US State Dept.: Euro terror threat still active

Counter-terror official: We were seeing a lot of alerts, very significant remarks from high level French officials.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
October 14, 2010 18:05
2 minute read.
British police officers guard in London, Monday.

UK police cops terror warning 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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LONDON — A European terrorist plot is still enough of a threat for the United States to keep its current travel advisory, the US State Department's counter-terrorism coordinator said Thursday.

Earlier this month, the State Department advised American citizens living or traveling in Europe to take more precautions about their personal security following reports that terrorists may be plotting attacks in Europe. Concerns have centered around a plot using assault weapons on public places similar to the deadly 2008 shooting spree in Mumbai, India.

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The US travel advisory is one step below a formal travel warning advising Americans not to visit Europe.

"We don't view the current circumstances warrant rescinding the alert," said Daniel Benjamin, the US counter-terrorism coordinator. "We think the situation is pretty much the same."

Some European and Pakistani officials had questioned whether the United States was overreacting in issuing the travel advisory, but Benjamin said the intelligence had been gathered from various sources over several months and presented a credible threat. Some of the plot details came from Ahmed Siddiqui, a German citizen of Afghan descent captured by US troops in Afghanistan in July.

"The credibility of the information was what was most striking about this — and the fact that it was so internally consistent," Benjamin said. "That said, some of the specifics were absent and we would have liked to have been more able to say what we were seeing. Because that wasn't there, we went out with the alert that we did.

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"We tried to couch it as carefully as we could. ... But we felt we had an obligation — both an ethical one but also a legal one — to warn American tourists that this was a concern."

Benjamin said another factor that had led to the advisory was fear among European intelligence officials.

"We were seeing a lot of activity in Europe in terms of alerts," he said. "We had seen very significant remarks from high level French officials ... (and) we saw the Swedish alert. There has been more activity since, which we take as confirmation that others see this the same way we do."

Britain's current terror threat level remains unchanged at "severe," meaning an attack is highly likely.

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