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US, allies on global hunt for terror plotters

US and allied intelligence agencies are on a near-global manhunt for teams of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists thought to be preparing multiple attacks on major European cities, according to US media reports.

world Updated: Oct 04, 2010 14:21 IST

US and allied intelligence agencies are on a near-global manhunt for teams of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists thought to be preparing multiple attacks on major European cities, according to US media reports.

US and allied services were examining multiple plots as well as multiple modes of attacks ranging from paramilitary-style raids similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks to the vehicle bombs that to this day ravage Baghdad, The Washington Times reported Monday citing US counterterrorism officials

The Al Qaeda affiliates plotting the attacks on Europe include Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba held responsible for the Mumbai attacks and the Pakistani Taliban that are said to be training dozens of European passport holders for attacks in Europe.

Also planning attacks are operatives from Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, the group's affiliate based in Algeria and North Africa, it said.

"No one should think in terms of a single Europe threat," a US counterterrorism official was quoted as saying by The Times. "We could be looking at plots - plural - that are probably at various stages of development."

"And since some of the concerns emanate from South Asia and North Africa, governments in those parts of the world are involved, too."

Over the weekend, the State Department issued a travel alert for Americans in Europe to beware of "potential for terrorist attacks in Europe."

The official alert warned Americans of "potential strikes on public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime service."

Security specialists have been concerned about the prospect of an attack similar to the 2008 military-style raids on sections of downtown Mumbai in which 166 people were killed during a three-day assault.

Intelligence sources cited by the Times said the mastermind of the Mumbai attack was Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior Al Qaeda commander who the CIA at first thought had killed in a drone attack a year ago but is now thought to be in control of a sleeper network in Western Europe.

That network was first disclosed to the public in the case of David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American, who confessed to his role in Mumbai attacks in March.

The indictment against Headley stated that Kashmiri sent him to scope out Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in 2005.