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Japan warns about terror in Europe

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A police officer with a dog, patrols a central London train station, Monday Oct. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) A police officer with a dog, patrols a central London train station, Monday Oct. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

PARIS (AP) — Japan issued a travel alert for Europe on Monday, joining the United States and Britain in warning of a possible terrorist attack by al-Qaida or other groups, but tourists appeared to be taking the mounting warnings in stride.

The Foreign Ministry in Tokyo urged Japanese citizens to be cautious when using public transport or visiting popular tourist sites — issuing another blow to Europe's tourism industry, which is just starting to recover from the global financial crisis.

European authorities — especially in Britain, France and Germany — tightened efforts to keep the public safe after warnings by officials that the terrorism threat is high and extra vigilance is warranted.

But European authorities were struggling to get ahold of the message about the threat and the counterterrorism efforts they are leading.

At a special Berlin news conference on the issue on Monday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Germany has no concrete evidence of an imminent attack and that security forces are vigilant due to an ongoing "high abstract danger" of the terror threat.

He insisted that authorities in Berlin have been aware since early 2009 of possible targets in the German capital that were mentioned in U.S. media reports over the weekend.

"There is no reason to be alarmist at this time," de Maiziere said. He said he had spoken with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Sunday about the travel warning for Americans in Europe.

In Rome, speaking on state-run RAI TV, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the U.S. alarm about the potential for a terror attack in Europe was "realistic" for Italy because it has troops in Afghanistan.

Frattini said there were no specific Italian targets. But he said the arrest early last month in Naples of an Algerian man suspected of links to a network recruiting fighters for Afghanistan showed that the threat is real for Italy.

And in Washington, the FBI and the U.S. Homeland Security Department said they have no indication that terrorists are targeting the U.S. or its citizens as part of a new threat against Europe.

According to an intelligence bulletin obtained Monday by The Associated Press, the two U.S. government organizations said al-Qaida continues to want to attack the United States, but nothing points to anything specific, imminent or related to the European plots.

A French official said Western nations are aligned in their estimation of the threat.

"These American recommendations are line with the recommendations that we have made on our own territory," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, pointing to France's "red" terror alert status — the second-highest in the French warning system.

"All countries concerned have a convergent analysis of the high level of threat in Europe," Valero said.

Neither France or Germany has raised its terror alert level recently.

Public concerns intensified last week after a Pakistani intelligence official said eight Germans and two British brothers were at the heart of an al-Qaida-linked terror plot against European cities.

The official said the plan was still in its early stages, and the suspects were calling acquaintances in Europe to plan logistics. The official said the suspects were hiding in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, where militancy is rife and where the U.S. has increased its drone-fired missile strikes in recent weeks.

Security officials say terrorists may be plotting attacks in Europe with assault weapons on public places, similar to the deadly 2008 shooting spree in Mumbai, India. European officials have provided no details about specific targets.

Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff urged Americans in Europe to take commonsense precautions, such as knowing where they are in a city and identifying an exit at major tourist sites.

"Don't walk around with the American flag on your back," Chertoff, who headed the agency during the Bush administration, told ABC's "Good Morning America." ''(Consider) where would you take shelter if something happened."

On Monday, French police arrested a 53-year-old man suspected of links to a bomb threats including one Friday at a Paris railway hub, an official with knowledge of the investigation said on condition of anonymity. The suspect, who was not identified, was detained southwest of the capital for possible links to a phone-in threat at the Saint-Lazare train station.

French authorities recorded nine bomb alerts in the capital in September, including two at the Eiffel Tower — a threefold increase from a year earlier. No explosives were found.

The U.S. State Department alert Sunday advised the hundreds of thousands of American citizens living or traveling in Europe to take more precaution about their personal security. The British Foreign Office warned travelers to France and Germany that the terror threat in the countries was high.

Also Monday, the U.S. Air Force said its 86th Airlift Wing, based in Ramstein, Germany, instituted a curfew ahead of the State Department's travel advisory. The curfew ran for six hours up to 5:00 a.m. Saturday as part of routine measures taken to ensure overall base security and vigilance, Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Lacie Collins said.

Business travelers and tourists arriving Monday at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport from the United States said they were aware of the new warnings but weren't changing their plans.

"I'm very happy to be here in France. I think we're very safe, and I trust the French government to keep us safe," said James O'Connell, a 59-year-old from Pittsburgh, arriving in Paris for a 7-day vacation.

Germans — authorities and citizens alike — were not convinced of the need for concern.

"I think it is quite exaggerated," said Marian Sutholt, 25, of Berlin. "If you worry all the time, you actually live up exactly to what the terrorists want. So you should take things as they come and not worry too much. Hopefully nothing will happen."


Baetz reported from Berlin. Associated Press writer Shino Yuasa in Tokyo, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Eileen Sullivan in Washington and AP Television News reporters Nicolas Garriga in Paris and Dorothee Thiesing in Berlin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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