In light of UK’s air strikes against Islamic State (IS) extremists, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British government warns Britons to stay “vigilant” while traveling, as they could be targeted by terrorists seeking revenge for military coalition actions. On Friday, the FCO updated its travel advice for 225 countries and territories. According to a statement on its website, the warning is in response to a “generalised threat,” and applies globally to anyone overseas.
It states: “There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
This comes shortly after Parliament’s backing of the Royal Air Force air strikes last month, and its continued support of the Kurdish peshmerga militias who currently fight the extremists on the ground; the government not only provides the Kurds with arms, but it also focuses on training their troops.
Thus, the IS militant execution of two British mission aids, David Haines and Alan Henning, only serves to emphasize the message Theresa May, UK’s Home Secretary, announced in August – that the threat of terrorism has risen from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ – making the possibility of an attack ‘highly likely.’
As a consequence, the FCO currently advises against any travel to Syria, as well as to Iraq – specifically in five of its provinces (Ninewah, Salah-ah-din, Diyala, Anbar and Tam’mim). Any Britons presently in the country are also urged to “leave now by any practical means.”
The FCO uses four threat level categories on its website: High (includes India, France and Thailand), General (includes China, Italy, Australia, USA and Spain), Underlying (includes Ireland, South Africa, Norway and Portugal) and Low (includes Switzerland, Mexico, and Japan).
According to a spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents, “All travellers should familiarizes themselves with Foreign Office advice before they travel – in particular, country specific advice for their destination.”
For the time being, the FCO is taking the necessary precautions for safety – although due to the nature of the global threat, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which countries are the most vulnerable.