An Al-Qaida threat may be targeting Europe’s network of high speed rail lines, according to a conference call intercepted by the National Security Agency.
The latest revelation, first reported in the German daily Bild, follows an Aug. 1 alert by U.S. authorities warning of a possible terror plot in the Middle East or Africa. That warning prompted the U.S. to close some 20 embassies and allies to close diplomatic buildings for almost two weeks.
Security officials say a terrorist attack on Europe’s high speed transit lines could lead to devastating casualties. The Daily Mail says only Spain has baggage screening for its high-speed trains.
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“European express trains carry nearly 500 passengers a time and derailment at high speed would have horrifying consequences,” an anti-terrorism expert said on Radio Bavaria on Monday, according to the Daily Mail
The German Interior Ministry said such warnings are almost routine, and that it was not planning to make any extraordinary moves.
“It is known that Germany, along with other Western states, is a target for jihadist terrorists so we always assess warnings on a case-by-case basis but we already have a high level of protective measures and we do not plan to step these up at the moment,” Interior Ministry spokesman Jens Teschek said at a regularly scheduled news conference, according to a Reuters report
Still, Bild said security officials in Germany had tightened measures on high-speed Intercity-Express routes, with such measures including the deployment of plainclothes officers.
Reuters noted that Germany narrowly averted a 2006 attack when explosives-laden suitcases that were left on commuter trains in Cologne failed to blow up.
According to newspaper reports, the NSA was tipped off to the possible attack by intercepting a conference call between al-Qaida leaders several weeks ago.
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