Europe Terror Situation Analysis

First, AmeriSpan's opinion has been the benefits of studying abroad far outweigh any perceived risks whether that be terrorism or homesickness. Secondly, the threat of terrorism is with all of us every day, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Finally, let's remind everyone that security and travel experts remind travelers that the odds of being hurt in an auto accident or even struck by lightening are greater than being a victim in a terrorist attack.

If you have turned on the news over the last couple of days, you are sure to have heard about the US and UK's travel warning for Europe based on the threat of terrorist attacks. However, there really isn't a US travel warning, it is a travel alert to US citizens in Europe to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe … as current information indicates [terrorist organizations] continue to plan terrorist attacks. The alerts advice is to "U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling." as well as register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website. To read the full text of the alert, go here

So basically what is new? It sounds the same, Islamic extremists want to attack Western Europe and the US, the government's advice is don't change your plans and remain more diligent. It seems like the same message we have been hearing since 9/11.  However, there are some differences this time including the following:

  • Western intelligence officials say they learned about the reported plot to attack unspecified targets in Eurpoe after Ahmed Sidiqi, a German citizen of Afghan descent, was arrested in Afghanistan in July and taken to the U.S. air base at Bagram for questioning.
  • Supposedly a group of German citizens traveled to Pakistan for terrorist training during the summer and have received the go ahead from Al Qaeda (including Osama Bin Laden) to launch Mumbai style attacks (small arms) at European targets, primarily in the United Kingdom, France & Germany.
  • This was reported in German language papers on September 6th and on September 28th, the English papers picked up the story and a few days later, the travel alert was issued.
  • "Chatter" in Al Qaeda chat rooms and forums has increased substantially over the last week.

So the threat is real but what does this mean? We layout a few observations:

  • The security forces in Europe are vastly superior to those in India where the Mumbai attacks lasted 3 days and killed 195 people including 18 foreigners, including six Americans.  It is unlikely that similar attacks with small arms in Europe would be able to continue for more than a few hours with the well-trained European police and anti-terror forces.
  • The security forces have been tipped off and security has been tightened.
  • US Drone attacks have been substantially increased over the last 4 weeks and reports indicate there has been some success. On October 4th, Younis Moritani, a member of al Qaeda, was killed by a U.S. missile attack in Pakistan, DPA reported Oct. 4, citing Pakistani intelligence. German and U.S. officials both believed Moritani had been planning a terrorist attack in Europe, based on interrogation of German jihadist Ahmad Sidiqi.  In another strike as many as 8 German nationals allegedly training to be terrorists were killed in North Waziristan.
  • Finally, security and travel experts remind travelers that the odds of being hurt in an auto accident or even struck by lightening are greater than being killed in a terrorist attack.  

So there is a little insight, but the decision whether to alter your travel plans are your own.  In keeping with AmeriSpan's longstanding policy, we never wants financial considerations to factor into your individual decisions and with this in mind we are doing the following:

  1. Any fees related to postponing or changing your program will be waived if you are scheduled to start a European program before November 1, 2010.
  2. If you are currently participating on a program in Europe and want to leave early, we will refund you for any unused time or transfer those fees to another AmeriSpan program.

For additional information, we recommend:

MSNBC: Travel Alert doesn't faze Americans overseas

CNN: Travel alert issued for U.S. citizens in Europe

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