Eiffel Tower terror 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
LONDON — Intelligence officials intercepted a credible terror plot against Britain and France, raising security fears at the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday, but failed to raise the overall threat level in either country.
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The Eiffel Tower was briefly evacuated Tuesday evening after officials received a bomb threat called in from a telephone booth. It was the second such alert at the monument in two weeks.
The warning came as French officials were put on alert for possible terror attacks. British officials, too, have been aware of a possible attack but the terror threat warning has not changed from "severe."
"There have been a succession of terror operations we've been dealing with over recent weeks but one to two that have preoccupied us," said one British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work. "Still, it has not been to the degree that we have raised the threat level."
Another British official, who spoke on the same terms, would not confirm
the plot was "al-Qaida inspired" but said there was an "Islamist
connection" and that the plots were in an early stage. No other details
German officials denied Tuesday they had intercepted threats, saying
there had been no change to their threat level.
In Paris, French police closed off the surroundings of the Eiffel Tower
on Tuesday. Officers pulled red-and-white police tape across a bridge
leading over the Seine River to the monument. Officers stood guard.
Bomb experts combed through the 324-meter (1,063-foot) tower and found
nothing unusual, the Paris police headquarters said. Tourists were let
back inside about two hours after the structure was emptied.
National Police Chief Frederic Pechenard said last week that authorities
suspect al-Qaida's North African branch of plotting a bomb attack on a
crowded location in France. His warning came after al-Qaida in the
Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, claimed responsibility for the September 16
abduction of five French nationals and two Africans in northern Niger.
The French parliament voted this month to ban burqa-style Islamic veils
in France, a subject that has prompted warnings by AQIM.
Counter-terrorism officials said that is just one of several factors
that contributed to the heightened threat.
At the Eiffel Tower, an anonymous caller called in a warning to
firefighters, the Paris police headquarters said. The company that runs
the monument asked police to evacuate it.
Police responded to a similar false alert at the tower on September 14,
also following a phone threat. The bustling Saint Lazare train station
in Paris was briefly evacuated and searched on Monday.