Friday 23 March 2018

European capitals on alert for New Year's Eve terror attack

Keith Vaz: people should not give in to terrorists
Keith Vaz: people should not give in to terrorists

Tom Whitehead and Allison Quinn

London and other European capitals are on alert amid fears Islamist terrorists are planning an outrage on New Year's Eve.

A "friendly" intelligence service has warned that a gun or bomb attack could be carried out in crowded places in a major European city between Christmas and New Year, it has emerged.

The message came as Russian authorities warned citizens to stay home on Thursday night, saying it was the "safest" way of seeing in the new year.

However, Keith Vaz, chairman of the House of Commons home affairs committee, insisted that the British should not give in to terrorists.

A warning of another attack on a European city was issued by an unnamed intelligence agency ahead of Christmas, Austrian authorities disclosed.

"In the days before Christmas, a warning was sent out by a friendly [intelligence] service to numerous European capitals, saying that it could come to an attack involving explosives or a shooting between Christmas and the new year in crowded spaces," said police in Vienna.

"Several possible names of potential attackers were mentioned, which were checked, and the investigation based on [these checks] has so far yielded no concrete results."

The warning led to an increase in security checks, including surveillance in crowded spaces, "especially at events and traffic hubs" as well as intensive identity checks and higher alertness for objects which could carry explosives, such as bags or even bicycle frames, the police said.

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said: "Germany is still in the crosshairs of jihadist terrorism."

In Russia, Valery Ryzansky, head of the upper house of parliament's tourism committee, warned people to celebrate new year at home.

"Each person should decide on his own whether or not to travel to Europe to celebrate … but right now, when the issue of terrorist threats continues to be highly relevant, a family celebration of New Year's Eve at home is the safest and best format in the current situation," Mr Ryzansky said.

However, Mr Vaz said: "I disagree with him. We should never allow the threat of terrorism to frighten us into changing our normal lives."

In a separate development, four dedicated regional armed police units could be established amid fears there is insufficient cover to deal with a terror attack outside London.

British counter-terrorism chiefs are in talks with Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to have the units on standby around the clock to be able to react within 15 minutes of any attack. The suggestion comes after concerns that there is not sufficient armed police cover in many British cities.

Irish Independent

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