Terrorists’ claim has nations on edge

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As Europe prepares to stand silent at noon tomorrow (11pm AEDT) to remember the victims of what many have called “Spain’s 9/11”, Britain – Washington’s staunchest ally during the Iraq war – stands on the frontline nervous about which country might be next.

Italy has already been singled out by one radical Islamic cleric as the possible next target, while Poland, a key supporter of US President George W Bush’s war in Iraq, immediately boosted security after last Thursday’s attacks in Madrid which killed 199 people and left nearly 1500 injured.

“If it is al-Qaeda then it means clearly it’s looking for targets anywhere in Europe, anyone who might have supported the US war in Iraq,” said al-Qaeda expert Maha Azzam of London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Paul Heywood, a professor of politics and Spain specialist at Britain’s Nottingham University said that, although the United States could in theory be a more likely target for a new al-Qaeda attack, this does not mean that those who opposed the Iraq war should relax.

That interpretation has clearly been taken on board by Greece, which immediately announced it is beefing up security for the Olympic Games in August, including calling in assistance from NATO.