(NewsNation) — The U.S. State Department issued a “worldwide caution” alert, just days after a drone strike killed a top Al-Qaeda leader, warning terrorist organizations could be targeting Americans overseas and American facilities.
“Following al-Zawahiri’s death, supporters of Al-Qaeda, or its affiliated terrorist organizations, may seek to attack U.S. facilities, personnel, or citizens,” the State Department said in a Worldwide Caution Update. “The Department of State believes there is a higher potential for anti-American violence given the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri on July 31, 2022.”
The threats could range from suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.
The manhunt for Ayman al-Zawahiri stretched more than 21 years. Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of Al-Qaeda following bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces in 2011.
“We will not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists that might bring harm to Americans to the homeland,” said John Kirby, national security spokesperson. “We met that commitment, but we still remain able to identify and locate even the world’s most wanted terrorist, and then take the action to remove him from the battlefield.”
Director of the National Security Law Program at Georgetown University, Todd Huntley, said that the alert is standard practice following a high-profile event but does believe there is a greater danger.
“I think it’s a pretty standard alert. I think they’re being cautious as I think it they should be issuing the alert,” Huntley said in part. “What we’ve seen in the past is some of the large-scale attacks, kind of the high-profile attacks that Al-Qaeda has carried out in the past, that’s going to take some time. And I don’t know if they’re situated actually to do that right now. But small-scale attacks against undefended targets that attract Americans traveling overseas, that are carried out by either sympathizers or, you know, adherents of al-Zawahiri’s ideology, I think that the greater danger here.”
Kevin Brock, a former assistant director of Intelligence for the FBI, said it can be challenging to assess what security threats are real and deserve the U.S.’ attention and who’s just making “a bunch of noise.”
“That type of targeting goes on on a daily basis: the establishment of creating a network of human sources, checking our signals intelligence to gain fidelity on where the actual threat is, and where a new threat might be emerging,” Brock said.