British Army On Anti-Terror Duty in London

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

London ( - British Army troops were posted at London's Heathrow Airport and several other sites around the capital on Tuesday after police warned of possible al Qaeda attacks during the Muslim religious festival of Eid al-Adha.

"The current strengthening of security is precautionary and is related to action being taken in other countries," a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Last Friday, U.S. authorities raised the nation's terror alert level from yellow to orange, the second-highest level.

"The end of the religious festival of Eid may erroneously be used by al Qaeda and associated networks to mount attacks," the police spokesman said. The festival, which coincides with the end of the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, runs from Wednesday to Saturday in most Muslim communities.

The spokesman said the use of troops to protect civilian installations is "part of a long-standing contingency authorized by the government, for example during the Provisional IRA campaign"

In 1994, the army was called out to protect Heathrow when the IRA tried to launch a mortar attack on the airport.

"To avoid prejudicing ongoing operations, we do not intend to give any further details of security arrangements," the spokesman said.

The company that operates Britain's major airports, BAA, also said it could not add further details about the deployment

In a statement, Mick Temple, Heathrow's managing director, said: "Safety and security of passengers and staff is our top priority at Heathrow. BAA is cooperating fully with this latest enhancement of security."

"We understand that this is a precautionary measure and we would ask passengers to continue to be vigilant," he said.

The more than 400 troops patrolling Heathrow are in addition to the 1,000 extra police officers added after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Troops were also deployed to other London locations, but police and military officials refused to say where soldiers would be operating. Reports said the Army was also helping to patrol the M25, the main highway running around the British capital.

Last month, British police staged a series of raids after the poison ricin was found in London apartment. Although the U.K. government does not have a color-coded system like the United States does, in November of last year officials warned of an increased danger of terror attacks during the Christmas season.

Also on Tuesday, police in London said they arrested a 25-year-old North African man on suspicion of involvement in terrorism after he arrived on a cross-Channel train from France.

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