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U.S. State Department Warns Americans Abroad of Holy Week Terror Threat

The State Department has warned U.S. citizens traveling in Europe that terrorist groups “continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe” and advises them to be especially cautious during upcoming “religious holidays.”

On Tuesday, Italian counterterrorism forces in Naples arrested suspected terrorist Aziz Ehsan, a 46-year-old Iraqi citizen who had been in contact with jihadists from the Islamic State terror group.

In an email to Americans abroad obtained by Breitbart News, the U.S. government has warned of dangers to U.S. citizens “following several terrorist attacks, including the March 22 attacks in Brussels claimed by ISIL.”

The Travel Alert states that terrorist groups are targeting “sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation” and that citizens should plan accordingly.

“Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events,” the notice declares, as tens of thousands of pilgrims gear up to celebrate the holiest time on the Christian calendar, commemorating Jesus’ last week on earth before his passion and crucifixion.

After Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, Rome authorities have ordered a tightening of security measures for Holy Week services, strengthening controls and surveillance measures on all “sensitive targets,” especially in an around the Vatican.

Extra large crowds of 150,000 people are expected in the Vatican this Holy Week for the many liturgical celebrations, culminating in a large Mass and special blessing on Easter Sunday, since the festivities coincide with a Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has stated his intention to preside over all the liturgical ceremonies this week, and Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi announced Tuesday that there will be no changes in the Holy Week celebrations despite the Brussels attacks.

Pilgrims must access St. Peter’s Square by passing through metal detectors and along defined routes with a notable police presence. Near the Holy Door in the Vatican Basilica, numerous officers of the Vatican Gendarmerie are stationed for the purpose of surveillance over the faithful and tourists.

Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, announced Tuesday that following the Brussels attacks, Italian security forces would be carrying out “further deportations of persons who have shown a lack of respect for the rules of our country.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter  

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