US Forces in Europe on High Alert as Terror Threat Looms Ahead of Paris Olympics

A defense official said the military is taking extra steps to ensure U.S. forces are alert during business and leisure activities

by Sededin Dedovic
US Forces in Europe on High Alert as Terror Threat Looms Ahead of Paris Olympics
© Omar Marques / getty Images

American military bases and personnel across Europe are on heightened alert after new intelligence warned of a possible terrorist attack, reports Voice of America. A U.S. defense official confirmed to Voice of America on Monday that security measures at military facilities across the U.S.

European Command (EUCOM) have been raised to "Charlie" protection level, indicating the possibility of an attack. The official did not provide further details about the intelligence, though counterterrorism authorities from several countries have warned of an increased threat, some of which are related to the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

In a statement, EUCOM noted that the enhanced security measures are the result of a combination of factors. “The increase in readiness is not related to any specific threat, but is a result of a combination of factors such as ongoing and upcoming major public gatherings, including the Euro Cup and the Olympics, with the increasing threat of attacks on non-military targets in Europe,” the statement said.

EUCOM advises personnel in European cities to remain vigilant, report suspicious activities, follow State Department travel advisories, and avoid putting themselves at risk. A defense sector official said the military is taking additional steps to ensure that U.S.

forces remain alert both during business activities and leisure time. In a report last month by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, it was warned that despite the high risk of cyber attacks, the greatest threat to the Paris Olympics remains the possibility of terrorist attacks.

French authorities have already uncovered at least two separate terrorist plots. In one case, an 18-year-old was charged with planning an attack on behalf of the Islamic State at one of the stadiums serving as an Olympic venue.

Senior U.S. counterterrorism officials have also acknowledged that the terrorist group Islamic State, known as ISIS, has been resurging in recent months. The greatest concern is the Afghan branch of the group, known as IS-Khorasan.

“Both ISIS and IS-Khorasan have demonstrated the ability and intent to conduct operations abroad,” said Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Jen Daskal at a counterterrorism conference in Omaha.
Kristin Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, also warned about IS-Khorasan last May.

“This capability of the global ISIS organization, even without territory, to virtually reach a network of supporters, some of whom will carry out attacks, is quite concerning,” she said at a security conference in Doha.

She described IS-Khorasan’s ability to regroup in Afghanistan as probably the most significant capability in ISIS’s global network over the past three years.

Is-Khorasan fighting in Afghanistan © Muslim Network TV / Youtube channel

IS-Khorasan claimed responsibility for an attack on a commemoration in Kerman, Iran, in January, which killed about 90 people, as well as an attack on a Moscow concert hall that killed more than 140 people.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have also expressed concern that IS-Khorasan has become more adept at using transnational criminal networks and human smuggling chains to send its operatives to the United States. Bases, including the U.S.

Army garrison in Stuttgart, Germany, which houses the headquarters of the U.S. European Command, raised their alert level to "Charlie" protection status today, officials told CNN. This status is "applied when an incident occurs or intelligence is received indicating that some form of terrorist action or targeting against personnel or facilities is likely," the U.S.

military said. One of the U.S. officials stationed at a base in Europe told CNN that this threat level had not been noted "for at least 10 years" and emphasized that it usually means the military has received a "credible active threat." The U.S.

European Command (USEUCOM) "constantly evaluates a range of factors affecting the security of the U.S. military community abroad," said EUCOM spokesman Dan Day. “As part of that effort, we often take additional steps to ensure the security of our personnel.

For operational security reasons, we will not go into specific measures, but we remain vigilant,” Day said. It is not known what intelligence led to the heightened security, but European authorities have warned of a potential terrorism threat on the continent, particularly ahead of the Olympics in Paris in July and during the ongoing European Football Championship in Germany.

Several countries in Europe, including France, previously declared the highest level of threat from terrorist attacks after armed attackers killed more than 140 people in an attack on a concert hall in a Moscow suburb in March.

The jihadist militia "Islamic State" claimed responsibility for this attack. Following the attack in Moscow, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser spoke about an "acute" terrorist threat in Germany. The Olympic Games will start soon, and we will see if the security will be up to par.