An Al Qaeda-linked plot to launch a Mumbai-style terror attack simultaneously on London and major cities in France and Germany was disrupted by intelligence agencies, a report has said.
The plan for suicidal onslaughts similar to the 2008 atrocity in Mumbai, where 166 people were killed in a series of gun and grenade assaults was uncovered after a combined operation involving US, UK, France and German intelligence agencies, The Guardian reported on Tuesday quoting officials.
British security and intelligence sources, who have been concerned for some time about the possibility of a Mumbai-style attack in Europe, confirmed that they believed a plot was being hatched by militants based in Pakistan. The increased rate of US coordinated drone raids along the border with Afghanistan is believed to be a response to intelligence gathered about the plot.
Quoting sources, 'Sky News' reported that "militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes on London and major cities in France and Germany." The plan was in an advanced but not imminent stage and the plotters had been tracked by spy agencies "for some time". Intelligence sources told Sky the planned attacks would have been similar to the commando-style raids carried out in Mumbai.
The report said the European plot had been "severely disrupted" following intelligence sharing between Britain, France, Germany and the US. It is not known whether the attackers are already in Europe.
News of the planned strikes came as the Eiffel tower in Paris was evacuated because of a bomb scare for the second time in two weeks. "It doesn't necessarily mean it was a target, but it shows how nervous the French are," the report said.
When the terror plan came to light, US military began helping its European allies by trying to kill the leaders behind the plot in Pakistan's Waziristan region. There have been a record 20 missile attacks using drone aircraft there in the past 30 days.
"I am led to believe a number of these attacks were designed against the leadership of this particular plot, which had an Al Qaeda and possibly some sort of Taliban connection projecting into Europe," Sky News foreign editor Tim Marshall said.
Britain's terror threat level remains at "severe" following the underpants bomber's attempted attack on Detroit airport last Christmas. In the aftermath of the attack western intelligence agencies gained access to computers seized from the islamist group which listed other potential targets outside the Indian subcontinent for commando-style terror strikes.
Nine of the gunmen were killed - but a lone survivor gave Indian investigators a full confession that the assault was planned in Pakistan by Lashkar-e-Tayiba, a militant group that originally began an armed campaign against the Indian army in Jammu and Kashmir.
US military briefings suggested the latest missile attacks in Pakistan had been coordinated by the CIA and were an unusual example of using drones to pre-empt possible terror plots.