On May 1, President Barack Obama announced to the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. Many people worldwide celebrated, some questioned whether celebrating was appropriate, and others prepared for a revenge terrorist attack. Through all these reactions, questions began to arise.
Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, does America still need to fear a terrorist attack? The answer is that terrorism will not go away, so Americans are advised to continue incorporating vigilance into their lifestyle.
There are multiple terrorist groups around the world. Many of these are independent of al-Qaida and are minimally affected by the death of Osama bin Laden, and will continue to plot anti-U.S. attacks.
A 2004 Foreign Terrorist Organizations Report for Congress lists 36 major worldwide terrorist groups that pose a threat to the U.S. Additionally, there is the threat of terrorists who are influenced by internet propaganda and conduct attacks independently of any major terrorist group. Examples of this include the March 2, 2011, shooting of U.S. Airmen in Frankfurt, Germany and the November 5, 2009, shooting in Fort Hood, Texas.
In addition, terrorism against the U.S. is not a recent development. The U.S. has been the victim of terrorist attacks multiple times in the 20th century. In 1920, a horse-drawn cart loaded with explosives was detonated in Manhattan, New York, and killed 38 people. From 1940 until 1956, there were 30 bombings throughout New York City, killing 10 people. In 1985, a U.S. Soldier was murdered and his ID card used to move a car bomb onto Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany.
When it detonated, two were killed and 20 injured. All of these attacks occurred before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and although they were not as deadly, they are a clear indicator that terrorist activity has been a regular part of American history.
Vigilance is a lifestyle
After a terrorist attack, Americans often band together to provide support for victims and take precautionary measures against more attacks. But after about six months, many seem to assume that there is no longer a threat. Professionals who respond to these incidents work continually to encourage constant vigilance. When Americans maintain their guard, they become better prepared to identify and thwart future attacks through observation and reporting of suspicious activities.
The U.S. Department of State’s worldwide caution issued on January 31, 2011, states that terrorists may potentially attack tourist infrastructure and public transportation systems. Specifically, “large gatherings, travel hubs and tourist hot spots are frequently targeted.” There are four things Americans here in Europe can do before traveling to reduce this risk:
1. Before visiting another country, read about it at the Department of State website, www.travel.state.gov. The site identifies common criminal and terrorist activity in the area, and lists any alerts or warnings to U.S. personnel.
2. Know how to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement. In many countries in the European Union, dialing 112 will simultaneously contact the police, medical, and fire services. Visit www.travel.state.gov for a country’s local police and ambulance service phone numbers, hospital locations, and information on the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
3. Maintain a low profile. If possible, avoid eating at restaurants, visiting night clubs, and staying at large hotels frequented by Americans, because large groups of Americans are a natural target for a terrorist attack. Try to wear clothes similar to what the locals are wearing. Lastly, refrain from yelling and talking loudly, as others may be listening to the conversation.
4. Avoid potentially dangerous situations. If something appears strange, such as a cardboard box on a subway train or a backpack lying under a restaurant table, remove yourself from the area as quickly as possible. If someone is acting strangely, or appearing drunk, drugged, or in a trance, discretely move to an exit. Before going on a trip, review antiterrorism awareness training by going to www.at-awareness.org.
Note: Information for this article was provided by the U.S. Department of State website.