Germany says terror threat unchanged despite reports
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said on Wednesday authorities were aware of information pointing to planned attacks by al Qaeda in the United States and Europe, but that the security threat had not changed.
British media said intelligence agencies had disrupted plans for multiple attacks on European cities by a group thought to be linked to al Qaeda, with militants planning simultaneous strikes in London, as well as in cities in France and Germany.
The German interior ministry said in a statement that it knew about the information on possible attacks and that this had been exchanged with other countries with the requisite "sensitivity and intensity," adding:
"At present there are no concrete pointers to imminent attacks in Germany stemming from this. The current pointers do not warrant a change in the assessment of the danger level."
U.S. security officials earlier said they could not confirm that a plot had been disrupted. But they said they believed that the threat of a plot or plots was continuing.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one security official in Germany said the reports had probably been sparked by the interrogation of a German-Afghan terror suspect in Afghanistan.
"We're hearing increasing rumblings, which you have to take very seriously -- but no concrete pointers," the official said, when asked about the veracity of the reports.
The suspect believed to be behind the revelations was identified by media as Ahmed Sidiqi, a German of Afghan origin. German media said he came from Hamburg and had been held in the U.S. military prison of Bagram since July.
Four U.S. security officials, who asked for anonymity, said that initial intelligence reports about the threat first surfaced roughly two weeks ago, around the time of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Britain in January raised its international terrorism threat level to "severe" -- the second highest level of alert.
French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said on September 20 France faced a real terrorism threat due to a backlash from al Qaeda militants in North Africa, with fears growing of an attack from home-grown cells within French borders.
The Eiffel Tower and the surrounding Champ de Mars park were briefly evacuated on Tuesday because of a bomb alert, the fourth such alert in the Paris region in as many weeks, but a search turned up nothing, police said.
(Reporting by Dave Graham and Sabine Siebold in Berlin)
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