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Caution issued to Americans abroad

Restaurants, places of worship, schools may be targets

From Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department issued a new "worldwide caution" Thursday warning Americans abroad to be alert for a possible attack by the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Citing "the recent audio tape attributed to Osama bin Laden and other reports of threats to American interests," the caution reminded Americans "of the continuing threat of terrorist actions that may target civilians" and reminded them to "remain vigilant."

"The U.S. government continues to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests," the advisory said

I said those actions could involve suicide operations and attacks on U.S. interests overseas.

"Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets," the warning said. "These may include facilities where Americans are generally known to congregate or visit, such as clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events."

The advisory said U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert and could temporarily close or suspend services if the security situation warranted.

The State Department increased its security at its headquarters in Washington and told all posts to be at the "highest levels of vigilance," officials said.

A cable sent Thursday to all embassies and consulates worldwide urged posts to convene a meeting on their security situation and see if new precautions needed to be taken. An official said the posts were urged to contact their host government if they need additional support.

The warnings came after of the release of a tape believed to have been recorded by Ayman al-Zawahiri, a primary al Qaeda strategist and one of the "most wanted" terrorists in the world. He has been indicted in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

On the tape, the man believed to be al-Zawahiri threatens fresh attacks against the United States, its economy and its allies. He makes numerous references to current events, including the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the possible U.S. action against Iraq.

"There's always concern about potential for attacks, and particularly when al Qaeda puts out statements, one has to make sure we're appropriately vigilant, not only here but at our missions overseas," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

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