Tag Archives: terrorism

Terrorism While Traveling AbroadTips and Advice: Traveling Abroad When Terrorism Strikes

As worldwide terrorist attacks fill headlines, anxiety about traveling abroad has increased. Routinely, travelers to popular destinations such as Paris, London and other European cities may be asking: Is it safe to travel?

The U.S. Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution to all U.S. citizens traveling to help increase awareness and vigilance in going abroad.

Staying Safe – Prepare in Advance of your Travels

The best thing to do to travel safe is to avoid travel to areas known for terrorist attacks.

Terrorism Coverage in your Travel Insurance

Most international travel medical insurance plans include coverage for terrorist acts, as do trip cancellation and interruption insurance plans which allow you to cancel or change your plans within a set time prior to your arrival.

The details of when the plan needs to be purchased and how far ahead you can cancel can vary. Asking questions and researching the best insurance options for you will help to alleviate anxieties you might have about traveling. Purchasing the right insurance at the right time can help put your mind at ease.

Two plans we recommend as they include Political Evacuation and Terrorism Coverage:

Consider the following examples…

Honeymoon in Europe and Terrorists Strike

You plan a second honeymoon to Europe, planning to hit all the sights! A week before you are supposed to leave, there is a terrorist attack in your first stop. If you decided to cancel your trip, travel insurance would reimburse you for the otherwise nonrefundable expenditures, since insurance was purchased prior to the attack.

Terror Attack in Turkey

Your dream tour through Turkey turns into a nightmare when a terrorist explosion occurs a couple of weeks before your trip. You decide to purchase insurance. Another week goes by and there is another terrorist incident. You want to cancel your trip. Unfortunately, because you purchased your insurance within 30 days of a terrorist event happening, trip cancellation doesn’t apply.

How to Prepare Yourself for Terror Attacks

You have booked travel to a destination that is starting to look unsafe. A travel alert is issued and you are thinking about traveling elsewhere instead. Since there had not actually been a terrorist attack, travel insurance won’t apply.

In this situation, it would be great if you had purchased Cancel for Any Reason insurance. It pays if you cancel your trip two or more days before your departure date. This insurance does have eligibility requirements and a time-sensitive purchase window. Typically, Cancel for Any Reason insurance will reimburse up to 75% of your prepaid expenditures.

However, if your Cancel for Any Reason insurance was purchased after a terrorism travel alert or warning was issued by the U.S. government, the plan would not cover terrorism as a reason for cancellation.

What if there is Civil Unrest While I am Abroad?

You’ve just arrived at your hotel and rioting is breaking out on the street below after contentions election results are announced. You want nothing more then to turn back for the airport and head home. Civil unrest is different then a terrorist attack and not typically covered by trip cancelation insurance. However, if you were scheduled on a tour and service from your tour operator was interrupted for more than 24 hours as a result, that would likely be covered by your travel insurance.

It is important for travelers to know that even violent civil unrest might not be covered under their travel insurers definition of terrorism. Typically, the U.S. government needs to declare that the situation is actually an act of terrorism. There is a clear distinction between terrorism and civil disorder.

How About Terrorism on Airplanes?

If a terrorist attack happens on another airplane before your trip, it is not a reason for trip cancellation.

A terrorist attack that causes your airline to stop service for 24 hours may be covered by your travel insurance. If this happens while you are out of the country, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate and make alternate travel arrangements to return home safely.

Always use good judgment in making your travel plans.

Tips for Staying Safe During an Incident

Generally, terrorist attacks are the result of methodical and deliberate strategy. However, there are sometimes targets of opportunity. The U.S. Department of State offers some practical tips on avoiding becoming a target of opportunity.

The tips offer some protection and may also serve as a deterrent to potential terrorists.

  • Schedule direct flights if possible, and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.
  • Be cautious about what you discuss with strangers or what others may overhear.
  • Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area.
  • Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas.
  • Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.
  • As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress and behavior that may draw attention to yourself.
  • Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items. Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.
  • Avoid obvious terrorist targets, such as places where Westerners are known to congregate.
  • Watch for people following you or “loiterers” observing your comings and goings.
  • Report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals.
  • Formulate a plan of action for what you will do if a bomb explodes or there is gunfire nearby.
  • Select your own taxicabs at random. Don’t take a vehicle that is not clearly identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with the one on his or her posted license.
  • If possible, travel with others.
  • Be sure of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room.
  • Don’t meet strangers at your hotel room, or at unknown or remote locations.
  • Refuse unexpected packages.
  • Check for loose wires or other suspicious activity around your car.
  • Be sure your vehicle is in good operating condition.
  • Drive with car windows closed in crowded streets. Bombs can be thrown through open windows.
  • If you are ever in a situation where somebody start shooting, drop to the floor or get down as low as possible. Don’t move until you are sure the danger has passed. Do not attempt to help rescuers and do not pick up a weapon. If possible, shield yourself behind a solid object. If you must move, crawl on your stomach.

For more information, visit: US Dept. of State Website, Terrorist Advice


Terrorist Attacks While Abroad - Stay SafeAdvice for Being Prepared in Case of a Terrorist Attack

While the allure of international travel is greater than ever, it is not as safe as it was once. The world has changed. Terrorism needs to be a consideration when planning your next trip abroad. The U.S. Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution to all U.S. citizens traveling to help increase awareness and vigilance in going abroad.

Making wise choices and planning ahead will help you to travel safely. A little organization before your trip can help you be prepared and alleviate stress if terrorist attacks happen while you are traveling.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

For U.S. citizens, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, a service of the U.S. Department of State, offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

STEP is a service available to all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Enrollment in the program is simple. Just visit: step.state.gov/step.

With a simple online enrollment, it is easy to participate in STEP. For frequent travelers, create a secure account for all your trips.

The Department of State details the benefits of enrolling in STEP as follows:

  • Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country to help you make informed decisions about travel.
  • Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency.
  • Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

Research Travel Advisory, Warnings and Alerts

We created an article for clients explaining Travel Advisories and Alerts. Educate yourself on the differences and keep up to date on notifications. If you are on Twitter, follow @IntInsurance for automatic alerts and warnings updates. Stay up to date at:

  • https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html
  • https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories
  • https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Invest in Insurance that with a Terrorism / Political Evacuation Benefit

Most comprehensive travel insurance plans include coverage for terrorist acts as part of the trip cancelation and interruption insurance. When purchasing insurance, it is important to research ahead of time and ask questions to ensure you are purchasing the plan best suited to your needs.

Two plans we recommend as they include Political Evacuation and Terrorism Coverage:

The confidence that comes from having good insurance can allow you peace of mind while you travel.

Keeping Safe During an Attack

The first thing to do if you find yourself in the midst of an attack is to get to a safe place.

The British National Counter Terrorism Security Office issued a article detailing what to do. The advice can be summarized as follows: RUN. If you can’t RUN, HIDE.

Notifying Friends and Family

Family and friends at home would naturally be concerned if they knew you were in an area where an attack occurred. 

You can be proactive in helping your friends and family know that you are safe. Provide them with an accurate, detailed itinerary, including contact information, before you leave. This would allow an embassy to focus on those who really need help.

You may also wish to take advantage of programs like Facebook’s Safety Check, which allows for family and friends to check in with each other in an emergency situation.

After an Attack – Next Steps

If you are injured or require emergency help, contact your local embassy.

Prior to your trip, you can visit usembassy.gov to determine the embassy or consulate closest to you. Contact information is available for you to bring with you or provide to family or friends.

In the case of an emergency, call 888.407.4747. The U.S. State Department operates this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Remember, this number should be reserved for use only if you are injured or it is an emergency situation.

For more information on travel safety, visit travel.state.gov.

US Department of State Travel AlertsThe Department of State Department for International Travel is issuing an updated Worldwide Caution regarding the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. and international citizens throughout the world. Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that all world travelers need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to “Travel Safe”!

Specific Country Travel Warnings and Alerts (Issued in July):

Concern of Terrorist Attacks Worldwide

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. In August 2014, the United States and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. In response to the airstrikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Kidnappings and hostage events involving U.S. citizens have become increasingly prevalent as ISIL, al-Qa’ida and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance their operations through kidnapping for ransom operations. U.S. citizens have been kidnapped and murdered by members of terrorist and violent extremist groups. ISIL, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities.

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, shopping malls, 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.

EUROPE: Current information suggests that ISIL, al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. and Western interests in Europe. On January 7, 2015, two armed gunmen entered the Paris offices of a satirical news magazine and killed 12 people, including two police officers. Al-Qa’aida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took credit for the attack. On January 9, a man attacked a kosher market in Paris immediately killing four people. Also in January, Belgian counter-terrorist units foiled what was described as an imminent terror attack, when they killed two gunmen and wounded another in a shootout in the town of Verviers, near the German border. On February 14, at an event in Copenhagen, Denmark called Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression, a gunman opened fire killing one person and wounding three police officers. On June 26, terrorists attacked a U.S.-owned factory near Lyon, France, killing one and injuring others. 

Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks in Europe will continue as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. European governments have taken action to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions. 

MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA: Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. Private U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from traveling to Iraq, Syria, or any other country to join in armed conflict.

No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable as a civil war between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country. There is an increased threat of terrorism from groups such as ISIL, al-Nusrah, as well as other extremists whose tactics include use of suicide bombers, kidnappings, use of small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In the last several years, the United States has received reports of numerous foreigners kidnapped in Syria, some of whom have been killed while others remain in captivity. The majority of the victims are journalists and aid workers. U.S. citizens and other Westerners have been murdered by ISIL in Syria. Violent extremists from various countries operate in Syria and may be planning attacks against the United States and other Western targets.

A number of extremist groups also operate in Lebanon and the potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists because of periodic terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country. As a result of spillover violence from the Syria crisis, Sunni groups are active and Hizballah, a group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, has been present and active for many years.

U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persists in many areas of the country. ISIL controls Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, as well as significant territory in northern, western, and central Iraq, particularly along the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and the group continues to attack Iraqi security forces and civilians in those areas. U.S. government facilities and western interests remain possible targets, as evidenced by the April 17 bombing in the public area outside U.S. Consulate General Erbil where one U.S. citizen was injured. In addition, several anti-U.S. militia groups fighting ISIL, such as Kataib Hezbollah (KH) and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) are operating throughout Iraq and may present a threat to U.S. citizens.

In Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, groups affiliated with ISIL, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and other terrorist groups have conducted attacks against both foreign and local targets. In Libya, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests. On January 28, 2015 in Tripoli, Libya, a car bomb was detonated outside the Corinthia Hotel. Three militants rushed inside the hotel and opened fire before blowing themselves up. Five foreigners were among those killed. On March 18, several gunmen attacked the Bardo Museum in the center of Tunis, Tunisia, killing 21 people including 18 foreign tourists. On June 26, a terrorist killed 38, mostly western tourists, on a beach in Sousse, Tunisia. In Algeria’s Kabylie region, an ISIS-affiliated group kidnapped and killed a Westerner in September 2014, and, in south-western Algeria, terrorists killed 39 workers, including westerners, and held hundreds hostage at a gas processing facility in January 2013.

In Yemen, the security situation has greatly deteriorated, necessitating the suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy. Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remains a potent force there.

AFRICA: Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitun remain active in northern Mali and Niger. Terrorist groups have stepped up their rhetoric calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on westerners and others, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.

The terrorist group 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, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea). It has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, and the murder of several Westerners throughout the region.

Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking, 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, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and non-military targets such as international donor offices and humanitarian assistance providers. Al-Shabaab retains its demonstrated capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory in Somalia and in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Djibouti.

In fact, al-Qa’ida and its affiliate, al-Shabaab, have attacked targets in Kenya for years. Since late 2013, there have been numerous attacks killing hundreds and causing injury to hundreds more within the Nairobi area, along the coast, and in the northeastern region of the country. Most of these attacks occurred in northeastern Kenya, mainly in Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera counties. The most deadly of these took place on April 2 at the Garissa University College, where al-Shabaab terrorists killed 148 people, primarily students, and wounded many others. Grenade and improvised explosive device attacks have occurred in Nairobi, including the January 2014 attack at a restaurant in the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. In 2014 and 2015, the Mombasa area had at least eight such attacks.

Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. Thus far, 2015 has seen a continued increase in Boko Haram attacks and clashes with Nigerian government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has also targeted women and children for kidnapping, reportedly kidnapping women in northern states for marriage as “slave brides.” Boko Haram is known to descend on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking police and military installations, and setting fire to private homes. U.S. citizen missionaries in northern Nigeria have received specific written threats to their safety and well-being, although none have yet been harmed. Boko Haram has carried out attacks in Cameroon’s Far North Region, and has targeted foreign expatriates, tourists, and government leaders in this region. In Chad, the entire Lake Chad region – not only Chad’s border with Nigeria – is vulnerable because of rising activities by Boko Haram.

U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed attacks, robberies, and kidnappings for ransom by pirates. The threat of hijacking to merchant vessels continues to exist in Somali territorial waters and as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya in international waters. There has also been a recent rise in piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, including hijackings.

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, the Gulf of Guinea, 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. 

SOUTH ASIA: The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. government facilities, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests. The presence of al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, indigenous sectarian groups, and other terror organizations, many of which are on the U.S. government’s list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens in the region. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.

The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets. Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations and airports. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom.

No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and crime, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time. Elements of the former Taliban regime and members of other terrorist organizations hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign nationals remain active in every province of the country. Furthermore, travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices. U.S. citizens are increasingly targeted for kidnapping. The threat situation in Afghanistan is still considered critical and is expected to remain so through the current political and military transition.

India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly. Anti-Western terrorist groups active in India include Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba. Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas. Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time. 

CENTRAL ASIA: Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in Central Asia. These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. government interests. 

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC: Information from credible sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region. Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group, have cells operating throughout Southeast Asia and JI is linked to al-Qa’ida and other regional terrorist groups.

There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao.

Over the past year there have been several kidnappings-for-ransom targeting foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines. In addition to incursions on the coastal and island resorts themselves, criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists in the area.

Indonesian security forces have disrupted a number of terrorist cells, including JI, a terrorist organization that carried out several significant bombings in Jakarta and Bali over the past decade. Although Indonesian counterterrorism efforts have been successful in preventing terrorists from conducting large-scale attacks in recent years, extremists in Indonesia may demonstrate a willingness and ability to carry out small-scale violent attacks with little or no warning. 

Prepare for your International Trip

U.S. 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 consulate.