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German officials play down train terror risk after media report

German officials have played down a newspaper report that claims al Qaeda terrorists are planning an attack on European trains. The report had indicated that security measures had been stepped up.

A spokesman for Germany's interior ministry told news agencies on Monday that "the security situation has not changed." He also said the ministry had received no specific warning that would cause it to take measures to tighten up security.

"There are warnings from time to time, which are followed up," the spokesman said. He added, though, that it was ministry policy not to publicly comment on such warnings. At the same time he said that in general, Germany remained one of the targets for "international jihadist terrorism."

The DPA news agency also cited sources who said the already tight level of security had not been stepped up in recent days.

The spokesman's statements came in reaction to a story in the Monday edition of the mass-circulation Bild newspaper. The report claimed that the al Qaeda terror network was plotting attacks on high-speed rail networks in Europe.

'NSA information'

According to the Bild report, the information came from the surveillance of top al Qaeda operatives conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

It said the group was thought to be planning to target and tunnels or to sabotage the railway tracks themselves and the electric cabling serving them.

The report said the German government had responded with "unseen measures" such as deploying plain-clothed police officers at major train stations and along major routes.

This comes almost three weeks after the United States issued a worldwide alert about a terror plot in the Middle East or Africa – based on information intercepted by intelligence services.

The warning led the US to close 19 of its embassies, with missions in Yemen seen as being under the greatest threat. US allies, including Germany, also temporarily closed some diplomatic missions.

pfd/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)