British transport authorities have warned aviation officials that al Qaeda is considering an attack against a UK airport or other airline industry target, the BBC reported yesterday.
The warning, described as credible, was delivered in a letter and went on to say that no changes to security will be made and the planned method of attack is unclear.
An American official said British authorities had warned their US counterparts of a possible terror threat to planes flying through the UK.
The official would not give details, but indicated that British authorities have said they were monitoring all forms of transit in the UK.
The heightened awareness came from increased “chatter” among suspects under surveillance by the authorities, a UK government security official said. But he added that no threat was imminent.
The report comes amid increased concerns at airports and railway stations. British Transport Police declined to comment on the deployment of officers. However, the police denied a Sky News report that officers had been ordered to cancel days off.
Britain’s Government said the threat level from international terrorism remains “severe” – the second-highest level, meaning an attack is highly likely. The level has not changed since last January
Britain’s Home Office said that any imminent, serious threat to public safety would prompt a change to “critical”.
Britain’s move comes after France and Germany increased security after warning of a heightened threat of terrorist attack. In October, the US State Department advised American citizens living or travelling in Europe to be wary amid reports that terrorists were planning a “Mumbai-style” attack on a European city.
The next month, German authorities ordered increased security measures, including a beefed-up police presence in railway stations, airports and other public places.
France is also especially vigilant on terrorism-linked matters following warnings in recent months that French citizens were targets for al Qaeda. France’s terror alert status is at its second-highest level.
More than 170 people were killed in a 2008 gun attack on multiple targets in the Indian city of Mumbai.
European officials have been jittery in recent weeks, especially after Iraqi officials claimed last month that captured insurgents believed militants planned a series of Christmas season attacks against European targets, of which a botched December 11 suicide bombing in Stockholm was one.
But European officials said they knew of no specific terror plots against Europe over the holiday season.
“There is a continuing need for everyone to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police,” the Home Office said in a statement.
BAA, which runs Heathrow and five other terminals, said security at its airports remained at a high level and that the company is vigilant at all times.