Reports: European Officials Disrupt Terrorist Plot
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Reports in Britain say intelligence agencies have disrupted a plot by Islamist terrorists to target cities in the U.K., France and Germany. The plan is said to have been modeled on the 2008 commando-style attack in Mumbai, India. There, heavily armed Islamist extremists stormed several sites and killed more than 160 people.
Today, security officials in Germany and Britain say they believe the plot was real but not imminent. And neither country raised its terror alert status.
From Berlin, NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.
ERIC WESTERVELT: Its believed that the threat was uncovered this summer when a jihadist and German citizen was detained in Pakistan while allegedly training for an attack in Europe. Hes now in U.S. custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.�
Wolfgang Bosbach heads the German parliaments internal affairs committee, which deals with terrorism and domestic security. He says the recently uncovered threat against European targets is credible, but not necessarily in an advanced stage.�
Mr. WOLFGANG BOSBACH (Internal affairs committee, Germany): (Through translator) Weve had the this information for several weeks now. It is further confirmation of the relatively high security warning level weve been at for the past two years. But we dont know when and where any attacks were planned to go off, so right now Germanys security threat level remains unchanged.
WESTERVELT: In August, after the alleged plot was uncovered, German authorities closed down a mosque in the port city of Hamburg that had long been a meeting area for jihadists in Germany. The mosque was also used by Mohammed Atta and other plotters of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.�
In the last year, several German speaking jihadists have posted threats on Islamist websites warning of attacks on German soil. Lawmaker Bosbach believes the uncovered plot underscores the ongoing threat of home-grown terrorists.�
Mr. BOSBACH: (Through translator) We know some 200 Islamist terrorists from Germany have made their way into the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan via North Africa and the Middle East. Over the past few months weve also received further video threats in which Germany has been named as a potential target.
WESTERVELT: In France, security services raised the terror threat level two weeks ago. For a second time in as many weeks, the tourist-packed Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated on Tuesday. There were also threats against French train and subway lines in recent weeks. There have been no arrests and its not clear how credible those threats were.
And British officials joined their German counterparts today in saying the commando style plot was apparently not imminent enough to warrant any increase in the terrorist threat level.
Patrick Mercer is a former British army officer and now a Conservative member of parliament. He says embryonic or not, a plot against European targets involving low-tech commando style tactics should be anticipated.�
Mr. PATRICK MERCER (Conservative, British parliament): Al-Qaida is probably going away from its former tactics of large scale bombings and looking more towards firearms-type attacks, the sort of thing that we saw, for instance, in Mumbai. That, combined with hijackings, kidnappings and executions - all very unpleasant and unpalatable stuff - but it's exactly what's been going on in other countries. This does not surprise me.�
WESTERVELT: Meantime, U.S. security officials tell NPR that the significant rise in September of U.S. drone missile strikes on targets along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not necessarily connected to the rise in terror threats in Europe, that the uptick is largely coincidental.
Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Berlin.�
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