Escalation in drone, helicopter attacks ‘setting country on fire,’ says Pakistani high commissioner to UK
European officials doubt terror threat, Guardian reports
This past weekend’s terror alert from Washington — alleging possible Al Qaeda activity and warning travelers to be vigilant when in Europe –was “politically motivated and not based on credible new information,” senior Pakistani diplomats and European intelligence community insiders have told the Guardian.
The warning, which doesn’t specify countries or targets but speculates about “Mumbai-style” multiple simultaneous attacks, was an attempt to justify the recent escalation of attacks on militant targets inside Pakistan, said Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the Pakistani high commissioner to the UK. Hasan said the bombing campaigns have “set the country on fire.”
Following the death of two Pakistani soldiers in a NATO helicopter raid, Pakistan blocked access to Afghanistan for a NATO convoy running through the Khyber Pass. Although Pakistani diplomats have said the pass would soon be opened again, the “blockade” continues.
Since the United States issued its terror alert on Sunday, Britain, Japan, Sweden and France have issued their own travel warnings.
The Guardian reports that unnamed officials in the British, French and German governments are “dismissing” the terror threat and also pointing the finger at Washington.
“To stitch together [the terror plot claims] in a seamless narrative is nonsensical,” said one official, identified only as being “well-placed.”
NO FRESH DETAILS’ ON TERROR ALERTS
Adding to the debate on the validity of the terror alert was the frustration of some European officials Thursday when they met with a top US security official who warned the continent that it faced a persistent terror threat. Many diplomats complained of a lack of substantial details about the threat.
US Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Jane Holl Lute was invited by European interior ministers to Luxembourg to provide more details on a recent US travel alert on a potential terror strike in Europe.
But ministers said the senior US official provided no fresh details on the alert, including the names of countries that are threatened.
“Ms Lute confirmed the reality and the persistence of the threat without specifying the exact targets,” European Union counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told a news conference following the meeting.
Europeans wanted to get more details on the US travel alert, which warned of a potential terror strike, notably on transport systems and tourist attractions.
Holl Lute was short on details during the discussions, ministers said.
“It was nothing specific, nothing very new,” said Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said: “We agree that there is no indication of concrete targets, concrete dates and concrete terror groups.”
French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux confirmed that US authorities informed France that a group of militants from EU countries was planning to return to Europe after combat training in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.
“The threat is real,” Hortefeux told reporters.
Ministers said the senior US official indicated that one of the threats could be a “multi-target” strike — the type of tactic used in the Mumbai commando-style attack in 2008.
In that assault, 10 militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked group Lashkar-e-Taiba mowed down unarmed civilians at targets across the Indian city after arriving by boat from Karachi, leaving 166 dead.
— With AFP