Video: London city guide

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updated 4/27/2011 7:43:38 PM ET 2011-04-27T23:43:38

It's not the type of welcome most wedding guests expect before they get into church — background checks, ID verification and a security sweep.

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But then again, Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding on Friday is no ordinary affair.

Britain hasn't seen a royal wedding of this size since Prince Charles married Diana in 1981 — there were actually 200 more police on duty for that wedding, which had a longer procession route and a guest list of some 3,500 people, including foreign royals and heads of state.

Friday's wedding will offer much of the same pomp and circumstance with its 1,900 invited guests, but it also presents a modern security nightmare for the 5,000 U.K. police officers on duty. Police will be on the look-out for Irish dissident terrorists, Muslim extremists, anti-monarchists and protesters.

Scotland Yard Police Commander Christine Jones said Wednesday there has been no new terror threat but considerable Internet chatter.

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"Our operation has been meticulously planned, and we have thought through and planned for a huge range of contingencies," she said.

Anxious crowds wrapped in Union Jack flags watched late Wednesday afternoon as a convoy of cars arrived at Westminster Abbey. Seconds after, the soon-to-be royal couple arrived at the cathedral for a final wedding rehearsal. Middleton's parents and Prince Harry, the best man, also attended, St. James Palace said.

A wide range of police will be on patrol for as the couple ties the knot Friday: officers on motorcycles, escort specialists, dog handlers, search officers, mounted police, protection officers and firearms units, although only a fraction of Britain's police officers are armed.

Thousands of people are expected along the parade route Friday, a snaking path of less than a mile from Westminster Abbey — an iconic cathedral near London's Big Ben and Parliament buildings — to Buckingham Palace, where the new royal couple will appear on the balcony for the anticipated kiss.

Britain has seen several major terror attacks and plots since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001. The deadliest came in 2005, when homegrown terrorists killed 52 commuters during London's rush hour — Europe's first suicide bombing. In 2006, terrorists in Britain tried to down several trans-Atlantic airliners using liquid explosives. The following year, two major terror plots were thwarted outside a London nightclub and at an airport in Scotland.

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London has also seen large protests recently against the Conservative-led government's austerity plans, which aim to cut 310,000 government jobs and raise university tuition fees. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were shaken up when their car was attacked in December when a student protest turned violent.

A group called Muslims Against Crusades said they wouldn't protest the wedding but urged Muslims to stay away from central London and public transport because of the possibility of an attack. Leader Asad Ullah said the warning was general and not based on any intelligence.

Many Muslims have voiced anger over Britain's involvement in the Iraq war. Prince William's younger brother Harry also served in Afghanistan.

British police have special stop-and-search powers now if they think people in the crowds are carrying something suspicious. Some 60 people have already been banned from the parade route Friday and both uniformed and undercover officers will be in the crowds or on rooftops.

The wedding guests — kings and queens, sports and entertainment celebrities, charity workers and friends and family of the royals — will have their identification checked and go through a security screening before entering the abbey. Some of the guests have also gone through cursory background checks.

"They will go through a significant search regime," Commander Jones said.

Although Britain's security threat level remains the same, there has been an increased threat from Irish Republican Army splinter groups opposed to the peace process. A masked man from the Real IRA said Monday the queen was wanted for war crimes and his group would oppose her visit next month.

He made no specific threat to disrupt the royal wedding.

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Police said security around London's subway network will be boosted, while policing at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, will be as normal.

In October, the U.S. State Department advised Americans to be wary amid reports that terrorists were planning a Mumbai-style attack on a European city. More than 160 people were killed in that 2008 attack, when gunmen fired on crowds in a shooting spree that paralyzed India's business capital for days.

But a U.S. State Department official said the threat expires on Saturday — the day after the wedding. U.S. travel advisories have set expiration dates unless a threat is still considered active.

"We do not plan to renew it," the U.S. official said suggesting that the Mumbai-style threat was no longer considered active or credible. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Another western intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, said threads of the threat were still being investigated but he added there was "no intelligence to suggest a highly organized threat to the royal wedding."

Forecasters predict a 70 percent chance of rain Friday for London. The Meteorological Office says there will be a mix of showers and dry spells, a cool breeze and temperatures in the high teens Celsius (mid-60s Fahrenheit).

___

Greg Katz, David Stringer and Toby Goode of the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: London calling

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  1. A view from the top in London

    London is home to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held July 27 to Aug. 12, 2012. Visitors will be able to see all this wolrd-class city has to offer in the summertime - -everything from plays in Shakespeare's Globe Theater to bird's-eye views of the city on the London Eye. Pictured here, a passenger travels on the London Eye observation wheel which stands 135 meters high and is the tallest such wheel in Europe, on Oct. 22, 2010 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Millennium Bridge

    Pedestrians cross the Millennium Bridge, spanning the River Thames in London, on Feb. 15, 2012. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Double-decker bus

    A double-decker bus travels through Piccadilly Circus on March 19, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Buckingham Palace

    At the end of The Mall is Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty The Queen resides. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Great Court

    Visitors walk in the Great Court of the British Museum on Feb. 22, 2011 in London. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Treetop walkway

    A woman walks across the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop walkway, with a view of the Temperate House behind, at Kew Gardens in London on May 22, 2008. The 18-meter high structure gives visitors the opportunity to view the tree canopy at Kew. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. St. Paul's Cathedral

    Tourists look towards St. Paul's Cathedral while riding on an open-top bus through central London on April 15, 2012. Despite a short-term tourism boom at the time of the Olympics, economists are warning that it won't be enough to prevent a sharp slowdown in the economy this year. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Inside St. Paul's Cathedral

    A verger pauses to look at one of the statues in St. Paul's Cathedral after its recent major restoration, in London on June 16, 2011. The St. Paul's Cathedral program of cleaning and repair cost 40 million pounds, has taken 15 years and is the first time in its history that the building has been comprehensively restored inside and out, it was reported on the Cathedral website. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Oxford Circus

    Traffic at the Oxford Circus junction at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street on May 1, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Trafalgar Square

    Tourists enjoy the sunshine in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square on March 28, 2012 in London. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The Tower of London

    The Tower of London is a historic castle that early in its history served as a royal residence. It's probably most well-known for its use as a place of imprisonment. King Henry VIII executed two of his wives there, and before she became queen, Elizabeth I was held captive there by her half-sister, Queen Mary I. (Scott Barbour / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. River Thames

    An aerial view of the River Thames in London, with the Shard at left and Tower Bridge in the foreground, on September 5, 2011 in London. (Tom Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Tate Modern

    Visitors to Tate Modern walk through sunlight shining through the windows, in London on July 30, 2009. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Walking across the bridge

    People cross the Millennium Bridge in wet weather in front of the newly-restored St. Paul's Cathedral on June 16, 2011 in London. A prominent feature in the London skyline and one of the world's most beautiful buildings, St. Paul's Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th Century, and is celebrating its 300th anniversary with the completion of a 40 million pound restoration project. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Graffiti art

    A woman walks past an ornately-painted building in the Shoreditch area of London on Jan. 14, 2012. Ornate graffiti appears on many buildings and structures in areas of the east London borough of Shoreditch. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Time for soccer

    People play soccer during a warm autumn weather spell on Hampstead Heath, with the City of London in the background, on Oct. 29, 2009. (Jas Lehal / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Fish and chips

    Chelsea soccer fans eat fish and chips outside The Cafe Fish Bar in west London on May 13, 2012. Deep-fried fish in a crispy batter, with fat golden chips, is still as popular as ever with the British public, ranked alongside roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and chicken tikka masala as the nation's favorite dish. (Eddie Keogh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Shopping spree

    Selfridges department store is illuminated on Oxford Street on December 5, 2011 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial

    An aerial view of the Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial on July 26, 2011 in London. (Tom Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Shakespeare's Globe Theater

    Actors Dominic Rowan and Miranda Raison perform as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in Shakepeare's "Henry VIII" at the Globe Theatre in London on July 6, 2010. William Shakespeare's Globe Theater, on the south bank of the River Thames, burned to the ground during the staging of a play about Henry VIII in 1613 and was rebuilt in the late 1990s. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Westminster Abbey

    A view of Westminster Abbey on Nov. 19, 2010 in London. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Shard

    The Shard towers over St. Thomas Street, on July 5, 2012 in London. A new addition to the London skyline, It is the European Union's tallest building. (Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Borough Market

    A woman walks through Borough Market in London on Dec. 9, 2011. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Houses of Parliament

    A car travels along Westminster Bridge past the Houses of Parliament on March 27, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A classic pub

    Patrons drink at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in London, on Dec. 19, 2011. This is one of London's oldest pubs and one of Charles Dickens' favorites, alluded to in "A Tale of Two Cities." (Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. London's West End

    Cars travel at night, along Shaftesbury Avenue past West End theatres, on March 29, 2012 in London. The city's West End is synonymous with theater productions, containing over forty venues showing plays, musicals and operas. The theaters typically play host to over 14 million spectators that view over 18,000 performances each year. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The 'Gherkin'

    The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' is pictured in the City of London on August 12, 2010. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A day in the park

    Visitors enjoy summer sunshine as they row boats on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. One of King Henry VIII's former hunting grounds, the 350-acre park in the middle of London features more than 4,000 trees, a lake and a meadow. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Bouquets of flowers

    A woman carries sunflowers at the Columbia Road flower market in East London as summer weather hit the United Kingdom on May 24, 2009. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Street art

    A woman walks past street art by Banksy on Pollard Street on Nov. 1, 2007 in London. Recent works of art by Banksy have been bought for hundreds of thousands of pounds by celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Tower Hamlets Council recently said that they had a duty to remove all graffiti in the area, including anything done by Banksy. However, the public in Bristol recently voted over 90 percent in favor of keeping a piece of graffiti art by Banksy as it was deemed so popular. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A tribute to a princess

    The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park opened on July 6, 2004, in London. The fountain was designed by American Kathryn Gustafson as a tribute to the former princess, who died in a car crash in 1997. (Scott Barbour / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A famous crossing

    Tourists pose for a photograph on the pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road in St. John's Wood, North London on Dec. 22, 2010. The crossing, sited outside Abbey Road Studios in North London and made famous by The Beatles, was designated a site of national importance by the British government. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Brick Lane

    Signs for businesses on Brick Lane, which is synonymous with curry restaurants, on March 16, 2011 in London, England. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. The heart of London

    Summer crowds gather in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery. At the center of Trafalgar Square is Nelson's Column, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A cultural center

    A view down Camden High Street on March 31, 2012 in London. Camden in North London has been one of the city's cultural centers since the 1960s, and is home to the famous Camden Market. The borough is rich in musical heritage with a variety of theatres, art galleries and world famous musical and comedy venues. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Official timekeeper

    The historic Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the world, making it the official starting point for each new day and year. (Visit London) Back to slideshow navigation
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