US to issue Europe travel alert over al-Qa’ida attack intelligence

THE United States is considering issuing an alert for Americans travelling to Europe, after intelligence suggested an Al-Qa’ida attack could be imminent.

“We are contemplating a travel alert for Europe,” a US official said.

“The bottom line would be to tell Americans to continue to travel but be vigilant. The alert could be issued as early as tomorrow.”

Another US government official said the State Department would take “further actions as appropriate”.

“We have been and continue to be focused on Al-Qa’ida’s interest in attacking us, our allies and our interests. We will spare no effort to thwart terrorists’ plans, and will take further actions as appropriate,” the official said.

News media in the last week reported that western intelligence agencies had uncovered an Al-Qa’ida plot to launch attacks in Britain, France, Germany and the US.

The reports said well-armed, commando-style teams of jihadists planned to seize and murder Western hostages in a manner similar to the siege two years ago of two Indian hotels in Mumbai, in which 10 gunmen killed 166 people and injured more than 300.

Intelligence and diplomatic officials in Europe and the US so far have refused to confirm the alleged terror plot on the record.

However, a US official last week privately confirmed the reports, but said it was not clear when and where the attack was meant to be launched.

“The threat is, at this point, credible but not specific,” said the official, who asked to remain unnamed.

“It’s unclear, for instance, precisely where something might occur. For that reason, people shouldn’t limit their thinking to the United Kingdom, France, or Germany.

“And while no one should dismiss the prospect of a Mumbai-style operation, it’s entirely conceivable that other modes of attack are in play.”

Travel alerts are one step down from travel warnings, and the State Department says alerts usually refer to specific short-term events, according to its website.

Alerts “are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, either transnational or within a particular country, that pose significant risks to the security of US citizens,” the website said.

“Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.”

Currently, a travel alert exists for India through November 15 due to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, scheduled to begin in Delhi tonight.

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