The U.S. Department of State on Tuesday warned American citizens overseas of an increased threat of “anti-American violence” following the announcement this week that an American airstrike had eliminated al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.
Washington issued the warning to U.S. embassies and consulates on August 2 as part of a “Worldwide Caution” notice. The U.S. State Department last updated its Worldwide Caution notice on January 15, 2019, demonstrating the significance of Tuesday’s announcement.
“Following al-Zawahiri’s death, supporters of al- Qa’ida, or its affiliated terrorist organizations, may seek to attack U.S. facilities, personnel, or citizens,” the press release read, in part.
The State Department said that it “believes there is a higher potential for anti-American violence given the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri on July 31, 2022.”
“Current information suggests that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions across the globe. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings,” the bureau detailed.
“None of his family members were hurt, and there were no civilian casualties,” Biden noted.
Al-Zawahiri was the most recent leader of al-Qaeda, an international Sunni jihadist terrorist group. He succeeded al-Qaeda’s former chief, Osama bin Laden, in 2011 after a U.S. special forces unit neutralized bin Laden in Pakistan in May of that year. Bin Laden masterminded al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on September 11, 2001. The acts spurred Washington to launch its War in Afghanistan (2001-2021). The U.S. government suspected that Afghanistan’s Taliban terror group harbored bin Laden in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks and believed that it had generally provided al-Qaeda affiliates with safe haven.
Al-Zawahiri served as bin Laden’s deputy prior to reigning as al-Qaeda’s chief, meaning his history with the terror group spanned decades.
U.S. President Joe Biden recalled some of the gravest terror attacks overseen by al-Zawahiri during his August 1 announcement of the leader’s death, stating:
He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11 [September 11, 2001 terror attacks], one of the most responsible for the attacks that murdered 2,977 people on American soil.
For decades, he was a mastermind behind attacks against Americans, including the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors and wounded dozens more.
He played a key role — a key role in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 and wounding over 4,500 others.
Biden further noted that al-Zawahiri had “made videos, including in recent weeks, calling for his followers to attack the United States and our allies.”