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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 04:46 GMT 05:46 UK
Security alerts spread from US
An armoured personnel carrier guards the US embassy in Berlin
An armoured personnel carrier guards the US embassy in Berlin
The horrific attacks in the US have triggered security alerts across the world - especially at US military bases and embassies.

In the US itself, all government buildings were evacuated and all commercial flights suspended until at least noon on Wednesday (16 GMT).

Air force fighters were ordered to attack any suspicious aircraft flying in US airspace.

And seven US warships are sailing towards New York.

A number of crossing points on the Mexican border were closed, as, briefly, were some on the Canadian border.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin held a crisis meeting with heads of the power ministries, and called a session of the security council, while the Russian air force took unspecified "anti-terrorism measures".

France was placed on a heightened security alert involving the deployment of armed troop patrols at airports and metro stations as well as increased street and border controls.

Streets closed

At Nato headquarters in Brussels, Secretary-General Lord George Robertson called an emergency meeting and told non-essential staff to leave work early, and to stay away on Wednesday.

Tearful staff leave the US embassy in Rome
Tearful staff leave the US embassy in Rome
A spokesman said Lord Robertson had told staff that "for a defence organisation it was better to be safe than sorry".

Israel closed its airspace to foreign flights, and evacuated staff from diplomatic missions and Jewish institutions around the world.

Many countries automatically tightened security around embassies, airports, and other key installations.

In Berlin and Istanbul streets around the US embassy were sealed off by police cars.

The US embassy in London said it was continuing "business as usual" but with telephone lines to New York and Washington heavily overloaded, US embassies in Europe were answering numerous calls from worried US citizens.

European bases

Italian Nato bases at Naples, Aviano, Istrana and Leghorn, were under heightened security.

An elite bomb squad officer guards the US embassy in Mexico City
An elite bomb squad officer guards the US embassy in Mexico City
At Leghorn, an oil depot of the Kuwaiti Q8 oil company was also under strict surveillance.

Aviano is one of the principal US airbases in Europe, from where the airspace in the former Yugoslavia is being monitored.

BBC reporters said that security patrols at Mildenhall and Lakenheath bases in the UK were visibly increased.

At Incirlik base in southern Turkey, where a force of 40 British and US planes patrols the no-fly zone over northern Iraq, a spokesman said security had been boosted, but did not specify the level of alert.

Tokyo embassy warning

The Japanese deputy Defence Minister, Takemasa Moriya, said that Japan would step up security measures around US bases in Japan, including the Misawa airbase, and the Iwakuni Marine air base.

The prime minister has just decided to enact a heightened Vigipirate plan

French Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant
"We would like to reinforce security around US bases jointly used by Japanese defence forces," he told reporters at the Defence Agency, as Defence Minister General Nakatani cut short a trip to Indonesia and headed home.

The US Marine Corps in Okinawa went on maximum alert following the suspected terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the Kyodo news agency said quoting a US military official.

Last Friday, the US embassy in Tokyo released a terse statement that said it had received reports of possible "terrorist actions" directed at US soldiers, military interests and related facilities.

There are some 51,000 US troops stationed in Japan, nearly half of which are posted on the island of Okinawa.

The French security alert follows a plan, codenamed Vigipirate, which was first introduced in 1995 following a series of bombings in Paris that were blamed on Algerian guerrillas of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

After an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant said: "The prime minister has just decided to enact a heightened Vigipirate plan, which means the mobilisation of all security forces and armed forces to guarantee protection and security of the French people."

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