In a public announcement today, State declares:
Credible information has indicated terrorist groups seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings and assassinations. While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat in many areas, use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents must be considered a possible threat. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. … For instance, terrorists may target movie theaters, liquor stores, bars, casinos or any similar type establishment, regardless of whether they are owned and operated by host country nationals.
It gets more specific:
The Department is concerned that extremists may be planning to carry out attacks against Westerners and oil workers on the Arabian Peninsula. … Tourist destinations in Egypt that are frequented by Westerners recently have been attacked resulting in many deaths and injuries, including Americans. Extremists may be surveilling Westerners, particularly at hotels, housing areas and rental car facilities. Potential targets may include U.S. contractors, particularly those related to military interests. Americans considering seaborne travel near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been several incidents of armed attacks and robberies at sea by pirates in the last year.
The department urges U.S. citizens "to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness."
Comment: Such travel advisories are common for specific countries but not for whole regions. The need for so sweeping a caution points to the inflamed and deadly situation in the heartland of the Muslim world. (December 15, 2005)