It's terror alerts a go-go this week. The US kicked things off on 3 October with warnings of potential terrorist attacks across Europe. Britain jumped on the bandwagon shortly after, raising its terrorism threat levels for Germany and France on the same day while maintaining it's own rating as severe. And a litany of other countries followed suit (Japanese, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, to name a few) – advising their citizens to avoid tourist hotspots and to limit the time they spend on public transport across the Continent.
It appears the powers that be know something we don't, especially with news reports of the militants targeted by recent US drone strikes in north-west Pakistan – it's alleged that the five German citizens and one British national killed in the strikes had been planning commando style attacks similar to those carried out in Mumbai in 2008. The French have must've caught a whiff of something brewing too. Why else would they shut down the Eiffel Tower twice in a month? This was in addition to the 12 suspects they arrested on 5 October during two separate 'anti-terror' raids in the southern city of Marseilles and the nearby town of Avignon.
But, what does this all mean for you and me? While the more jittery capital-dwellers among us might contemplate cancelling their travel plans, doubling their canned goods order with Ocado, and revising the blueprints for their long yearned for backyard bomb shelter, the rest of the crowd seem to be taking this latest round of warnings in their stride – albeit with heightened wariness for suspicious packages left on park benches and less time spent hanging out with Big Ben. To me, this is the only logical way to behave.
We've been living with terrorism in the forefront of our minds since 9/11 (and even before that if you add in the threat of IRA bombings), so nothing has really changed this week except the news that an attack appears to be more imminent now than it was a month ago. It's not a surprise and we appear to be well informed. And, while the government may be erring on the side of caution (a move that's been their MO since being caught out by a number of incidents that could've been prevented), I'd rather they warned us.
So, I'm not going to massively alter my behaviour. I'm still heading to France next week, and when I'm at the airport I'll welcome the security checks (though feel sorry for the person who asks me to remove my shoes). In the meantime, I may wish to avoid the tube in favour of a cycle on a nice day, but that is more about loving the new bike scheme than a knee-jerk reaction to the threat of a disenfranchised youth wielding a Kalashnikov. And if I see a lonely suitcase, I'll let the proper authorities into the loop, which actually is really effective – a friend reported two unattended hold-alls on the concourse at Victoria station last weekend and they were spirited away faster than you could say Osama bin Laden. No doubt they belonged to a couple of newly arrived tourists who'd ducked out for a quick smoke, but it's better to be safe, right? And, at the end of the day, that's all any of us really want.
By: Kate McAuley