Friday 19 January 2018

US warns its citizens over terror attack threat to Euros

Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the opening of the Latin America and Caribbean Week at the Elysee Palace (Getty Images)
Francois Hollande delivers a speech during the opening of the Latin America and Caribbean Week at the Elysee Palace (Getty Images)

Harriet Alexander

The United States has warned its citizens about the risk of a terrorist attack during the Euro 2016 tournament, updating its travel advice after President François Hollande said terrorism was the biggest threat to the competition.

French intelligence recently warned of Islamists' desire to let off bombs in public places while security services have mounted several major training exercises in case of terror attack in train stations or stadiums.

Tourism industry representatives in the French capital and elsewhere have warned that industrial action is seeing visitors cancel bookings en masse to the world's most visited city, only just recovering from a downturn in the wake of the November 2015 attacks.

"The scenes of guerrilla-type action in the middle of Paris, beamed around the world, reinforce the feeling of fear and misunderstanding," the tourist board said.

And yesterday the state department advised US citizens to be cautious.

"Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists, as do other large-scale sporting events and public gathering places throughout Europe," the department said.

"We are alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe.

"The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events."

The state department's advisory is part of a growing crescendo of warnings.

On Sunday, Hans-Georg Massen, head of German intelligence, said that they were picking up "quite a lot of background noise" from terrorists discussing the tournament.

"We know that IS (Isil) has the European Championship in its sights," he told the 'Rheinische Post' newspaper.

He added that while there was no hard evidence of an attack being planned, there was "quite a lot of background noise, an elevated number of indications" that Isil, al-Qa'ida or its Syrian affiliate Nusra Front wanted to perpetrate attacks against Western targets.

In London, the Foreign Office updated its travel advice on Tuesday, but only to add warnings about the potential strikes. The terrorist warning was already included in its advice.

Vigilant "There is a high threat from terrorism," the FCO warned. "Due to ongoing threats to France by Islamist terrorist groups, and recent French military intervention against Daesh (formerly referred to as Isil), the French government has warned the public to be especially vigilant and has reinforced its security measures."

The travel warning issued from Washington also pointed out that major sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants and shopping centres are possible targets.

France is also hosting the Tour de France, while under an extended state of emergency.

Meanwhile, two-and-a-half million visitors are expected in Krakow, Poland, for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in late July.

The state department tells US citizens to be vigilant in public places or when using mass transportation.

They also should be prepared for additional security screening and for unexpected disruptions.(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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