Europe is facing ever more serious fears of another major terrorism attack, perhaps even over the Easter holiday period, as a series of security alerts spread fear through Spain, France, Britain and Italy.
Paris was the latest city to find itself on the apparent frontline of efforts to avert an attack by extremists groups, with the city’s rail traffic temporarily brought to a halt and five stations evacuated on Thursday evening.
The move alert followed a CIA alert about a possible bomb attack, French police and US officials said.
Police said that the warning had come to the CIA via an anonymous e-mail message from Madrid, where a series of massive and coordinated bomb attacks at rail stations on March 11 left 191 people dead.
Spain was on Friday also bracing itself for the prospect of another imminent attack as police hunted for Islamic militants still at large after the Madrid bombings.
Police combing through the wreckage of an apartment where a group of militants blew themselves up during a police stakeout last weekend uncovered a video tape telling Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
If this did not happen within a week further attacks would take place, the ultimatum warned, according to interior ministry sources.
“We will kill you anywhere and anytime… Our innocents are dying in their thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is your blood worth more than ours?” it said.
Britain, and especially London, was also on high alert in the wake of a fresh warning from the country’s top police officer that a terrorist attack was extremely likely.
Britain was “now in a state of real danger”, Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens, the head of London’s police force, said in a magazine interview published Wednesday.
His remarks came a day after media reported that police had thwarted a plot to explode a bomb containing a highly toxic chemical, osmium tetroxide, after US and British intelligence intercepted communications between Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
In a separate case, five British men were due in court on Saturday to face terrorism-related charges linked to the discovery last week in London of more than half a tonne of fertiliser, which can be used to make powerful bombs.
They were among nine people arrested during a series of raids last week in and around London involving about 700 police officers.
Police said Thursday that four of the men had been charged with conspiring to cause explosions, while two of them along with an 18-year-old youth were separately accused of possessing fertiliser in circumstances causing suspicion that it could be used for terrorism.
Additionally, Italy was on top alert, with the country’s government saying on Wednesday that more than 13,000 potential terrorist targets were being kept under surveillance by a total of some 16,000 security personnel.