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Terror Campaign in Europe

28 October, 2010 12:07  Erin Erin

What happened?

The U.S. issued a mild travel warning for its citizens headed to Europe on October 3rd, 2010. As if a bomb had already gone off, media outlets loudly proclaimed exclamations of "Terror in Europe". It seemed as if an actual large scale attack was just a matter of time.

What prompted this worldwide freak out was the October 2nd discovery and arrest of a 28-year-old French man of Algerian origin, Ryad Hannouni, in the Naples train station. The French man apparently had possession of a bomb-making "kit" upon his arrest. He was believed to be part of a larger group organization that is believed to be making preliminary plans for an attack on a major European city. Nine other men were also detained in the southern cities of Marseilles and Avignon on suspicion of trafficking firearms and explosives. There has been a connection made between the threats and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) based in North Africa. Lending credence to the terror warnings that accompanied this investigation were events like the recent bomb alerts in France. Recently, the Eiffel Tower has had to be evacuated on two occasions.

Effects of the Warnings

The warnings primarily consisted of advice for tourists to remain "vigilant" in Europe as they were believed most likely to be attacked. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and Berlin's central train station were all believed to be possible sites of attack. Skyscanner, the price-comparison website, has already reported a decline in searches for flights. It said searches made this week by US residents for flights to Britain, Germany and France had fallen respectively by 35 per cent, 40 per cent and 42 percent. Searches by people residing in Britain for flights to Germany and France had also fallen sharply. Thomas Cook and TUI, two of Europe's largest travel companies, also admitted that job losses were inevitable considering the diminished amount of travelers. Should these figures translate into a continued fall in bookings, it would be the latest in a series of problems to hit the travel industry in 2010.

German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, suggested that everyone around Europe should remain realistic about the terror risk. "No one should doubt that Germany is a target for terrorists, but on the other hand there are no concrete, immediate attack plans that we are aware of," he told Deutschlandfunk German radio. "Public discussion is something terrorists use because they want to spread fear."

Threat Levels

Various countries issued alerts. The United Kingdom set the threat level as "severe" for France and Germany. On October 5th, Paris reciprocated by issuing a U.K. security warning to French voyagers. There has also been a travel warning from Japan, Australia, and Sweden in advising its citizens to be wary of the heightened risk of a terrorist attack in Europe. Even though a physical attack had not taken place, terror ensued.

Most countries use some kind of system to categorize threats :

In the United States, the Homeland Security Advisory System is a color-coded terrorism threat advisory scale. The different levels trigger specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments, and they affect the level of security at some airports and other public facilities. It is often called the "terror alert level" by the U.S. media.

Britain's system of threat levels was created to keep you informed about the level of threat the UK faces from terrorism at any given time. The threat level represents the likelihood of an attack in the near future.

France's system is called "Plan Vigipirate" which can translate to vigilance. The system defines four levels of threats represented by four colors: yellow, orange, red, scarlet. Created in 1978 by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, it has since been updated three times: in 1995, 2000, and 2004.

These warnings should provide guidance, claim American and European officials. However, terror warnings also have negative implications for European tourism, business and diplomacy. The best advice is to stay alert of surroundings, but not to let the warnings interfere with plans.

Possible Overreaction

It is hard to judge the breadth of what could have happened. The defense this time was to be on the offensive. Suspected U.S. Drone attacks in Pakistan were stepped up to prompt action and it worked- resulting in the arrest of Hannouni. Fears of a terrifying and deadly attack like that of the Mumbai shooting spree in 2008 seem to be an overreaction. It appears these were just the first wisps of an actual plot and it can be more accurately called a concept or project than a threat. An important point of this story is that intelligence agencies were able to successfully disrupt terrorist preparations long before they resulted in any actual danger. This was an important win for counter terrorism.

Impact on Expat Community

Most expats realize the potential danger associated with traveling and residing abroad. While every threat is serious, each must be considered independently on the information given. Governments provide information through levels or colors to avoid panic and provide guidance. It is important to understand and evaluate your own situation and take appropriate action.

News Stories

Erin Ball, Freelance writer from Seattle


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         EasyExpat on

Terror in EU [Reply]

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

  DVD Tools     28 Oct 2010, 18:37

Terro in EU and USA [Reply]

Glad you said it because I was going to write a rant about the advice from US and UK governments for travellers and nationals abroad.
Like you I thought it was way too vague, and ridiculous.

  Rapidshare     01 Nov 2010, 08:05