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Pakistan army dismisses reports of Europe plots

September 30, 2010

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s army on Wednesday dismissed as “very speculative” media reports that this month’s upsurge in U.S. drone strikes on Islamist militants in the country’s northwest sought to disrupt attacks on European cities.

Sky News on Tuesday reported that militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes in London akin to the 2008 militant assault on Mumbai as well as attacks on cities in France and Germany.

It said a month of strikes by pilotless drone aircraft focused on Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, in which more than 100 militants were killed, was intended to disrupt the plot.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Reuters: “We don’t have any information or intelligence that militants had gathered there (in North Waziristan) and were plotting attacks. There is absolutely no intelligence on that.”

“Basically it’s very speculative,” he said of the Sky News report. “It’s a very speculative story. It does not quote any credible source.”

U.S. security officials said they could not confirm that a plot had been disrupted. But they said they believed that the threat of a plot or plots remained.

While no senior-ranking militants were reported killed, Pakistani intelligence officials say a number of others of different nationalities are believed to have died.

On Sept 26, a senior al-Qaida leader, identified as Shaikh al-Fateh, also known as Shaikh Fateh al-Masri, was believed to have been killed, Pakistani intelligence officials said. 1/8ID:nSGE68R0KS 3/8

‘NOT SURPRISED AT SURGE’

There have been 21 strikes carried out by the remotely piloted drones in September, the highest number in a single month.

Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has made several threats against American and European targets, but has so far failed to carry out any overseas attacks.

U.S. counter-terrorism agencies are poring over intelligence reports suggesting a major attack plot is currently in the works against unspecified targets in Western Europe or possibly the United States, U.S. security officials said.

Four U.S. security officials, who asked for anonymity, said that initial intelligence reports about the threat first surfaced two weeks ago, around the time of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

British security sources declined to comment on the Sky News report. Britain in January raised its international terrorism threat level to “severe” — the second highest level in the five-tier system.

In Germany, the interior ministery said that while Berlin had information on the alleged plots, there were no firm signs of an imminent attack.

“The current pointers do not warrant a change in the assessment of the danger level,” the ministry said in a statement.

A SERIOUS RISK OF ATTACK

The head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service, Jonathan Evans, said on Sept. 16 there remained “a serious risk of a lethal attack taking place.”

“As we have repeatedly said, we know al-Qaida wants to attack Europe and the United States. We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al-Qaida,” U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper said in a statement.

One U.S. official said militants in Pakistan were “constantly” planning attacks in the region and beyond, and the United States would react to that.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that links between plots and those who are orchestrating them lead to decisive American action. The terrorists who are involved are, as everyone should expect, going to be targets. That’s the whole point of all of this,” the official said.

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