London: No new, specific terror plots against Europe have emerged for the holiday season, British and German officials said on Friday, contradicting earlier reports from US security experts.
A suicide bomber blew himself up last weekend in Sweden, and Iraqi officials said that captured insurgents have claimed the Stockholm bombing was part of attacks being planned by al Qaeda against the US and Europe during the Christmas season.
A writer on an al Qaeda affiliated website, however, said the bomber was targeting an unnamed Swedish newspaper that had previously published cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad.
Last year, a Nigerian man with explosives taped to his underwear tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had studied in London, boarded the Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit from Amsterdam.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity so they could discuss security matters, said there was specific intelligence about attacks being planned against Europe during the holiday season.
US intelligence officials say they have not uncovered specific details of threats aimed at the United States,
But two British officials on condition of anonymity said that although security officials are on higher alert during the holidays, there was no new specific plot. Britain`s terror level has also remained unchanged.
"There has been a general threat to the UK, Germany and France," one British official said. "There have been no new developments."
A German official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said Germany knew of no new specific threat.
In October, the US State Department advised American citizens living or traveling in Europe to take more precautions following reports that terrorists may be plotting attacks on a European city, possibly a shooting spree similar to the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks in India.
Some of the plot details came from Ahmed Siddiqui, a German citizen of Afghan descent who was captured by US troops in Afghanistan in July.
British officials said elements of that plot are still being investigated, and noted that they often get threats during the holiday season.
Europe has been the target of numerous terror plots by Islamist militants. The deadliest was the 2004 Madrid train bombings, when shrapnel-filled bombs exploded, killing 191 people and wounding about 1,800. A year later, suicide bombers killed 52 rush-hour commuters in London aboard three subway trains and a bus.
In 2006, US and British intelligence officials thwarted one of the largest plots yet, a plan to explode nearly a dozen trans-Atlantic airliners.
"After the 2005 bombings in the summer and the thwarted plot the summer after, many people thought this would be a trend," said a second British official. "Since the Sweden bombing and last year`s underpants bomber, people speculate about the possibility of a Christmas attack, but there is no new specific or detailed threat or plot."
The FBI and Homeland Security Department told US law enforcement officials on Wednesday to be wary of suspicious behavior and to regularly change their security measures to foil any terrorist plans. The warning — sent in a bulletin obtained by the AP — did not include information about specific plots or intelligence.
Earlier this month, a Portland man was caught in an FBI sting as he allegedly planned to set off a bomb at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony. And in October, al-Qaida`s Yemeni offshoot — which also claimed responsibility for the Christmas airliner attack — tried to blow up two cargo planes over the United States. That plot was foiled after officials received a tip from Saudi intelligence.