BOSTON (CBS) – The State Department has issued a worldwide caution, saying al-Qaeda wants to kidnap Americans and other westerners in an effort to get ransom money to finance terror plots.

The groups usually target government workers or diplomats, but all Americans who travel are urged to be cautious.

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Professor Graham Allison is an international security expert and former Defense Department official who currently runs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

He says today’s “worldwide caution is a good reminder that we live in a dangerous world and that terrorists continue to get up every day and plan and plot to attack Americans.”

The warning also says al-Qaeda continues to look at high profile sporting events, places of worship, and shopping malls as potential targets.

Those plots could take different forms including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.

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Allison adds that “particularly for us in Boston, with the marathon coming up, this is a good reminder [since] one of the things that’s featured in this State Department alert is sporting events, major sort of signature sporting events.”

But Allison is quick to point out that being vigilant about your surroundings “doesn’t mean not to go to the marathon, it doesn’t mean not riding an airplane, it doesn’t mean don’t go abroad.”

It doesn’t appear there is any new plot or even significant intelligence that led to this warning. The State Department says it just wants to update people and keep them advised that al-Qaeda is still a threat.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong contributed to this report.

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