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U.S. warns of Ramadan attacks on churches, resorts

Thursday, November 7, 2002

The United States has warned Americans they could be the targets of Islamic attacks in the Gulf region during the Ramadan fast month which began Wednesday.

U.S. officials said militant and terrorist organizations including Al Qaida may launch attacks on Americans, particularly those at resorts and in churches.

The officials said likely targets are expected to be in Jordan, Kuwait and Yemen.

The State Department has updated a travel warning for the Middle East and urged Americans that they could be targets of attacks by Al Qaida and other Islamic groups.

"Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, outdoor recreation events, resorts and beaches," the department said in its travel warning.

"U.S. citizens and interests abroad remain at risk of terrorist attacks by groups including, but not limited to, those with links to Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida organizations."

Over the last week, a U.S. diplomat was shot dead in Amman and American soldiers were attacked in Kuwait. Islamic groups have claimed responsibility for the strikes. Officials said Americans are also in danger of being abducted and held for ransom.

Officials said U.S. embassies, consulates and other installations have increased security over the last month throughout the Middle East. They said American government and military personnel have been urged to maintain a low profile, particularly in such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, Jordanian authorities arrested two people suspected of preparing to attack the U.S. embassy in Amman.

"Our missions in the Gulf, the Middle East, in Yemen in particular, operate at a very high state of alert, protection, readiness," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Tuesday. "I'm sure they will continue to do so."

In Riyad, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz appealed to religious police to avoid confrontations with Westerners during Ramadan.

Nayef told the police, called the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, that it would not be allowed to raid private homes without permission. The religious police has 4,500 officers and focuses on foreigners in the kingdom.

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