The City of London, Britain’s financial district, could be next in line for a devastating attack by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist organization. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources, a terror alert in London has been raised to its highest level ahead of British prime minister Tony Blair’s departure this coming weekend for talks with George W. Bush at the US president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
British counter-terror authorities are making preparations – just in case al Qaeda chooses to strike at London’s commercial and trading center at the very moment that Bush and Blair are conferring on future British military involvement in Afghanistan, the role of the British special forces who landed there on Wednesday, April 3, and the pursuit of the global war against terror.
A terror attack on the City would bring chaos to international financial markets – particularly when fresh intelligence information points to al Qaeda plans for an attack on the scale of the September 11 hijack-suicide strikes in New York and Washington.
Britain’s Royal Air Force and US air force planes stationed in British bases have been put on alert. RAF fighter planes are conducting round-the-clock patrols over London, like the US air force patrols over Washington. Anti-aircraft batteries, including surface-to-air missiles, have been positioned in London and its environs, such as Greenwich and Wimbledon.
Various scenarios picture the hijacking of planes at big European airports, in Paris, Rome, Zurich, Amsterdam and London or Manchester, or mid-flight seizures of airliners bound for London from the Middle East or the Gulf. These hijacked planes would be crashed by suiciders into City buildings in the Docklands or along the Thames.
Their aim: to destroy the City and cripple European financial centers, much in the same way as the September 11 hijackers shut down Wall Street by toppling the World Trade Center. The threat is being treated seriously enough for sensitive buildings and installations at American UK air bases to be evacuated and security tightened around US nuclear weapons storage facilities in Britain.
The London district centering on the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street and housing key ministers and government centers, is another possible target.
Such attacks could also feature nuclear weapons or such devices as radiological bombs.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in London report the completion of arrangements at 10 Downing Street to meet an acute terror contingency by moving the prime minister, his family and senior ministers to an underground office complex in north London, located between St. John’s Wood and Swiss Cottage. A facility exists there to enable the British government to continue functioning in safety in times of emergency or nuclear war.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources warn that the terror may not necessarily descend from the sky. Some intelligence experts caution against terror attack from the water. Missiles tipped with chemical or biological warheads could come at the City from launching pads mounted on ships sailing up the Thames. Danger could also emanate from terrorist frogmen commandeering a 250-ton freighter or container ship and ramming it into City streets and buildings.
Similar warnings pertain to Tel Aviv, which is a coastal city on the Mediterranean. Some reports envision simultaneous strikes from air or sea against the Israeli commercial capital and the City of London.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources say Israel, and especially Tel Aviv, has been on a state of alert for al Qaeda attacks, including nuclear strikes, since late February. The alert was raised to its highest level late last week.