Terrorist acts occur unpredictably, making it impossible to protect yourself absolutely.
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The first and best protection is to avoid travel to areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist attacks or kidnappings.
Most terrorist attacks are the result of careful planning. Just as a car thief will first be attracted to an unlocked car with the key in the ignition, terrorists are looking for the most accessible targets. The chances that a tourist, traveling with an unpublished program or itinerary, would be the victim of terrorism are slight. In addition, many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, may not be looking for American targets.
Nevertheless, the following pointers may help you avoid becoming a target of opportunity. These precautions may provide some degree of protection, and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents to would-be terrorists.
* Schedule direct flights if possible, and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.
* Be cautious about what you discuss with strangers or what others may overhear.
* Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas. Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.
* As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress and behavior that may draw attention to yourself.
* Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items. Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.
* Avoid obvious terrorist targets, such as places where Westerners are known to congregate.
* Watch for people following you or “loiterers” observing your comings and goings.
* Report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
* Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Formulate a plan of action for what you will do if a bomb explodes or there is gunfire nearby.
* Select your own taxicabs at random. Don’t take a vehicle that is not clearly identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with the one on his or her posted license.
* If possible, travel with others.
* Be sure of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room. Don’t meet strangers at your hotel room, or at unknown or remote locations.
* Refuse unexpected packages.
* Check for loose wires or other suspicious activity around your car.
* Be sure your vehicle is in good operating condition.
* Drive with car windows closed in crowded streets. Bombs can be thrown through open windows.
* If you are ever in a situation where somebody starts shooting, drop to the floor or get down as low as possible. Don’t move until you are sure the danger has passed. Do not attempt to help rescuers and do not pick up a weapon. If possible, shield yourself behind a solid object. If you must move, crawl on your stomach.
While every hostage situation is different, there are some general considerations to keep in mind.
* U.S. Government policy is firm: we do not make concessions to terrorists. When Americans are abducted overseas, we look to the host government to exercise its responsibility under international law to protect all persons within its territories and to bring about the safe release of hostages. We work closely with these governments from the outset of a hostage-taking incident to ensure that our citizens and other victims are released as quickly and safely as possible.
* At the outset of a terrorist incident, the terrorists typically are tense, high-strung and may behave irrationally. It is extremely important that you remain calm and alert, and control your own behavior.
* Avoid resistance and sudden or threatening movements. Do not struggle or try to escape unless you are certain of being successful. Don’t try to be a hero, endangering yourself and others.
* Consciously put yourself in a mode of passive cooperation. Talk normally. Do not complain, avoid belligerency, and comply with all orders and instructions.
* If questioned, keep your answers short. Don’t volunteer information or make unnecessary overtures.
* Make a concerted effort to relax. Prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally for the possibility of a long ordeal.
* Try to remain inconspicuous, avoid direct eye contact and the appearance of observing your captors’ actions.
* Avoid alcoholic beverages. Eat what they give you, even if it does not look or taste appetizing, but keep consumption of food and drink at a moderate level. A loss of appetite and weight is normal.
* If you are involved in a lengthier, drawn-out situation, try to establish a rapport with your captors, avoiding political discussions or other confrontational subjects.
* Establish a daily program of mental and physical activity.
* Think positively and avoid a sense of despair. You are a valuable commodity to your captors, and it is important to them to keep you alive and well.