State Department issues terror threat

Despite a warning released by the U.S. Department of State Sunday indicating that Americans traveling through Europe are currently under a threat of terrorist activity, some GW students studying abroad on the continent said they aren’t concerned about the possibility of an attack.

“I’ve only heard of the increased terror threat in passing,” said Hannah Traverse, a junior studying abroad at King’s College London for the semester. “I feel like the fact that the terror threat in the U.S. never seems to dip below ‘yellow’ is proof that there’s nothing to be concerned about.”

On Sunday morning, the State Department released a nationwide alert that indicated there was probable cause al-Qaida was planning to attack tourist locations throughout the continent.

“The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe,” the statement said. “Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks.”

Though the statement made no mention of a particular country that was particularly threatened, reports indicated that in the past three weeks Britain, France and Germany have each raised its individual levels of alert.

University spokeswoman Jill Sankey said the Office for Study Abroad has been in contact with the 246 GW students studying at various destinations across Europe since the travel alert was issued over the weekend. Sankey said that after receiving news of the threat, the University immediately forwarded the travel advisory to students.

Tom Lawrence, a GW senior also studying at King’s College, agreed with Traverse’s sentiments. Lawrence said he believed it was “insanity” to live a life in fear of a terrorist attack.

“Either there’ll be an attack or there won’t, it’s completely out of my power,” Lawrence said.

While students said they did receive an e-mail from the University, Lawrence said the alert was the only precautionary note he has received.

“I first heard about the travel alert from [GW] but I’m not sure what they’re doing beyond letting us know,” Lawrence said. “I assume there isn’t much they could do, for what it’s worth.”

While the alert mentioned that “public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure” could be potential areas for terrorists to attack in the near future, an official in the State Department said that Americans should not change their travel plans.

“We are not, repeat not, advising Americans not to go to Europe,” Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s under secretary for management, said in a briefing.

Lawrence agreed that despite the alert, it would be unnecessary to cancel his upcoming trip to travel around Paris next weekend.

“I really don’t think there’s a bigger target for terrorism than there is in D.C., so frankly if you pressed me I’d say I’m much safer abroad than I would be at home,” Lawrence said.

Rachel Maher, a junior studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said that even if the threat is probable, she couldn’t imagine students being a target.

“I feel like there are so many millions of people in London, that any terrorist probably doesn’t care about a handful of American students studying abroad,” Maher said.

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