Al-Qa'ida attack on Reichstag feared

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Berlin's Reichstag parliament building, one of the city's main tourist attractions, has been singled out by al-Qa'ida and allied militant Islamic groups for a Mumbai-style attack involving mass shootings and hostage-taking, German security sources were quoted as saying yesterday.

The planned attack was reported in Der Spiegel magazine, which said it based its story on information from Germany's Federal Criminal Bureau. The article followed a decision to step up security at airports and rail stations last week after an unspecific warning from the Interior Ministry about increased terrorist activity.

The seriousness of the threat facing Germany, which has so far escaped major Islamic terrorist attacks, was underlined by Chancellor Angela Merkel. "We face a real danger from terrorism," she said at the Lisbon Nato summit. "I do not want to go into detail. The security services are working attentively."

Der Spiegel said information about the planned attack on Berlin's Reichstag, which is visited by hundreds of tourists each day, had come from an Islamic militant-turned-informer who had been telephoning the Federal Criminal Bureau with information about a terrorist cell. He apparently told the security service that he wanted to quit terrorism.

The informer claimed the cell consisted of six people, two of whom were believed to be staying in Berlin. The remaining four – a German, a Turkish national, a North African and another unidentified member – were planning to travel to Germany to carry out the attack. He said the attackers planned to take hostages and create a "bloodbath" with automatic weapons.