US intelligence chief declines comment on alleged Qaeda plot

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Washington's top intelligence official on Wednesday refused to comment on reports that western intelligence agencies had uncovered an Al-Qaeda plot to launch attacks in Europe and the United States.

"We are not going to comment on specific intelligence, as doing so threatens to undermine intelligence operations that are critical to protecting the US and our allies," said US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a statement.

"As we have repeatedly said, we know AQ wants to attack Europe and the United States. We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including Al-Qaeda."

Clapper added: "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."

The statement came after news reports in the British and US media, citing security officials, said militants were planning simultaneous strikes in London and major cities in France and Germany.

Britain's Home Office, or interior ministry, also refused to comment directly on the reports, but a spokeswoman told AFP: "We know we face a real and serious threat from terrorism."

The German government meanwhile said it was aware of Al-Qaeda's long-term aim to attack Western targets, but had no evidence of any concrete plans and that its risk assessment of the security threat was unchanged.

News reports said that well-armed, commando-style teams of jihadists planned to seize Western hostages and murder them, in a manner similar to the siege of two Indian hotels in Mumbai two years ago in which 10 gunmen killed 166 people and injured more than 300.

© 2010 AFP

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