Pakistan links drone strikes to Europe terror plot

An al Qaeda plot planned in Pakistan is targeting Britain, France, Germany.

Last Updated: Oct 06, 2010, 09:12 AM IST

London: Increased US drone strikes in Pakistan`s tribal areas are linked to a terror plot targeting Europe, Pakistan`s US envoy said on Wednesday, amid mounting fears that al Qaeda is planning a wave of attacks.

Ambassador Hussein Haqqani told the BBC that the increase in strikes in North Waziristan, a reputed militant hotbed, came after intelligence agencies uncovered a plot to "attack multiple targets in Europe”.

He also said that a strike on Monday in the district which killed eight militants, including five Germans, was linked to the plot.

"I think that the activity we see in North Waziristan in terms of strikes... is connected to the terrorist warnings that we have heard about potential strikes in Europe," he told the British broadcaster.

But he urged people to stay calm and vowed intelligence agencies would foil any plot.

US drone strikes in Pakistan have increased in recent weeks, with authorities there reporting 24 attacks since September 03 which have killed more than 140 people.

An al Qaeda plot planned in Pakistan is targeting Britain, France and Germany but planning for the attacks was at an early stage when intelligence agencies learned of them, according to reports.

Japan, Sweden, the United States and Britain have warned their citizens travelling in Europe of the possibility of a terrorist attack.

US channel Fox News, citing unnamed intelligence officials, said militants had a list of targets in France and Germany, including Paris` Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, Berlin`s Brandenburg Gate, the city`s central railway station and the Alexanderplatz TV tower.

French police arrested 12 people and seized guns on Tuesday in anti-terror raids that came as Western security officials warn that al Qaeda may be planning Mumbai-style attacks in Europe.

Police from France`s anti-terrorism squad made nine arrests in the southern port of Marseille and in nearby Avignon, police said.

They seized "some weapons, including a Kalashnikov (rifle) and a pump-action shotgun, as well as ammunition", said one official, adding that the nine were being investigated for suspected links to a "terrorist enterprise".

US and German media said the information about possible targets was provided by a German national interrogated at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Germany said it was in contact with Pakistani authorities about the drone strike.

"The ministry and the embassy are actively pursuing their efforts to clarify the situation," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "But for the moment, there is no reliable evidence."

According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution`s annual report in June, some 200 Germans or foreigners living in Germany have spent time in Pakistan intending to undergo paramilitary training with Islamist groups.

The agency said there are 29 Islamic extremist organisations in Germany, with 36,000 members at the end of 2009 -- 1,500 more than the year before.

Haqqani said that "certain people have been arrested in the past, interrogation and other intelligence has revealed that there has been a plot to attack multiple targets in Europe."

"We do not want anybody to panic, there shouldn`t be any panic because European, Pakistani and American intelligence services are working together to foil these plots," he added.

The envoy also said Pakistan was committed to fighting terrorists.

"Pakistan has been concerned about the presence of terrorists inside Pakistan or in the regions close to Pakistan for a long time and we have been working very hard at eliminating them."

The strike on Monday that killed the Germans took place in Mir Ali Bazaar, 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.

North Waziristan has a reputation as a hideout for foreign and homegrown militants linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and is the operational epicentre of the latest plot.

Officials in Washington say in the past the strikes have killed a number of high-value targets including former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. However, the attacks fuel anti-American sentiment in the conservative Muslim country.

The United States does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the pilotless aircraft in the region.

Bureau Report