Bin Laden Death Shouldn't Impact Travel Plans, Experts Say
Despite stepped up police presence around many U.S. cities and a U.S State Department advisory warning Americans about what it called "enhanced potential for anti-American violence" following the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, corporate security experts say they are not advising clients to greatly modify or cancel business travel and operations.
Anna Murison, head of the global jihad analysis team with Exclusive Analysis, a specialist intelligence company that forecasts commercially relevant political and violent risks worldwide, said her firm does not foresee the likelihood for retaliatory attacks in many regions. However, Yemen and Saudi Arabia are countries where businesses and foreign travelers might want to take extra precautions.
"Attacks are reasonably unlikely to come out of Pakistan because Al Qaeda leaders there are going to be looking at their own security measures and trying to figure out how the security leak happened and shutting down any plans that they had underway," said Murison. "But in Yemen, where Al Qaeda has been at the forefront of many terrorist operations, they are not under as much pressure. We know they have significant terrorist capabilities in these regions because they have demonstrated that in the past."
[Also see: Employee safety in global hotspots]
Murison said any potential terrorist activity would likely be done to make the statement that Al Qaeda is still relevant following Bin Laden's death.
"There's a point to prove there," said Murison.
However, businesses with operations and employees in Yemen and Saudi Arabia are already taking precautions and are aware of the risks, said Murison. Recent events have not changed the terrorism-risk profile dramatically. Her advice to those in these areas now is to be more aware of varying travel routes to avoid tracking and to stay away from large-gathering places known as hotspots for activity. Civil unrest and demonstrations may actually hold more risks for safety than possible terrorist activity, she said.
Bill Besse, vice president, consulting & investigations, with security and risk mitigation company Andrews International, agrees that a fast-gathering and angry crowd would be the larger concern for foreigners in volatile cities now.
"These group demonstrations can manifest themselves very quickly and without warning," he said. "We would advise people to keep a close eye on the streets, have their situational awareness attuned because these crowds can become violent very quickly and become dangerous for people who might find themselves in the midst of these things."
Besse, who has a client with operations in Pakistan, is not advising business travelers to stay grounded in the wake of the recent State Department advisory.
"I'm not necessarily telling people to hold off on essential business travel right now. I think it's still possible for them to do that. They will probably see some slow down at the airport and increased security will probably cause some delays, but we see no reason for canceling travel plans."