all countries in Europe are "vulnerable" to attacks from terrorist organizations.
"Authorities believe there is a high likelihood terror attacks in Europe will continue as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq. European governments are taking action to guard against terrorist attacks; however, all European countries remain potentially vulnerable," the warning said.
The agency also reminded U.S. citizens that it is a crime to provide support to terrorist groups like ISIS.
"Private U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from traveling to any country to join in armed conflict. U.S. citizens are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations, including ISIL, can constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a serious crime that can result in penalties including prison time and large fines," the alert warned.