US official confirms 'credible, but not specific' Qaeda plot
A US official on Wednesday confirmed reports of an Al-Qaeda plot to strike targets in Western Europe and the United States, but said it was not clear when and where the attack was meant to be launched.
"The threat is, at this point, credible but not specific," said the official, who asked to remain unnamed.
"It's unclear, for instance, precisely where something might occur. For that reason, people shouldn't limit their thinking to the United Kingdom, France, or Germany," the official told AFP.
"And while no one should dismiss the prospect of a Mumbai-style operation, it's entirely conceivable that other modes of attack are in play."
The official's remarks came amid news reports that western intelligence agencies had uncovered an Al-Qaeda plot to launch attacks in Britain, France, Germany and the United States.
The reports said well-armed, commando-style teams of jihadists planned to seize and murder Western hostages in a manner similar to the siege two years ago of two Indian hotels in Mumbai, in which 10 gunmen killed 166 people and injured more than 300.
Intelligence and diplomatic officials in Europe and the United States so far have refused to confirm the alleged terror plot on the record.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Wednesday that "we are not going to comment on specific intelligence, as doing so threatens to undermine intelligence operations that are critical in protecting the United States and our allies."
She added that disrupting any potential act of terrorism is "one of the principal objectives," of President Barack Obama's administration.
"I want Americans to know how focused we all are in the government and how committed we are, not only in protecting our own country, but in protecting our friends and allies," the chief US diplomat said.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement that his office, like Clinton's was "not going to comment on specific intelligence," adding that "information is routinely shared between the US and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats."
Britain's Home Office meanwhile also refused comment, while Germany said it was aware of Al-Qaeda's "long-term" aim to attack Western targets, but had no evidence of any "concrete" plans and said its risk assessment was unchanged.
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would not comment on whether there was a specific threat to the United States.
"We're taking, and always take, every measure that we can conceive of to protect the American people," she told broadcaster MSNBC from Montreal, where she was attending a UN meeting of 190 nations addressing global aviation standards and the need to keep one step ahead of a shifting terror threat.
"We have to be very proactive in this area," Napolitano said.
"But our goal, obviously, is to keep global aviation and international travel safe for Americans and for people of other nations as well."
© 2010 AFP