WASHINGTON - Last week, German authorities discovered that groups of terrorists may have been dispatched from training bases in Pakistan to launch crippling attacks.
In April, U.S. intelligence officials warned Germany about possible terror attacks. Since that time German security officials have reportedly been preparing for massive, multi-layered attacks for which al-Qaida has become known.
Shortly after the April warning, German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth said in an unrelated interview, "You will understand that I can't go into the details of the terrorist threat, but I can only tell you that we all know that we have to be vigilant and that we have to continue to work very hard on that, but I do not want to go into details."
Intelligence suggests al-Qaida operatives are planning to plant multiple explosive devices in several locations and detonate them either in a simultaneous or sequential fashion.
U.S. and German intelligence sources say that strategy is designed to emulate the ones employed Bali in 2002 and Madrid in 2004. The idea is to draw in first responders to the scene after the first explosion, and then the subsequent explosions are set off in the same location to inflict maximum casualties.
A U.S. intelligence source with knowledge about the situation says "it is a credible threat, which also includes Germans in North Africa."
They say as a minimum of 12 al-Qaida operatives who were trained in the tribal region of Pakistan have left the training camps and are headed back to their home countries. Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Egypt are just some of those countries.
According to the source, the threat levels also were raised for many other Western European countries to include concerns for "Turkish Airlines flying passengers from Istanbul to the U.S., the UK and Israel."
The source says "passengers traveling out-bound from Istanbul to those locations on July Fourth were segregated, screened multiple times, including their bags and told there were concerns for Turkish Airlines flights to these locations."
Another source headed to Chicago from Istanbul said they were told that there was a specific threat against Turkish Airlines flights headed to those places.
In the U.S., Turkish Airlines flies to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Tampa and Chicago.
U.S. Intelligence and German media sources indicate the warning came from the U.S. government, but the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had arrived at the same conclusion after picking up chatter that al-Qaida is planning an attack during the run-up to the Bundestag election to try to force Germany to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Scharioth is well aware of why Germany is a target.
"We are the third biggest troop contributor in Afghanistan, and we are also the fourth biggest contributor of civilian efforts, training and reconstruction and also trying to help the country to redo the education system, give more girls a chance to get an education and all those things - that's one thing," Scharioth says.
The operatives are thought to be skilled in obtaining, assembling and the detonation of explosives that could damage large buildings, disable transit systems and create mass casualties.
This alleged plot is only a part of what concerns Scharioth. A number of rogue nations may be on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons and opening the door to al-Qaida to get ahold of them.
"We have to address the problem of nuclear proliferation because we would be very concerned, if say in 15-20 years, you have 20 nuclear weapon countries and of course the more nuclear weapon countries you have, the greater the risk and you also have to protect those nuclear weapons [so they don't fall into the wrong hands]," Scharioth says.
Scharioth says he's grateful that the U.S. and Germany are allies. He praises the cooperative effort given the alternative.
"We believe that the Cold War was dangerous enough. We were very close to a very, very bad situation and everybody who was bearing responsibility can tell you just how close we came," Scharioth says.
The German government is reportedly concerned enough about this new threat that it is contemplating changes to its emergency response measures.