US, UK issue travel alert for Europe
The US State Department issued a formal alert Sunday warning Americans travelling in Europe to remain vigilant against "the potential for terrorist attacks" and urging precaution in public places and transportation systems.
Britain's foreign ministry on updated Sunday its advice for citizens travelling France and Germany, warning there was a "high threat of terrorism" in the two European countries.
"We can confirm that the travel advice for France and Germany has been updated," a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP.
"Like other large European countries, they have a high threat of terrorism, which is reflected in our updated travel advice."
The updated travel advice for France and Germany on the Foreign Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) said that "attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers".
It came shortly after the US State Department issued a travel alert for Europe in general, warning of "the potential for terrorist attacks" and urging Americans to take precautions in public places and transport systems.
"Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks," the State Department said in its alert.
"US citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when travelling."
It said attackers may use "a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests," and that particular targets could be railways, subways and other tourist infrastructure.
The alert -- which the State Department issues regarding specific events, and is one step down from a travel warning -- follows intelligence reports, which suggested an al-Qaeda attack could be imminent.
"European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions," the State Department said.
US officials on Saturday said such an alert was likely.
"The bottom line would be to tell Americans to continue to travel but be vigilant," a US official told AFP on Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another US government official told AFP the State Department would take "further actions as appropriate."
"We have been and continue to be focused on al-Qaeda'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 past week reported that Western intelligence agencies had uncovered an al-Qaeda plot to launch attacks in Britain, France, Germany and the United States.
The reports said well-armed, commando-style teams of jihadists planned to seize and murder Western hostages in a manner similar to the attacks two years ago in the Indian city of Mumbai on two hotels and its main railway station, in which 10 gunmen killed 166 people and injured more than 300.