Travel alert for foreign tourists rejected by Berlin


The German Foreign Minister has told visitors from abroad he can see no reason for the terror alerts issued by the US and UK governments to their citizens in the run-up to this weekend’s federal elections.

Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there was no need for foreign tourists to be particularly cautious at the moment.

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“I have not been able to ascertain a reason for a travel alert,” the foreign minister said in reference to those issued by Washington and London this week.

The travel alert posted on the US State Department website on Wednesday, and valid until Nov. 11, lists Germany as one of six countries potentially dangerous to visit at present:

“The Department of State alerts US citizens that al Qaida has threatened it will conduct terrorist attacks in Germany immediately prior to and following the federal elections on September 27.”

But on Thursday, German security sources said terror threats were still abstract and that there had been no concrete indication of planned attacks.

Security was tightened last week with airports and stations across Germany under close observation and increased numbers of armed police patrolling the streets.

Video threatens attack

But the State Department is playing safe. In its warning to citizens, it cited a recent video purportedly issued by al Qaeda media production arm.

“Al Qaeda recently released a video specifically warning Germany of attacks. German authorities are taking the threat seriously and have taken measures to enhance the level of security throughout the country.”

The British Foreign Office made mention of the same video, telling its nationals that there is a general threat of terrorism in Germany and that attacks could be launched on public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers.

Bombings rocked Spanish election

Analysts fear that al Qaida is planning a similar attack to the one it coordinated in Spain three days ahead of a general election there in 2004. The series of blasts in the capital Madrid killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

The German media has been detailing fears of a potential al-Qaida plot at home throughout 2009. In June, the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, reported the US had warned Berlin that al Qaeda had contracted a brother organization, called “al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb,” to attack Germany in the near future.

In the Sept. 18 video, Bekkay Harrach, a German citizen who is an al Qaida member, warned of an attack soon after the elections if German troops were not withdrawn from Afghanistan.

“If the German people decide in favor of continuing the war they will have handed down their own sentence,” he said.

He also told Muslims to avoid public places for two weeks after the Sept. 27 elections.