Intelligence officials have intercepted a credible Islamist-linked terror plot against European cities in Britain, France and Germany it emerged today.
The threat is one of “a succession” of terror operations the UK has been dealing with over the past weeks, a British government official said, although the UK’s terror alert status has not been raised from “severe”.
The planned attack would have reportedly been similar to the deadly commando-style raids in Mumbai, India, two years ago.
Last 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 monument in two weeks.
One UK government official told the Associated Press (AP) news agency: “There have been a succession of terror operations we’ve been dealing with over recent weeks but one to two that have preoccupied us.
“Still, it hasn’t been to the degree that we have raised the threat level.”
Another British official would not confirm the plot was “al-Qaida inspired” but told AP there was an “Islamist connection” and that the plots were in an early stage. No other details were given.
A British Home Office spokesman said it was unable to comment on security matters, but confirmed the country’s terror threat was unchanged.
Yesterday French police closed off surroundings to the Eiffel Tower, France’s most visited monument. Officers pulled red-and-white police tape across a bridge leading over the Seine River, and stood guard.
Bomb experts combed through the 324m (1,063ft) tower and found nothing unusual, Paris police headquarters said. Tourists were let back inside about two hours after the structure was emptied.
German officials denied yesterday they had intercepted threats, saying there had been no change to the country’s threat level.
More than 170 people were killed during a 24-hour co-ordinated attack on Mumbai, also known as Bombay, by 10 gunmen in November 2008. It has been blamed on Pakistani militants.
Since the 9/11 terror attacks in the US nine years ago, terror group al-Qaida is believed to have moved outside Afghanistan and Pakistan to other countries such as Somalia and Yemen.
Intelligence officials in Washington said a recent surge of missile strikes by unmanned US drones in Pakistan were aimed at disrupting suspected terrorist plots targeting Europe.
But it is not known whether the drone attacks were related specifically to the plot that European authorities said they had intercepted.
One US counter-terrorism official told AP the targeted strikes were aimed at al-Qaida and other militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghanistan border.
The Obama administration has intensified the use of drone-fired missiles in Pakistan’s border area but this month there have been at least 21 attacks, more than double the highest number fired in any other single month.
A suspected US missile strike yesterday killed four militants in north-west Pakistan’s South Waziristan region, just across the border from Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.
There was no word on the identities of those killed in the attack.