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Travelers in Europe Issued More Warnings After Suspected Terror Threats

October 4, 2010 at 4:36 PM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: Tourists in Europe were in the spotlight today after the U.S. and several other countries issued travel alerts. The alerts grew out of reports last week about a terror plot aimed at European cities.

In the meantime, the U.S. launched another drone attack into Pakistan, where some of the plotters reportedly trained.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

KWAME HOLMAN: Japan and Sweden today became the latest countries to urge caution by their nationals living in or visiting Europe. The U.S. and Britain issued their alerts on Sunday.

The State Department advisory said in part, “U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.”

The advisory didn’t suggest that Americans cancel their travel plans. And, at U.S. airports, reactions varied among those departing for Europe.

REBECCA GORDON, traveler: Most of my traveling started after 9/11 anyway, so I have always had this kind of constant kind of sense of being careful, but not so much that I’m worried and not having fun.

CHARLES PAGANO, traveler: You can’t just get on a plane and go wherever you have to go. You got to worry about if you’re going to make it home alive.

KWAME HOLMAN: The alerts were triggered by intelligence that terrorists may attack public places, tourist attractions, or transportation centers in Britain, France and Germany, but no specific target has been identified.

And, today, the German interior minister said h

is government sees no immediate threat.

THOMAS DE MAIZIERE, German interior minister (through translator): As a result, there are currently no concrete indications of imminent attacks in Germany. There is, however, a high abstract danger.

KWAME HOLMAN: In France, armed troops patrolled train stations and other key public places today. There have been two bomb scares at the Eiffel Tower in the past two weeks, but France has not raised its terror threat level.

The possible plot was said to be modeled after the attacks in Mumbai, India, two years ago, a commando-style raid aimed at hotels catering to Western travelers.

In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said there is no indication that terrorists are targeting the U.S. or Americans in particular.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. Attorney General: The threat stream that precipitated the alert is all directed at Europe. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re letting our guard down with regard to the United States. We have certainly seen over the past year attempts by al-Qaida or its affiliates to attack the United States.

KWAME HOLMAN: Some reports said eight Germans were involved in the

he suspected Europe plot. Several purportedly appeared at terror training camps in Pakistan in this propaganda video posted online. Pakistani officials say two British brothers also are suspected.

HUSAIN HAQQANI, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States: I think that several people who were plotting, involved in the plotting, have been targeted, and the others are certainly on the radar of U.S., Pakistani, and European intelligence services.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, Pakistani intelligence officials reported a CIA drone aircraft killed five Germans receiving terror training in Northwest Pakistan. It was unclear if they were among the suspects in the Europe alert.

Partly in response to terror fears, the drone strikes have surged in recent weeks. There have also been cross-border incursions by NATO helicopters flying out of Afghanistan. One such raid last week killed three Pakistani border guards.

Today, Associated Press television showed footage of Pakistani soldiers carrying the wounded. The Pakistani government reacted by closing a key border crossing at Torkham in the Khyber region. It’s a vital supply line to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Hundreds of trucks have been caught in the snarled traffic near the closed crossing.

HAYAT ZAMAN, Pakistan (through translator): We feel afraid, as, a few days ago, a blast occurred in this area and a lot of vehicles were destroyed. We rented this vehicle. If it gets burned, we will be ruined.

KWAME HOLMAN: That attack on NATO trucks last week was only the beginning, as the Taliban targets the idled convoys. Before dawn today, 20 trucks, including several fuel tankers, were engulfed in flames after insurgents opened fire on them not far from Islamabad. Four people were killed.

MIR WISE, police superintendent: There were about nine to 12 people who have come here and carried out this sabotage activity.

KWAME HOLMAN: Hours later, two more NATO trucks were burned, this time in southwest Pakistan.

Hoping to end the crisis, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen formally apologized to Pakistan’s foreign minister in Brussels, Belgium, today. He called the killings of the Pakistani border guards unintentional and appealed for the border crossing to be reopened. Pakistani officials have promised that will happen soon, but they have not named a date.