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Europe warned of new terror threat


Police stand by the Eiffel Tower after an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat (AP)

Police stand by the Eiffel Tower after an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat (AP)

Police stand by the Eiffel Tower after an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat (AP)

Saudi intelligence services have warned of a new al Qaida terror threat against Europe, particularly in France, the French government said.

Interior minister Brice Hortefeux said on Sunday the warning of a potential attack by al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was received "in the last few hours, few days".

European officials were informed that "al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was doubtless active or envisioned being active" on the "European continent, notably France," Mr Hortefeux said during a joint TV and radio interview.

"The threat is real," he said on RTL-LCI-Le Figaro's weekly talk show.

The warning from Saudi Arabia is the latest in a series of alerts that have put French security forces and others in high-vigilance mode.

On September 9, Interpol signalled an "Islamist threat on a world scale, and notably on the European continent", Mr Hortefeux said without elaborating. That was followed by a September 16 report of a woman suicide bomber who could take action in France - later judged not fully credible. And intelligence sources in North Africa also contacted France about a potential threat as did the US, he said. He said he had spoken at length with US homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano.

It was the first time a French minister has offered details about potential threats since mid-September, when officials first publicly invoked the possibility that France could be a target of radical Islamist groups. "We must not overestimate the threat or underestimate it," the minister said. "We are directly concerned."

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The US State Department advised American citizens living or travelling in Europe earlier this month to take more precautions following reports that terrorists may be plotting attacks on a European city, possibly a shooting spree or other type of attack similar to the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks in India.

France began boosting security last month at busy tourist sites such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, which was twice evacuated after false claims of an attack.

French authorities recorded nine bomb alerts in the capital in September, including the two at the Eiffel Tower - a threefold increase from a year earlier. No explosives were found.

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