In a sign of steeped concern about al-Qaeda's intentions to conduct a Mumbai-style attack on popular tourist spots, the State Department issued a travel alert Sunday for American citizens traveling to Europe.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks were carried out by 10 gunmen, young men heavily armed and supplied who carried out concurrent bombings, shootings and hostage-taking at hotels, a railway station, a cafe, a hospital and a Jewish center. Over three days, 166 were killed, 28 of those foreigners. The deadly spree, blamed on al-Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba, gave rise to new concerns about how smaller-scale attacks with domestic operatives could wreak havoc on a city and fly under the radar of homeland security.
Last week, reports surfaced that Osama bin Laden's had given the go-ahead to conduct similar types of attacks on sites in Britain, France and Germany. France has been under particular threat for its passage last month of a bill banning full Islamic veils.
The travel alert, which could hit European tourism, is brief and vague, warning Americans of "the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe."
"Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks," the alert states. "European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.
"Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests," the alert continues. "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. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling."
The State Department issued a "Worldwide Caution" on Aug. 12 to generally advise U.S. citizens of "the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world."
Another alert remains in effect for Americans traveling to India for the Commonwealth Games, which begin today. The alert stresses that "the U.S. government has no information on any specific threat of attack that any individual or group is planning to coincide with the Games."
Alerts are one step below travel warnings. The latest travel warnings and amended warnings pertain to Sudan, Eritrea and Mexico, which has been wracked by drug-cartel violence.