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State Department considers warning U.S. tourists of terrorist threat


June 23, 2000
Web posted at: 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 GMT)

From Andrea Koppel
CNN State Department Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department is putting its quick response teams on alert and may soon warn American travelers worldwide of an increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The department based its concern on information it has received regarding anti-U.S. terrorist plots in Jordan and other countries that were not identified, senior U.S. officials told CNN on Friday.

U.S. officials said the threats are coming from a group affiliated with the terrorist network of exiled Saudi national Osama bin Laden.

"It's very ill-defined," one official said. "They are Afghan Arabs."

The State Department has already issued a warning for travelers in Jordan, but is now considering whether to extended it to travel in the entire region or even throughout the world, an official said.

The worldwide warning would be similar to one the State Department issued prior to the millennium celebrations that alerted all American citizens traveling overseas to avoid large crowds, vary their travel routes and take extra precautions.

U.S. officials said they were confident the information they received about anti-U.S. terrorist plots in Jordan was credible. But they were not certain of information regarding similar activity in other countries in the region.

Though the United States has not learned of specific targets, an official said the State Department was putting quick response teams on alert, "in case they are needed."

U.S. officials would not say where the suspected terrorists were. However, the threat made against American interests and Jordanian interests, said one official, first came to the government's attention this week.

They also acknowledge that releasing the information can cause problems itself.

"It's a terrible double standard," said another official. "If we have credible and specific information about a potential threat, we have to share it, but at the same time, if we do, then we're also being accused of over-hyping threats."

U.S. officials were trying to figure out why Amman, Jordan, was again singled out for terrorist hits. Among their theories:

• Possible payback or retaliation for millennial attacks being thwarted.

•A possible attempt to destabilize the Jordanian government.

•A possible attempt to thwart the Middle East peace process.

Officials were concerned this summer could be filled with terrorist threats because of a number of key anniversary dates, such as the June 25, 1996, Khobar Towers terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia and the August 7, 1998 terrorist attacks against two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Clinton says bin Laden linked to alleged millennium bomb plot
May 17, 2000
Khobar Towers Bombing
June 26, 1996

U.S. State Department warning
ADL Backgrounder - Osama bin Laden
The National Security Agency
Islamic Extremists
United States International Security
Taleban home page
Terrorism Research Center, Inc.

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