Europe alert to terror threat

As Britain’s most senior police officer warned an attack was “inevitable”, France’s justice ministry said an unknown Muslim group had threatened to attack France and French interests abroad, triggering an official inquiry.

Le Parisien, the newspaper that received the threat, said the group had threatened reprisals because of a law banning Islamic headscarves from state schools.

French President Jacques Chirac said France was not currently a specific target, “but like all democracies, it is not immune from terrorist acts.”

And an opinion poll in Britain revealed Britons feel vulnerable because of their nation’s role in Iraq.

The opinion poll has indicated 75 percent of Britons feel vulnerable to attack, because of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s stance on Iraq.

It also found just one percent think Britain joining the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has made their country a safer place.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens, said police and security services have dramatically stepped up their anti-terrorist efforts, and London remains on a high state of alert. He has also urged all citizens to be vigilant.

He said: “We are talking about the tubes and the rail systems but we’re also talking about London generally.

“We’re talking about buses and we’re talking about anything of suspicion that is seen in clubs, nightclubs and the like.”

Sir John said he knew that police and security services had already stopped attacks from happening.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said, “It would be miraculous if, with all the terrorist resources arranged against us, terrorists did not get through.”

The European Union’s Irish presidency has also bumped terrorism onto the agenda of an EU summit late next week.

The attacks in Madrid led to a surprise win for the Socialist Party and Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero lost no time in declaring he would pull Spanish troops out of Iraq in line with the vast majority of public opinion.

“If that is their decision, we can adapt readily to compensate for the loss of those forces,” said Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq.

But President George W Bush, without directly mentioning Spain, called on foreign troops to stay.

“It’s essential that we remain side by side with the Iraqi people as they begin the process of self-government,” he said.

The FBI in Washington offered help in tracking down the Madrid killers, but said it was up to Spain to invite assistance.

In Brussels, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ordered the extension of anti-terrorism surveillance patrols across the entire Mediterranean, saying the move had been long planned but had taken on special relevance as a result of the Madrid bombings.

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