British Prime Minister Warns of Christmas Terror Attacks

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

London ( - Britain should be on high alert because of the possibility of terror attacks during the upcoming holiday season, Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to warn in a speech Monday evening.

During the talk, Blair is expected to say that while ordinary citizens should be vigilant, the threat of terror can't be allowed to disrupt everyday life.

Parts of the prime minister's annual foreign policy speech to the Lord Mayor's banquet in London were released to reporters earlier Monday. Blair's message will come just days after a mistakenly released report warned of potential poison gas and "dirty bomb" attacks on the U.K.

The draft report, which was later replaced by a document that contained more generic warnings, was released by the U.K. Home Office during a visit Thursday by U.S. Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

Blair isn't expected to list specific threats during his speech, but will say that al Qaeda is still dangerous despite the disruption of Osama bin Laden's network by anti-terror efforts worldwide.

The prime minister will also underline the fact that terrorists hope to inflict damage not just by death and destruction but by the economic fallout caused by terror strikes.

"Terrorists want to damage countries and economies such as ours - either through actual attacks or fear of attacks," Blair's spokesman said on Friday.

"They want to paralyze society and we recognise it is our goal to stop them by thwarting attacks through vigilance as a government, businesses and individuals and ensuring normal life continues," he said.

The prime minister's remarks were foreshadowed Sunday by Home Secretary David Blunkett, who said that the U.K. was on the "front line" for terror attacks.

"We will do everything we can to protect Britain. We need the vigilance of everyone around us, particularly at major airports and particular gathering points where people know there is a risk," he told BBC television.

"All of us have got to be vigilant coming up to Christmas and the New Year," he said.

Government officials, including Blunkett, issued similar pre-Christmas warnings last year. Although the holiday season was trouble-free in the U.K., British citizen Richard Reid attempted to blow up an American Airlines jet en route from Paris to Miami.

Passengers and cabin crew restrained Reid during the Dec. 22 flight and last month the "shoe bomber" pled guilty to federal terrorism charges. Reid could receive a prison term of up to 60 years when he is sentenced in January.

Reports Sunday said that security was being stepped up in several key locations around the country. The Times of London reported that extra police are being drafted in to create a 250-strong armed unit protecting Heathrow Airport.

An airport spokesman said he could not confirm the report Monday but noted that armed police had stepped up patrols as a result of the threat of terror attacks after Sept. 11.

See previous story:
Britain Withdraws 'Dirty Bomb' Warning (8 Nov. 2002)

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