WHITE HOUSE —
In the wake of attacks claimed by the Islamic State militant group in Paris, Beirut, and Tunis, U.S. President Barack Obama is reassuring Americans on the threat of terrorism over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
"Right now we know of no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland," he said.
In a six-minute statement to the American public, President Obama said Wednesday U.S. counterterrorism, military, intelligence and law enforcement officials are continually monitoring threats at home and abroad.
“In the event of a specific, credible threat, the public will be informed. We do think it’s useful for people as they are going about their business to be vigilant,” the U.S. leader said.
Obama spoke after meeting with his national security team on the country’s security posture, nearly two weeks after an attack in Paris that killed at least 130 people.
“All of us recognize how horrific and heinous what took place in Paris was, and as I said yesterday, for many of is the events there touched a deep chord,” Obama said.
Flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the U.S. president reaffirmed progress in the fight against Islamic State, citing more than 8,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
“We are stepping up the pressure on ISIL where it lives and we will not let up. Adjusting our tactics where necessary, until they are beaten,” Obama noted.
Massive travel weekend
Millions of Americans will be traveling over the coming days to celebrate the national Thanksgiving holiday, and security was visibly tightened at train stations and airports in and around the nation’s capital.
While some travelers expressed concern, others like California resident Ginny Mancini said they did not want to live in fear.
"I'm too old to live in fear, so I have to live my life and go on. We all do," Mancini said.
During Wednesday's statement, Obama said Americans should go about their usual holiday activities and be assured that U.S. homeland security officials were vigilant, relentless and effective.
“While the threat of terrorism is a troubling reality of our age, we are both equipped to prevent attacks and we are resilient in the face of those who would try to do us harm,” the U.S. leader said.
Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest travel days of the year in the United States, and while the FBI says there is no specific credible terrorist threat, local and federal law enforcement agencies are on high alert. Friday is also an extremely busy day at malls and shopping centers as it is the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season.
France, which was already on alert after the November 13 attacks, announced Wednesday it would deploy even more police and soldiers for the upcoming global climate conference. The talks start Monday and Obama is among the large group of world leaders traveling to Paris for the event.
Belgium's capital, Brussels, also remains on its highest level of alert through at least Monday as authorities continue to search for several suspects connected to the Paris attacks, including Salah Abdeslam and newly charged Mohamed Abrini. But the city did return to some normalcy Wednesday with kids going back to school and much of the city's subway system reopening.
French President Francois Hollande is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday as he continues his push to persuade world leaders to intensify their actions against the Islamic State group. He goes to Moscow on Thursday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Tuesday, Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to scale up airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, broaden their scope, and strengthen intelligence sharing, while urging closure of the Turkey-Syria border to prevent Islamic State fighters from crossing into Europe
“Against Daesh, we need a joint response, an implacable joint response," Holland said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. "France and the United States stand together to bring that joint response,” he said.
He vowed to hunt down Islamic State leaders, dismantle their networks and take back their territory.
France has recently intensified its bombing of Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria as part of a U.S.-led coalition that has carried out more than 8,300 airstrikes since August 2014.
The White House said Obama directed his national security team to "intensify ongoing efforts to degrade and destroy" the militant group. It said the U.S. is also working to increase military cooperation with allies, disrupt foreign fighter networks, stop Islamic State from expanding outside of Syria and Iraq, and break up efforts to plot attacks elsewhere in the world.
Obama also pledged that "Americans will not be terrorized, while calling on his countrymen to uphold the U.S. ideals of freedom of religion and equality before the law, in the midst of a contentious debate in the country over whether to allow Syrian refugees to enter the U.S.
Obama has been criticized by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates looking to succeed him when he leaves office in January 2017 for his plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year. But he noted that France is set to permit 30,000 Syrians to enter its borders, and he reiterated that his refugee plan calls for intensive screening before anyone can move to the United States.
Chris Hannas and VOA Mandarin Service's Adrianna Zhang contributed to this.