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Europe

Online Calls Increase for Terrorist Attacks at Euro 2008

Swiss authorities are watching al Qaeda Internet appeals for attacks to be launched against the Euro 2008 soccer championships in June. But they say the threats are nothing more than "propaganda" and "fantasies."

Computer with terror site

The number of calls for terrorist action has grown on sites used by militants

The number of incendiary messages on two Web sites favored by the terrorist group has proliferated in recent weeks, according to a senior Swiss security official.

"We are on alert and we are following these jihad forums very closely. It is through these that Bin Laden's agents awaken dormant cells. The situation is serious even if it is frustrated people hiding behind these sites," the official told Switzerland's La Liberte newspaper. "We are taking these threats seriously," he said.

One of the sites said: "Let's transform the two most secure countries in Europe into hell, like the hell in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to the official. Another message said: "The hour has come for fighters of the faith they must make themselves heard."

La Liberte said Switzerland is widely accused of Islamophobia in the Muslim world, primarily because of opposition to the construction of mosques in several Swiss cities. Austria could be a target because it has troops participating in the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.

Downplaying danger

logo of euro 2008

Euro 2008 kicks off on June 7 in Basel

But in an official statement sent to the AFP news agency, Swiss police downplayed the danger to the soccer championships, which kick off on June 7 in the Swiss city of Basel.

"Any big event like Euro 2008 could be a target of choice for terrorists, but there are no concrete elements right now that would incline would to fear any specific danger," the statement read.

Federal Police Office spokesman Guido Balmer added: "It is a public conversation and more like fantasies by people trying to impress."

But it added that developments in global hotspots over the coming weeks could have domestic security repercussions.

In a report released in April, Swiss police said Switzerland, as part of Western Europe, was at risk from jihadists and urged vigilance. It added that although it was not a premier target, but it was still considered a "crusader state."

Counter-terrorism experts say Islamist forums regularly carry threats of attacks which have to be studied though few are to be taken seriously.

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