WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A threat warning issued by the United States in Germany last month could involve attack plans by an al Qaeda-affiliated group of Kurdish militants, officials said on Friday.
U.S. and German authorities said, however, that there was no new threat in Germany beyond the official April 20 State Department warning.
They were responding to a report by ABC News on its Web site on Friday that officials believe terrorists were in the advanced planning stages for an attack on U.S. military personnel or tourists in Germany.
In the April 20 warning, the U.S. Embassy in Germany encouraged Americans in the country to increase their vigilance and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.
“We’re unaware of anything new. We have not changed our force posture,” a U.S. defense official said on Friday.
In Germany, the Interior Ministry said there had been no change in the security situation.
“There is nothing new,” a spokesman for the ministry said. “What we’re looking at is the state of affairs that has been long since known. This caused the U.S. authorities to publish a warning to their own citizens in Germany.”
Counterterrorism officials in Europe and the United States have for weeks been investigating a suspected plot against U.S. interests in the country, which will host a G8 summit of major industrialized countries next month.
U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said recent intelligence reports suggested possible involvement by Kurdish Islamists from outside Germany.
The group is believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda but not formally a part of the militant network led by Osama bin Laden, they said. They had no specific information about targets or timing.
Some German media reports have suggested involvement by Iraqi militants. However, U.S. officials rejected the notion of a role by Ansar al-Islam, a militant group of Iraqi Kurds and Arabs who have vowed to establish an independent Islamic state in Iraq.
“There is intelligence reporting suggesting there is a group interested in staging an attack, potentially in Germany,” said a U.S. official who asked not to be named because the issue involves classified information.
“The thinking is that this plot was beyond the talking stage, certainly,” the official added. “The concerns are real, but not new.”
ABC News quoted German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as saying, “The danger level is high. We are part of the global threat by Islamist terrorism.”
The ABC report, quoting U.S. and German law enforcement officials, said Patch Barracks, headquarters to the U.S. military’s European Command, could be a target following reports that suspected terrorists had conducted surveillance at the facility.
An official with U.S. European Command said there was no new intelligence strong enough to warrant heightened security at military facilities in Germany.
“The threat condition has not been raised,” the official said. “There’s been no actionable intelligence.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States at the June 6-8 summit, which will focus on climate change, African poverty and economic cooperation.
Schaeuble has said border controls have been tightened ahead of the summit.
Reporting by David Morgan and Kristin Roberts in Washington and Dave Graham in Berlin