U.S. Issues Alert for Europe, Cites Terror Threat

By Mark Drajem and Jeff Bliss
(c) 2010 Bloomberg News
Sunday, October 3, 2010; 9:49 AM

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. State Department issued an alert warning Americans traveling to Europe to be vigilant about possible terrorist attacks.

The advisory says Americans should be aware that terrorists often target popular tourist attractions and public transportation such as subways and rail systems.

"Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks," the State Department advisory said. "Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests."

Militants based in Pakistan are planning coordinated strikes in the U.K., France and Germany, prompting the recent increase in U.S. drone strikes in the region, Sky News reported, citing U.S. officials it didn't name. ABC News, citing U.S. and European officials, said the tipoff came from a German terror suspect held in Afghanistan who told interrogators that teams of attackers with European passports have been dispatched.

"European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack," the State Department statement said.

A State Department "travel alert" is separate from its "travel warnings," which advise Americans to avoid going to specific countries. Travel alerts are "issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions," according to the State Department web site.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said she had been informed by the U.S. of its travel advice for European travel and said it is "consistent" with that of the U.K. government.

"As we have consistently made clear, we face a real and serious threat from terrorism," May said in an e-mailed statement today. "Our threat level remains at severe -- meaning that an attack is highly likely. We work closely with our international partners in countering terrorism and the U.S. advice is consistent with our assessment."

The U.K. today also upgraded its advice for Britons travelling to France and Germany.

"Like other large European countries, they have a high threat of terrorism, which is reflected in our updated travel advice," the Foreign Office in London said in an e-mailed statement.

The U.K.'s Telegraph reported that last week intelligence officials in Britain intercepted a credible Islamist-linked terror plot.

France also said the alert was in line with its recommendations to French citizens, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We have noted the vigilance recommendations announced by the United States for Americans travelling in Europe, which are in line with the general recommendations we ourselves make to the French population," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement, according to AFP.

Police in Paris on Sept. 28 evacuated the Eiffel Tower for the second time in two weeks after bomb threats. Searches of the city's landmark yielded no evidence of a bomb either time.

Reports have focused on attacks similar to the 2008 ones by the Lashkar-e-Taiba guerilla group in Mumbai that left 166 people dead.

In those attacks, militants armed with grenades and rifles stormed into the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel and the Oberoi Trident complex, singling out foreign nationals and taking hostages in a three-day siege.

© 2010 bloomberg.com