Saudi Arabia warns France of new terror attacks in Europe


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Paris: Saudi intelligence officials told France that Al Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen may be planning a strike in France or Europe, the French interior minister said on Sunday.

The minister, Brice Hortefeux, said in an interview broadcast on French radio that France had received the information “just a few days ago”. Hortefeux described it as “a new message from the Saudi services telling us that Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was without doubt active, or planned to be active in Europe, “and notably, France”.

“The threat is real and our vigilance is total,” he said, noting that he met last week in Paris with the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

An official in Washington familiar with Hortefeux’s remarks confirmed on Sunday that Saudi intelligence officials had in the past few days sent information to Paris warning of possible attacks in France by Al Qaida’s branch in Yemen.

Like other recent reports of plots to attack targets in Germany, France and Britain, many of which emanated from Pakistan and North Africa, the Saudi alert warned of threats that were credible but not specific.

European officials did not discount the threat. “If this information is coming indeed from the Saudis, one can expect that it is serious and reliable,” said Raphael Perl, the head of antiterrorism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

A European intelligence official called the warning “serious stuff” and added that “it is easy to plan operations in France because it is easy for attackers to fit into the population.”

Al Qaida in Yemen has caused growing alarm among American and Western intelligence services since the airliner bombing plot last December, for which Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula took credit. CIA officials have privately said the Yemeni cell posed an even more dangerous immediate threat to the US than the Qaida headquarters in Pakistan.

The warning came at the same time that a former Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay who went through Saudi Arabia’s militant rehabilitation programme and then joined Al Qaida in Yemen turned himself in, the government said.