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Britain to Remain on High-Level Terrorist Alert - 2003-11-21

Britain's senior police chief says the country will remain on a high-level terrorist alert for the foreseeable future, following Thursday's bombings of British targets in Istanbul.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens says 16 officers from his anti-terrorist branch are in Turkey, sifting for clues that could help prevent future attacks.

Mr. Stevens says Britain is on its highest terrorist alert status, short of an actual attack in progress. And without divulging details, he told British radio his force has cooperated with Britain's intelligence services to prevent some attacks since terrorists struck in the United States on September 11, 2001.

"I do need to stress that we've been working flat out [very hard] for the last two years, specifically for the last 18 months, with MI5 and MI6," he said. "An immense amount of work has been done, and I think some credit needs to be given for that."

The bombings Thursday ripped through the British consulate and the Istanbul office of the London-based banking conglomerate, HSBC. British officials believe the perpetrators were probably al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic terrorists.

Major British companies are re-examining their security arrangements in Turkey and elsewhere, hoping to minimize business losses.

HSBC reopened all of its branches in Turkey Friday after a one-day closure following the bombing.

British Airways says it will continue flying two times a day between London and Istanbul, despite a Foreign Office warning that Britons should defer all but essential travel to major cities in Turkey. A similar travel warning has been issued by the U.S. State Department.

The British-based Hilton and InterContinental groups, which between them operate 13 hotels in Turkey, say safety procedures are under review, but they are expecting a slump in business.