updated 12/22/2006 5:02:45 AM ET 2006-12-22T10:02:45

Britain’s top policeman warned on Friday that the country faced the risk of an attack by Islamist militants over Christmas.

Ian Blair, head of London’s Metropolitan Police force, said there was no evidence bombings were being planned but he echoed a message from the government that the risk was real.

“I think the threat of another terrorist attempt is ever present and Christmas is a period where that might happen,” Blair told BBC radio.

“We have no specific intelligence ... but (people) may remember that there was a terrorist plot in Germany against one of their Christmas markets in 2002 so it’s a possibility.”

Earlier this month, British Home Secretary John Reid said the chance of an attack over Christmas was “highly likely” while the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency said in November that around 30 major plots were being worked on.

Eliza Manningham-Buller said the threats may involve chemical and nuclear devices.

Britain suffered its worst peacetime attack on July 7 last year when four British Islamists blew themselves up on three London underground trains and a bus, killing 52 people and wounding more than 700.

Blair said the country had not been at such risk since the Second World War nor had counter-terrorism police been busier.

“I do agree with both the Home Secretary and Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller that the level of threat against the United Kingdom is of an unparalleled nature and growing,” he said.

“It is a far graver threat in terms of civilians.”

Some Muslim groups have accused the government of deliberately exaggerating the threat, leading to their community being demonized.

They point to incidents such as a raid in June by police on a house in the Forest Gate area of east London when a man was shot by officers hunting for a chemical bomb. Detectives later said the intelligence was wrong after no bomb was found.

“If we have credible evidence from more than one source that a device is in a certain place, we have to go into it,” Blair said.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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