London and other European capitals are on alert amid fears Islamist terrorists are planning an outrage on New Year’s Eve.
A “friendly” intelligence service has warned a gun or bomb attack could be carried out in crowded places in a major European city between Christmas and New Year, it has emerged.
The stark message came as Russian authorities warned citizens to stay at home on Thursday night as the “safest” way of seeing in the New Year.
But a leading British MP insisted Britons should not give in to the terrorists and urged them to celebrate New Year as normal.
In a separate development, four dedicated regional armed police units could be established amid fears there is insufficient cover to deal with a terror attack outside of London.
Counter-terrorism chiefs are in talks with Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to have the units on standby around the clock as well as officers ring-fenced from other duties to be able to react with 15 minutes of an attack happening.
It follows concerns that there is not the 24/7 armed police cover in many of the Britain’s cities like that seen in London.
The number of armed police on the streets in London at any one time has been doubled following last month’s terror attacks in Paris when suicide bombers and marauding gunmen killed 130 people.
A warning of another attack on a European city was issued by an unnamed intelligence agency in the days before Christmas, the Austrian authorities revealed.
“In the days before Christmas a warning was sent out by a friendly (intelligence) service to numerous European capitals, saying that it could come to an attack involving explosives or a shooting between Christmas and the New Year in crowded spaces,” police in Vienna said.
“Several possible names of potential attackers were mentioned, which were checked, and the investigation based on (these checks) has so far yielded no concrete results.”
The warned led to an increase in security checks including surveillance in crowded spaces, “especially at events and traffic hubs” as well as intensive identity checks and higher alertness for objects which could carry explosives such as bags or “bicycle frames”, the police said.
A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said: “Germany is still in the crosshairs of Jihadist terrorism.”
But in Russia, Valery Ryzansky, the head of the upper house of parliament’s tourism committee, warned members of the public to celebrate New Year at home.
He said Russians should use “common sense” when making their plans for New Year and heed warnings of possible terror attacks.
“Each person should decide on his own whether or not travel to Europe to celebrate, … but right now, when the issue of terrorist threats continues to be highly relevant, a family celebration of New Year’s at home is the safest and best format in the current situation,” Mr Ryzansky said.
However, Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: “I disagree with him.
“We should never allow the threat of terrorism to frighten us into changing our normal lives. We need to continue with our celebrations.
“Given the current climate, of course we should be extra vigilant and continue to be well protected but if we give into fear then they would have won.”