PARIS — The international police agency Interpol warned governments worldwide on Thursday of an increased risk of terror attacks if the planned burning of the Quran by a Florida pastor goes ahead.
Our cartoonists take a look at the Quran-burning controversy.
- Holy war
"There is a strong likelihood that violent attacks on innocent people would follow," Interpol said in a statement, adding that it was acting partly on a request from Pakistan.
In the U.S., the State Department on Thursday warned Americans abroad of the "high" potential for violence.
"Demonstrations, some violent, have already taken place in several countries, including Afghanistan and Indonesia, in response to media reports of the church's plans," it said in an advisory. "The potential for further protests and demonstrations, some of which may turn violent, remains high."
Terry Jones, leader of a church of about 30 members in Gainesville, Fla., had planned to burn copies of the Islamic holy book on Saturday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which this year coincides with the Muslim Eid holiday.
Thursday afternoon, Jones said he had canceled the burning after being assured that a mosque being proposed near New York City's World Trade Center site would be moved. The backers of the mosque project have denied any deal was made.
At Interpol earlier, Secretary General Ronald Noble said in the statement that "although there are currently no specific details as to what forms of terror attacks would follow, what is clear is if the Koran burning goes ahead as planned, there will be tragic consequences, ones which may well claim the lives of many innocent people." Video: Tony Blair says burning is 'stupid and disrespectful' (on this page)
Interpol said Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, "personally contacted" Noble "to engage the world police body’s assistance in warning law enforcement of the increased terrorist threat."
"It is our duty to ensure that we pass this information on to law enforcement agencies around the globe so that they can take appropriate measures," Noble added.
Interpol asked that any country receiving information about a potential threat alert the agency.
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“September 11 is a day when the world should come together to redouble our efforts to prevent and fight terrorism, not a day when any individual, especially an American, should engage in provocative acts that will give terrorists propaganda intended to convert September 11 from a day of remembrance, to one of recruitment for terrorists and others inspired to attack the U.S. and other western targets,” Noble said.
"The reaction of Interpol and others around the world in response to this planned hateful act should be seen by the Muslim community as strong evidence that this man and his small congregation stand alone," Noble added.
President Barack Obama has condemned Jones' plan as "destructive."
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The president, as well as Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, says the act could endanger U.S. troops there as well as Iraq and lead to unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Wednesday, the State Department said it had ordered U.S. embassies around the world to assess their security ahead of the planned burning.
U.S. diplomatic posts were instructed to convene "emergency action committees" and to alert U.S. citizens in those countries if the potential for protests is deemed to exist.Video: State Dept. issues travel warning (on this page)
And the FBI earlier issued a bulletin stating that "the FBI assesses with high confidence that, as with past incidents perceived as acts of desecration against Islam, extremist actors will continue to threaten or attempt to harm the leaders, organizers, or attendees (of) the event."
"Depending on the continued national and international publicity the event receives, it may also inspire retaliatory attacks against U.S. facilities overseas," it added.
The bulletin notes that in July, two online threats were posted on the extremist website "al-Faloja" — one of the posts talks of a suicide attack at the Gainesville church, the other talks about killing Americans in general.
Reuters contributed to this report.