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US, Britain Issue Travel Alerts for Europe

French soldiers patrol around the Louvre museum in Paris, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. The State Department has cautioned Americans traveling in Europe to be vigilant because of heightened concerns about a potential al-Qaida terrorist attack aimed at U.S. citize
French soldiers patrol around the Louvre museum in Paris, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. The State Department has cautioned Americans traveling in Europe to be vigilant because of heightened concerns about a potential al-Qaida terrorist attack aimed at U.S. citize
Lisa Bryant

The United States and Britain issued warnings Sunday of potential terrorist attacks in Europe.  Washington urged American tourists in Europe to be extra vigilant, while London raised its threat assessment to high for citizens traveling to France and Germany.  

The new warnings by the United States and Britain add to concerns of potential terrorist strikes in Europe that have been simmering for weeks.  The U.S. State Department warned Americans in Europe to be extra cautious in public places, particularly tourist spots and transportation hubs.  

But Washington did not issue a formal travel warning advising Americans not to visit Europe.

Britain raised its terrorism threat assessment for Germany and France to high.  Britain's own assessed terrorism threat level is rated "severe."

The warnings follow reports of an al-Qaida terrorist plot against Europe that some believe aims to imitate the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

In Paris, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told reporters the French government had registered the new U.S. travel warning.

Hortefeux said French authorities were analyzing the U.S. warning and remained vigilant.  France's national terror warning plan, dubbed Vigipirate, is on a "reinforced red" alert level - one step below the highest threat level.   Last month, the famous Parisian landmark, the Eiffel Tower, was briefly evacuated following a bomb threat that proved to be a hoax.

Not far from the Eiffel Tower, Alison Glasgow Lafontaine, an American living in Paris, was philosophical about the stepped-up risk assessment. "I have lived in France through a number of bomb threats and bomb attacks, unfortunately.  It is kind of sad to say that this is the world that we live in and it is just not in France.  Bombs are going off in all countries and in all societies," he said.

In Rome, one San Francisco tourist - who gave his name as Mark - suggested the threats would not alter his travel plans.  "If I hear something like that and I get scared, I think they have already won, so I just keep going," he said.

Europe is no stranger to terrorist attacks.  Paris, Madrid and London have all been targets of strikes by extremists during the past 15 years that have killed and injured hundreds of people.

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