U.S. warns Americans in Europe to be vigilant

**FILE** French soldiers patrol under the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. The State Department is cautioning Americans traveling in Europe to be vigilant because of heightened concerns about a potential al Qaeda terrorist attack aimed at U.S. citizens and Europeans. The travel alert is general in nature and isn't intended to focus on any specific country, location or tourist site. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)**FILE** French soldiers patrol under the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. The State Department is cautioning Americans traveling in Europe to be vigilant because of heightened concerns about a potential al Qaeda terrorist attack aimed at U.S. citizens and Europeans. The travel alert is general in nature and isn’t intended to focus on any specific country, location or tourist site. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Sunday warned Americans of potential terrorist threats in Europe and urged them to be vigilant in public places, including tourist spots and transportation hubs.

A State Department travel alert advises U.S. citizens living or traveling in Europe to take more precautions about their personal security. The alert is one step below a formal travel warning advising Americans not to visit Europe.

“Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks,” it said. “European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.”

Patrick F. Kennedy, under secretary of state for management, said Sunday afternoon the alert was issued as a result of “cumulative” information gathered by U.S. embassies, law enforcement and the intelligence community and was not based on a “eureka moment.”

This image from video provided by the SITE Intelligence Group shows the still picture of Osama bin Laden shown on the video released on jihadist forums on Oct. 1, 2010. Al Qaeda released a new audio tape of Osama bin Laden on Friday, Oct. 1, 2010, in which the leader of the terror network calls for the creation of a relief body to aid Muslims harmed in natural disasters and wars. The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified. (AP Photo/SITE Intelligence Group)

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“As facts came to our attention, a picture began to emerge,” Mr. Kennedy said.

He also said overseas alerts are typically issued on such occasions as contentious elections, strikes or severe weather conditions, such as the recent volcano-ash storm. However, he could not recall a recent one issued over concerns about terror attacks.

Though the U.S. government is urging overseas Americans to be more cautious, officials are “not, not, not saying they should defer travel,” Mr. Kennedy also said.

The travel alert noted in particular “the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.”

“U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling,” the department said.

Britain’s Foreign Office upgraded its travel advice for France and Germany, warning Britons going to those countries that the threat of terrorism there is high. Before Sunday’s change, the government’s travel advice for France and Germany was that the threat from terror attacks there was “general.”

Gemany’s Interior Ministry said it saw no need to change its assessment of risks to the country and there were “still no concrete indications of imminent attacks” there.

France’s interior minister said that the threat of a terrorist attack is real but that the country is not raising its alert level.

British Home Secretary Theresa May said the threat of terrorism in the United Kingdom remains unchanged at “severe,” meaning an attack is highly likely.

U.S. and European security experts have been concerned for days that terrorists may be plotting attacks in Europe with assault weapons on public places, similar to the deadly 2008 shooting spree in Mumbai, India.

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