US and European security officials tell ABC News that they have identified threat information pointing to a possible terror attack in Austria or Switzerland during the ongoing European Championship soccer tournament.
According to four security, law enforcement and intelligence officials from four separate agencies who were briefed on the matter there is a significant, ongoing concern over an Al Qaeda inspired attack at the Euro 2008 tournament -- possibly one conducted by Algerian terrorists.
Sixteen highly competitive national teams play in the championships amid a Super Bowl like security matrix involving law enforcement and intelligence officials from numerous countries.
Up to five million fans will have attended before the finals are played on June 29th. According to European media accounts about a million of those will cram into stadiums and up to four million more will cheer for their favorites in public viewing areas.
One of the officials interviewed over the past week by ABC News said that "there is a growing consensus" that an attack during championship play of Europe's most cherished sport may be "too tempting a target to pass up."
Another noted there have been two recent arrests in the United Kingdom and documents seized in searches there appear relevant to the current threat. None of the officials were able to elaborate on that point.
Both the Euro Cup and soccer's World Cup have in the past been the suspected targets of terror attacks or preliminary planning.
During Euro 2004 in Portugal, three members of the Dutch Hofstad group were arrested and deported during the games. They were suspected of a plot to assassinate Portugal's prime minister, but nothing was ever proven and no charges ever filed.
In Germany, the two men arrested for planting bombs (which failed to detonate) on commuter trains in July 2006 had originally considered the 2006 World Cup as a target, according to German security services but the suspects abandoned the plan and settled on the rail attack. Both have been convicted.
According to the web site "Counter Terrorism Blog," in May the Swiss newspaper La Liberté quoted an interview with Jürg Bühler, a security official with the Swiss Federal Police. He said that his agency had been monitoring threats made by users of Islamist websites on Euro Soccer 2008.
Authorities say that the threat streams they have been briefed on in recent weeks are distinct from those internet based threats which were not deemed of pressing concern.