Europe security Oct. 4, 2010 AP
Mounted policemen patrol outside Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010. Photo by AP Photo / Laurent Cipriani
Text size

Germany's interior minister sought Wednesday to calm public concerns amid a spate of warnings about the risk of a terrorist attack in Europe.

France became the latest country to issue a security alert, telling citizens heading to Britain to exercise caution due to a very high risk of terrorist action there that could target public transport and tourist sites.

That followed a U.S. alert on Sunday warning American citizens to exercise caution if travelling in Europe. The same day, Britain raised the threat level to "high" from "general"
for its citizens travelling to Germany and France.

Security sources say the trigger for the series of warnings was intelligence about a possible al-Qaida related plot to launch commando-style assaults on European cities, modeled on the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistan-based militants that killed some 170 people.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said he saw no indications of any imminent attack on Germany, even though the country remained in general a target.

Talking about possible attacks played into the hands of terrorists by fuelling public fears, he said.

"Public discussion is something terrorists use because they want to spread fear. We're working but not talking a lot," de Maiziere told Deutschlandfunk radio.

"I can only urge people to believe us when we say that all the security agencies are working all out and professionally," he said, adding in his view the danger to Germany was only "hypothetical".

"No one should doubt that Germany is a target for terrorists but on the other hand there are no concrete, immediate attack plans that we are aware of," de Maiziere said.

He said he could not confirm accounts from Pakistani intelligence officials that eight militants of German nationality had been killed by a suspected U.S. missile strike in northwest Pakistan on Monday.

"What astonishes me is that this attack reportedly happened the day before yesterday in an inaccessible area by unmanned drones and at the same time identity cards are found. That doesn't fit together," de Maiziere said. "I regard it as possible but not confirmed," he added.

"The situation is that we've received a lot of references, also from independent sources, about activities in the Pakistani border region or plans for Germany. Internally we've been ratcheting things up. We're in close contact with our partners."

Sunday's vague U.S. alert about attack risks in Europe was evidence of this heightened U.S. sensitivity, analysts say. The alert has met a mostly muted response in Europe.

But French authorities issued an advisory to travellers late on Tuesday on what they called the very high risk of a terrorist attack in Britain.

"We advise (travelers) to be extremely vigilant on public transport and at popular tourist sites," the foreign ministry said on its website.

Britain's threat level at home was raised to "severe" on Jan. 22 this year.

The French saying an attack is highly likely is true because that is where our threat level is," said a spokeswoman for London's Counter Terrorism Command.