- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Avoid places where fellow Americans congregate, even churches and schools. Drive to work a different way each day, with the windows up. Be cautious. Remain vigilant.
The government is giving Americans overseas those warnings after a weekend attack on a church in Islamabad, Pakistan, that killed five persons, including an American woman who worked at the U.S. Embassy and her teen-age daughter.
Because embassy buildings and overseas U.S. military bases are now so fortified against attacks, terrorists increasingly might turn to more vulnerable targets including schools, restaurants and even churches where Americans gather, the State Department warned after Sunday's attack.
"One would have hoped that there would be some respect for a church," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "But even that doesn't always exist."
The departmental warning, perhaps the broadest and most far-reaching ever issued, was directed at all Americans abroad whether in troubled areas like South Asia and the Middle East or in friendlier haunts like London and Tokyo.
"The U.S. government continues to receive credible reports that extremist individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests. Such actions may be imminent and include suicide operations," the warning said.
"We have no further information on specific targets, timing or method of attack. We remind American citizens to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution."
As official U.S. installations increase their security, the statement said, it is likely that terrorists will turn their attention to "soft" targets, such as those frequented by civilians.
"These may include facilities where Americans are generally known to congregate or visit, such as clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events," the warning said.
"Americans should increase their security awareness when they are at such locations, avoid them, or switch to other locations where Americans in large numbers generally do not congregate."
Officials acknowledged in interviews that total security is impossible. Private companies and the government need to have workers overseas, and those workers often want their families nearby. If families are nearby, they must do things like shop and go to school.
In recent months, some U.S. companies with operations in the Middle East or South Asia have chosen to relocate workers' family members to other locations, like Europe, said Vincent Cannistraro, a former government counterterrorism official who runs his own security business.
Others are cutting back on the number of Americans overseas, relying instead on more local workers.
Still other U.S. companies are spending thousands of dollars to add guards and improve the physical security at compounds where their employees live, Mr. Cannistraro said.
Schools are one of the biggest concerns, many government and private security officials say.
In some cases, children travel to schools in buses without any armed guards, even while their homes are heavily guarded, said a State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Embassy security officers often work with the private schools to improve security, trying to ensure, for example, that buses vary their routes each day, the official said.

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