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Edited from Original Title re: Terror Warnings in Europe


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  • There has been all sorts of chatter about this in the last week or so...lots of interceptions regarding "commando-style" raids on cities, as in Mumbai two years ago.  Looks like the decision has been made to make the warning official...

    US to issue terror warning to Americans in Europe

    US government is to issue travel alert warning citizens to be vigilant while travelling in Europe due to threat of al-Qaida attack

    Press Association
  • guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 October 2010 10.17 BST
  • Article history

The Eiffel Tower has been evacuated twice in two weeks over security fears. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

The US government is to warn its citizens to stay away from high-profile sites in Europe amid renewed fears over al-Qaida terrorist attacks, reports say.

American and UK officials are understood to have been in contact over the possibility of a broad alert being issued as early as today that would have significant implications for tourism across Europe. High-profile tourist sites and transport hubs are expected to be highlighted as potential targets.

However, reports suggested the warning was likely to be vague and urge people to exercise caution rather than cancelling travel plans altogether.

A senior US state department official said: "We are considering issuing an alert [today]. The bottom line is travel, but be vigilant."

State department spokesman PJ Crowley would not comment on specific threats, but said the US remained focused on al-Qaida threats to US interests and would take appropriate steps to protect Americans.

The warning comes one week after intelligence officials in Britain intercepted a credible Islamist-linked terror plot. The attack would reportedly have been similar to the deadly commando-style raids in Mumbai, India, two years ago, with other European cities, in France and Germany, also targeted.

On Tuesday night the Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated following a bomb threat called in from a telephone booth. It was the second such alert at the tower in two weeks. A search by bomb experts found nothing unusual, and it was reopened within hours.

There has been speculation that Osama bin Laden could be masterminding the latest plots personally.

On Friday, Sweden announced it had raised its threat alert to the highest level ever because of an increased threat of terror attacks.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that the UK's terror threat rating remained at "severe", the second highest rating, where it has been since increasing from "substantial" in January.

There has been an upsurge in US drone raids in Pakistan in recent weeks as Nato targets Islamic militants. The US has carried out at least 25 drone strikes so far this month in Pakistan's tribal areas – the highest monthly total for the past six years, US media reported.

US officials have been pushing Pakistan to increase their search for al-Qaida militants, who are believed to be hiding in a mountainous border region in the country

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The Associated Press just updated thisand included this extra bit of info:

"The alert is one step below a formal travelwarning advising Americans not to visit Europe."

So, this is not a run-of-the-mill warning to beextra- alert.

 And, update from the Guardian:


"Britain has followed the United States in upgrading its travel advice forEurope and warning of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks.

The foreign office said there was "a high threat of terrorism" in Germany and France, having previously identified a "general threat".


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Japan issues Europe travel alert, joining US

While Al Qaeda has not targeted Japanese nationals, the rare travel alert is a sign of how seriously Japan and other governments are taking the Europe terror threat.


Japan on Monday issued a travel alert for visitors to Europe, reflecting widening concerns over terror strikes in Europe by militants trained in Pakistan, some of them possibly European citizens.

Tokyo's alert followed a similar one from the United States on Sunday, which drew support from the United Kingdom and France. The UK raised its terror warning to "high" for its nationals in France and Germany after the US announcement. But Germany has said it sees no danger of imminent terror attacks, and German intelligence is skeptical of the warnings, reportsAgence-France Presse today.

Japan's alert, issued by its Foreign Ministry, "made no mention of a specific country, but advised its citizens to be cautious when using public transport and visiting popular tourist sites," according to The Guardian. "An official at the ministry said that the highly unusual warning was not prompted by any specific intelligence but by the previous British and American alerts."

A Japanese official also told the Associated Press it was very unusual for Tokyo to issue such an alert, a sign of how seriously the threat is being taken by governments the world over.

Neither Japanese nationals nor Japan itself have have been major targets of Al Qaeda terrorism. The attack in August on a Japanese oil tanker was said to be the first Al Qaeda attack on a Japanese target – and though an Al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility, the veracity of that claim is still in question. In 2004, a French citizen with alleged Al Qaeda connections was arrested by Japanese police, according to a report at that time from the Associated Press, although French authorities said claims were "exaggerated" that the suspect was trying to start an Al Qaeda cell in Japan.

In 2008, Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, implied in taped responses to questions from Japan's Kyodo News service that Japan was an Al Qaeda target because of its alliance with the US and its assistance to the invasion of Iraq. Japan had sent a 600-member non-combat contingent to Iraq to help the country's reconstruction, and also helped fly equipment between Kuwait and Iraq.

"Why did the Japanese start the aggression on us within the alliance of the Americans?" Zawahri said, according to Kyodo News. "Our Islamic faith incites us to resist the despots and tyrants, even if they were the most powerful force on Earth so will Japan learn a lesson from this?"

The US alert, published Sunday, warns US citizens to the "potential for terrorist attacks in Europe" targeting "official and private interests" including "public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure."

"US citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling," according to the State Department alert, which is less severe than an official "travel warning."

The New York Times, in a Sunday report, quotes terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman complaining about the vagueness of the alert.

“Usually they’re at least country-specific,†Dr. Hoffman said. “This one is an entire continent. I’m not sure what it says, beyond the fact that the world’s a dangerous place, and we already knew that.â€

But the Times also quoted an anonymous US counterterrorism official saying the threat of attacks on Europe was credible, but that not enough details were known yet about the plot to issue more specific advisories.

The German intelligence community is skeptical of warnings about imminent attacks on Europe. German daily Der Spiegel reports today that one main source of the intelligence that has worried US officials is Ahmad Sidiqi, a German jihadist currently in US custody in Afghanistan and being questioned by "special units of the CIA and the American military."

His statements apparently alarmed Sidiqi's American interrogators. Still, it remains unclear whether the reports can be considered reliable or whether Sidiqi's claims are the typical Al Qaeda brew, consisting of one-third truth, one-third lies and one-third omission. Although the CIA is taking Sidiqi seriously, German authorities are more reserved in their analysis.

A German diplomat met with Sidiqi on Sunday, and German intelligence officials are preparing to travel to Afghanistan to question Sidiqi themselves, Der Spiegel reports.

In France, the daily Le Monde reports today that the French public deemed labor strikes a more pressing problem than terrorism, according to a France Info-20 Minutes poll. But 79 percent of the French public did say terrorism was a "serious" or "very serious" threat, the poll found.

Meanwhile, American tourists interviewed by the Associated Press in Paris on Monday said the alert had not disrupted their travel plans. And NBA teams in Europe for pre-season exhibition games will continue their tours as scheduled, the Associated Press also reported.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just thought I would add this update from an hour ago so that people do not forget to be slightly more alert right now....



French minister:Saudis warn of new terror threat

 By Elaine Ganley, Associated Press Writer – 1hr 40 mins ago

 

PARIS – Saudi intelligenceservices have warned of a new terror threat from al-Qaida against Europe,particularly in France,Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said Sunday.

 

He said the warning of a potential attack by al-Qaida in theArabian Peninsula was received "in thelast few hours, few days."

European officials were informed that "al-Qaida in theArabian Peninsula was doubtless active or envisioned being active" on the"European continent, notably France," Hortefeux said duringa joint TV and radio interview.

 

"The threat is real," he said on RTL-LCI-LeFigaro's weekly talk show.

 

The warning from Saudi Arabia is the latest in aseries of alerts that have put French security forces and others inhigh-vigilance mode.

 

On Sept. 9, Interpol, the international police organization,signaled an "Islamist threat on a world scale, and notably on the Europeancontinent," Hortefeux said without elaborating. That was followed by aSept. 16, report of a woman suicide bomber who could take action in France — laterjudged not fully credible.

 

Intelligence sources in North Africa also contacted France about a potential threat as did the United States,he said. He said he had spoken at length with U.S. Homeland Security SecretaryJanet Napolitano.

 

It was the first time a French official has offered detailsabout potential threats since mid-September, when officials first publiclyinvoked the possibility that Francecould be a target of radical Islamist groups.

 

"We must not overestimate the threat or underestimateit," the minister said. "We are directly concerned."

No one could be reached at the Saudi Interior Ministry lateSunday.

 

The U.S. State Department advised American citizens livingor traveling in Europe earlier this month to take more precautions followingreports that terrorists may be plotting attacks on a European city, possiblyashooting spree or other type of attack similar to the deadly 2008 Mumbaiattacks in India.

 

Francebegan boosting security last month at busy tourist sites like Notre DameCathedral and the Eiffel Tower, which was twiceevacuated after false claims of an attack. French authorities recorded ninebomb alerts in the capital in September, including the two at the Eiffel Tower— a threefold increase from a year earlier. No explosives were found.

 

Speculation on the source of a potential terror threat hascentered on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, another al-Qaida offshoot activein Algeria and Africa'sSahel region, which took five French citizens hostage Sept. 16 from a heavilyguarded mining town in Niger.Two workers from Togo and Madagascar alsowere captured.

 

French fears that it could be a target of the Maghrebaffiliate of al-Qaida are based on Paris' historic ties to the region, where itis a former colonial ruler, and recent enmity caused by such things as theFrench law banning burqa-style veils in streets. Al-Qaida had spoken againstthe measure before it became law. Francealso has soldiers in Afghanistan.

 

A threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula would beunusual for France and Europe. The group is made up of radical Islamists from Yemen and Saudibranches who merged a year and a half ago.

 

However, the group has already showed its will to reachbeyond the Middle East, claimingresponsibility for the failed attempt to down a Detroit-bound jetliner with asuicide bomber in December.

 

Whether various al-Qaida affiliates coordinate action orcommunicate with each other is unknown, but experts tend to doubt that is thecase.

 

Meanwhile, a Yemeni official said Sunday that warplanesbombed al-Qaida hide-outs in the country's south, killing five militants.

Security measures were tightened around foreign interestsand Western embassies in San'a for possible terrorists acts, a securityofficial said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorizedto speak to the media.

 

Police closed the main road leading to the U.S. embassyand security measures were tightened around the British embassy and the Frenchembassy.

On Friday, the Department of State warned U.S. citizens of the high security threat levelin Yemen due to terroristactivities and Franceurged families of French workers there to leave the country on securityconcerns. Britain has urgedits citizens to remain vigilant in Yemen.

 

On Oct. 6, attackers fired a rocket at a convoy carrying Britain's No. 2 diplomat in Yemen and aseparate attack on the same day by a security guard killed a French oil worker.Britain'sdeputy chief of mission Fionna Gibb was unharmed in the rocket attack butanother embassy official suffered minor injuries.

 

The British Foreign Office had no comment.

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