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Citing terror threat, U.S. boosts security in Germany
BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. embassy in Germany said on Friday it was boosting security at its facilities in response to what it described as an increased threat of terrorism there.
Neither U.S. nor German officials would provide specific details, but one diplomat said the steps were taken to guard against a particular threat and two newspapers reported that Iraqi militants were scouting U.S. facilities in Germany.
"U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities in Germany are increasing their security posture," the embassy said in a statement sent by email.
"We are taking these steps in response to a heightened threat situation. The U.S. embassy encourages Americans in Germany to increase their vigilance and take appropriate steps to bolster their own personal security."
An official at the embassy said the announcement was related to an increased threat of terrorism, citing recent warnings by Germany's BKA federal police.
This view was echoed by U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey, who said in Washington he was not aware of any specific, credible threat that led the embassy to issue its warning.
Germany's interior ministry said the tightening of security came amidst signs that U.S. facilities were at higher risk.
"German security officials share these concerns and have been working closely with the U.S. side to ensure appropriate measures are taken," it said in a statement.
Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has not recently suffered a major attack like Spain and Britain, but government and intelligence officials have urged vigilance in recent months.
DANGER LEVEL HIGH
This week a German newspaper quoted Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as saying the threat of attacks by Islamist militants had increased in past months and become more specific.
"The danger level is high," Schaeuble said.
According to Germany's Tagesspiegel newspaper, U.S. intelligence services warned this month that members of Ansar al Sunna, an Islamist group fighting the U.S. occupation in Iraq, had conducted surveillance on U.S. sites in southern Germany.
Asked about the Tagesspiegel report, the State Department's Casey said: "Never heard of that, sorry."
Die Welt newspaper cited security sources as saying that German and U.S. intelligence services had received new information relating to possible attacks on U.S. facilities in Germany by Iraqi militants.
Three men accused of belonging to a related group, Ansar al Islam, are on trial in the German city of Stuttgart, accused of planning to assassinate former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi.
Germany has the third largest contingent in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Taliban militants there have threatened to carry out suicide attacks on German troops to force them out of the country.
Germany's withdrawal from there is a main demand of Iraqi militants who kidnapped two Germans in February. The kidnappers have threatened to kill them if their demands are not met.
Last July, an attempt to detonate crude bombs on two German trains failed only because the detonating devices malfunctioned.
(Additional reporting by Noah Barkin and Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Arshad Mohammed in Washington)
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