UK transport hubs on high alert as terror threat raised
Al-Qa'ida is plotting car bomb, suicide and Mumbai-style attacks on crowds at British airports and train stations, a secret government memorandum discloses.
An alert issued by the security services warns of plots against transport hubs by al-Qa'ida's "international operations wing" designed to cause "a large number of casualties".
The "restricted" document details plans for "one or more attacks against Europe, including the UK", aimed at "high-profile Western targets".
It warns of attacks against British airports and the London transport network -- including the Underground -- with the aim of inflicting "political, economic and psychological" damage. Terrorists, it says, could use "vehicle-borne" or "hand-delivered" bombs and firearms.
The memo, dated on Thursday and sent to airlines, airports and cargo carriers by the Department for Transport, said the threat was "credible". It originated at the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, part of MI5, sources said. "No announcement about the aviation or London transport sector threat level changes will be made to the media," it adds.
The threat level was raised from "substantial" to "severe" for transport hubs, meaning an attack is "highly likely". It has led to transport police calling in extra officers. Fears are growing that Islamic extremists could try to mount a Mumbai-style attack, where armed terrorists attack crowds, killing indiscriminately.
Prime Minister David Cameron said in a new year message that the terrorist threat was "as serious today as it ever has been" and that police and the security and intelligence agencies were "working around the clock to foil plots".
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, echoed that warning in a speech yesterday, saying the threat was "very, very real".
The Department for Transport document reports that "there are indications that AQ (al-Qa'ida) may be considering an attack against a UK airport or aviation sector target.
"The economic, political and psychological significance of the UK aviation sector, coupled with the large crowds present at some of its major assets, would enable a successful attack to fulfil AQ's objectives."
The "planned method of attack is unclear" but al-Qa'ida is "able to use a wide range of attack methods, including the use of person or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (IEDs), hand-delivered IEDs and firearms against aircraft and airport targets".
The same warning was issued for London transport, including the Underground, Docklands Light Railway, buses, trams and river services. (© Daily Telegraph, London)