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Europe

End of Terror Truce Leaves Europeans Cold

Security officials in Germany and other EU nations say there's no reason to further tighten stringent security following Thursday's end of a three-month terrorism truce purportedly offered by Osama bin Laden to Europe.

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European leaders have vowed not to bow to his demands

On April 15, a taped message by a man identifying himself as Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network, was broadcast on Islamic satellite networks, calling on European countries to accept an ultimatum. CIA officials have already said that technical analysis of the recording indicates it is authentic.

"I announce a truce with the European countries that do not attack Muslim countries," the voice said. "The door to a truce is open for three months," it continued, adding the time frame could be extended. "The truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries," namely Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most European countries spurned the al Qaeda ultimatum when it first appeared, stressing that they weren't going to deal or bow down to any terrorist group.

"Attempt to divide Europe will collapse"

As the alleged al Qaeda ultimatum expired on Thursday, security officials in most European nations emphasized that while they were taking every threat seriously, there was no need for any immediate tightening of already stringent security.

Bundesinnenminister Otto Schily

Otto Schily

"There is no information that would require us to strengthen security measures," a spokesman of German Interior Minister Otto Schily (photo) said in Berlin this week and pointed out that security forces in the country were already on high alert.

On Thursday, a German government spokesman told AP that Chancellor Schröder was determined that al Qaeda would not be able to drive a wedge in Europe. "The chancellor has already said that every attempt to divide Europe will collapse," he said.

Germany has around 2,000 peacekeepers in Afghanistan. While experts say there aren't any concrete indications of impending attacks, individuals acts couldn't be ruled out by people who feel compelled to follow bin Laden's threat.

German terrorism expert Kai Hirschmann said that increased vigilance in Europe would repel terrorists from planning attacks.

Deutsche Soldaten in Afghanistan

Four German soldiers in the Afghan capital Kabul

"Al Qaeda does not in particular want to be predicable," Hirschmann said. At the same time Hirschmann said that fundamentally nothing had changed in the general security threat to Germany. "There can always be attacks. Germany is still in the crossfire… but it's not dependant on deadlines."

Europe refuses to bow to terror group

The Italian government, which has sent the third-largest military contingent among postwar forces in Iraq, said that 14,000 sensitive targets in the country were already under heavy security surveillance.

French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin underlined this week that France was "on maximum alert all the time." British security authorities struck a similar tone. "We are on high alert and will remain so. .. the threat of international terrorism is always present and independent of deadlines" a statement said.

The response was the much the same in eastern Europe.

Italienischer Carabinieri in Irak

An Italian military police officer in Iraq

"We don't intend to budge to terrorists," a spokesman for the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Juraj Tomaga told AP. When asked about the deadline, Romania's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bogdan Manoiu, said there was no question about removing troops or shifting away from security duties in Iraq. Romania has 730 troops in Iraq and 500 in Afghanistan.

The only exception was the Netherlands, who announced last weekend that they were to beef up security with an eye on the al Qaeda ultimatum. There are around 1,300 Dutch soldiers stationed in Iraq.

"As long as it doesn't happen on your doorstep"

However, a documentary film on the al Qaeda threat to Europe that was aired on German public broadcaster ZDF on Thursday evening painted a bleak picture of the al Qaeda threat.

"It's not about whether there are going to be any attacks, but rather only when and where," said journalist Elmar Thevessen, who criticized Europe's unpreparedness and lack of a common strategy to deal with terrorist attacks.

Shot in Morocco, Spain, England, Italy and Germany, the reporters spoke to supporters of the terrorists, experts, political scientists and investigators in the countries to probe the ideology and breeding grounds of the new international terrorism threat.

Bombenanschläge in Madrid Miniquiz März 2004

Debris lies next to a destroyed train car after a bomb exploded in the Atocha railway station in Madrid on March 11

Most intelligence experts interviewed for the film stressed that Europe had to be more aware of the insidious dangers of Islamic terrorism as was shown in Madrid. "As long as it doesn't happen on your doorstep, there will be apathy," said Michael Chandler, former UN chief investigator.

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