Japan joins U.S., Britain in urging citizens to be cautious
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
LONDON — 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.
The Foreign Ministry in Tokyo urged Japanese citizens to be cautious when using public transport or visiting popular tourist sites.
European authorities tightened efforts to keep the public safe in the wake of warnings by officials in several countries that the terrorism threat is high and extra vigilance is warranted.
Washington warned Sunday that al-Qaida might target transport infrastructure.
The U.S. State Department issued a warning directed at American citizens traveling in Europe, without singling out any specific countries, saying tourists should proceed with caution.
Britain raised the terrorism threat level in its advice for citizens traveling to Germany and France to "high" from "general." It left the threat level at home unchanged at "severe," meaning an attack is highly likely, and said it agreed with the U.S. assessment for the continent as a whole.Video: Terror attacks may be ‘impossible to thwart’ (on this page)
Arrest in France
On Monday, French authorities arrested a man in his 50s who is suspected of several bomb threats in Paris, including one at a railway hub, a police official said. The man, who was not identified, was detained southwest of the capital on suspicions of links to a phoned-in threat at the Saint-Lazare train station.
French authorities have recorded nine bomb alerts in the capital last month, including 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 precautions about their personal security.
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, that killed 166 people.
Western intelligence sources said militants in hide-outs in northwest Pakistan had been plotting coordinated attacks on European cities, the plans apparently surviving setbacks from a September surge in drone strikes and an arrest.
plot involved al-Qaida and allied militants, possibly including European citizens or residents, the sources said.
Washington, U.S. officials said Osama bin Laden and the top al-Qaida leadership were likely behind the plot, adding that the decision to issue the alert was based on an accumulation of information, rather than a specific new revelation.
The U.S. State Department travel alert said public transportation systems and other tourism-related facilities could be targets, noting that past attacks had struck rail, airline and boat services.
'We're not saying don't travel'
The U.S. alert falls short of a more severe one in which the State Department might have warned citizens against traveling to Europe. Instead, the alert urges them to take precautions when they do travel.
"We're not saying don't travel to Europe. We are not saying don't visit ... major tourist attractions or historic sites or monuments," Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state, told reporters on a conference call.
Business travelers and tourists arriving at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport from the United States on Monday said they were aware of the new warnings from authorities 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.
Karen Bilh, a 39-year-old traveler from Cincinnati, arrived Monday in Paris for a vacation. "We'll pay extra caution and if there's terror threats, we'll listen to police in the area. We're excited about the trip," she said.
Travelers taking the Eurostar trains between London and Paris were similarly determined not to let the warnings disrupt their plans.Video: European threats are ‘very credible,’ says terror analyst (on this page)
Jennifer D'Antoni, who owns a retail clothing store in Britain, was in Paris to celebrate her birthday.
"I had a wonderful time and I'll come back again. In fact, I wish I was here for another day because I didn't get to see everything. We are just going to be a bit more cautious getting on the train," she said.
The last successful large-scale militant attacks in Europe were the July 2005 suicide bombings on London's transport system, which killed 52 people. Bombers killed 191 people on trains in Madrid in March 2004.
The Associated Press, Reuters, msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.