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State Department Issues Worldwide Caution to All Americans

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003 – U.S. citizens around the world are at a heightened risk of terrorist attacks, according to a State Department caution issued Feb. 6.

"Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, assassinations or kidnappings," the alert states. It goes on to warn "nonconventional weapons" may be used. The term typically refers to chemical or biological weapons or booby traps.

The warning doesn't speak to specific locations or dates, but urges an overall heightened awareness. U.S. officials have repeatedly voiced concerns that terrorists might seek "softer" overseas targets because locations in the United States beefed up security considerably after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

This alert specifically mentions schools and places of worship as possible targets. It urges Americans to be wary of locations where large numbers of foreigners gather.

"Americans should increase their security awareness when they are at such locations, avoid them, or switch to other locations where Americans in large numbers generally do not congregate," the alert states.

It lists reasonable precautions Americans abroad should take:

o Keep vital documents in one readily accessible location and copies of these documents in another.

o Ensure passports and visas are valid, and register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

o Keep an inventory of household effects.

In regions where political unrest is common, keep an adequate supply of food, water and necessary medications in your home.

o Keep your car in good working order and the gas tank full.

The alert urges Americans to monitor local news and keep abreast of the political situation in their region.

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