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

By Mark Drajem
(c) 2010 Bloomberg News
Sunday, October 3, 2010; 1:47 PM

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. State Department issued an alert today cautioning 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. It doesn't warn Americans not to travel to the region.

"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 attacks 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. Reports have focused on attacks similar to the 2008 ones by the Pakistani-based Lashkar- e-Taiba on a hotel in Mumbai that left 166 people dead.

The State Department has been monitoring the threats in Europe for a few weeks and made the decision today based on the "cumulative effect of all types of information" it had, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy told reporters.

A State Department "travel alert" is distinct from a "travel warning," which advises 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.

The U.S. is "not, not, not" advising Americans to delay or cancel visits to Europe, Kennedy said on a conference call with reporters. The alert is set to expire at the end of January and no planned trips by U.S. government officials have been canceled, said Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman.

Pakistan's intelligence services are acting on information from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to try to foil any terrorism plots against Europe, Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said on CNN's "State of the Union" today.

U.S. airlines "are operating their business as usual with the same continued security vigilance in the interest of safe travel," David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said in an e-mail. The Washington-based group represents airlines such as Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said she had been informed by the U.S. of its European travel advice 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.

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