The U.S. State Department issued Tuesday a travel alert due to potential terrorist attacks in Europe during the summer, according to a document obtained by the Press Association. The 2016 European Championship could be a target, and the most vulnerable zones will be those known as entertainment venues where fans gather to watch the games, such as restaurants and commercial centers.
From June 10 to July 10, France will host the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer championship, which features 24 teams from across the continent. The U.S. State Department noted in its travel alert that France had extended the state of emergency it imposed on Nov. 13 after the Paris attacks through July 26 to cover the Tour de France, which is scheduled from July 2 to July 24.
“We are alerting U.S. citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation,” the travel alert states, as reported by Reuters. It expires on August 31.
A U.S. official told Reuters that there was no specific threat information but remarked that a large number of tourists visiting Europe during the Euro Cup could raise the risks of terror attacks at large events.
The highest level of security enacted during the tournament will be seen around Euro Cup venues and fan zones because of a large number of people expected to attend. This could make it more accessible for terrorists to attack soft-target locations like public gathering points filled with fans watching games.
However, those areas surrounding stadiums and fan zones will be protected “to some degree” as security officials try to “mitigate the vulnerability against these sites”. The Department pointed out in its warning that entertainment venues broadcasting the soccer championship and other public events across Europe also represent potential targets for terrorist plots.
Catholics in Poland are a potential target, too
The travel alert also mentioned the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day event scheduled for July 26 through July 31. About 2.5 million people from around the world are expected to gather in Krakow, Poland, where the local infrastructure may not be suitable to hold that amount of visitors, the document states.
The U.S. State Department added that people willing to attend the event should be prepared to undergo stricter security screenings since Poland is set to impose controls at all of its borders from July 4 to August 2.
Europe vulnerable after recent attacks
The Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris raised concern about security in the continent, where several raids have taken place and eliminated prominent terror leaders.
The following attacks carried out on March 22 in Brussels, where 32 people were killed at the airport and in the city’s metro, reminded Europeans that religious extremism remains a serious threat.
The U.S. State Department, which said it was working alongside its allies to “identify and counter,” any possible threats, issued its last warning for Europe after the Brussels attacks. It issues such travel alerts when it detects potential terror threats even when it lacks specific information about particular targets.
Patrick Calvar, the chief of the DGSI intelligence agency, said on May 19 that the Islamic State was planning more attacks and that France was an obvious target. He told NBC News it was “impossible” to keep people 100 percent safe at any large-scale event, but French authorities still refuse to let fear take soccer away.
Calvar did not specifically mentioned the Euro 2016 as a potential target at the time when he was in a meeting with the French parliament’s defense committee. However, he did suggest that security enforcement had to be prepared to face a terrorist campaign known for planting explosives in large-scale public gatherings “to create as much panic as possible.”
Risk of fan trouble in the opening match
The warning about the security threat at the 2016 Euro Cup to be held in France also mentioned that the opening match featuring England against Russia might be at risk of fan trouble, given the history of intense rivalry between these teams. The match is scheduled for June 11 at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
“There is a history of violence associated with recent matches between these two sides. England fans also rioted after a World Cup 1998 match against Tunisia, also played in Marseille,” the document issued by the U.S. State Department reads.
It added that the combination of alcohol and intense rivalry between fans of two different teams could lead to unrest, especially during high-stakes matches. The Department mentioned that some countries identify fans with a history of violence abroad and temporarily revoke their passports. England, for instance, applied that measure to nearly 1,500 fans during the 2014 World Cup and about 3,000 during the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.