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Britain, 3 Other Nations Alert for Channel Terror

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Associated Press

Guards at ports in four countries searched passengers and cars for explosives Sunday after British police received a tip that terrorists planned to blow up a ferry sailing between England and the European continent.

British police, who sent warnings to French, Dutch and Belgian forces on Friday, mobilized armed officers, sniffer dogs and explosive-detecting equipment at all ferry and hovercraft ports on the English Channel.

Police sources said they suspect that a terrorist group with Mideast links has planned to blow up a ferry, possibly in reprisal for the April 15 U.S. bombing raid on Libya. American aircraft stationed in England took part in that raid.

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Britain’s Independent Radio News reported that Scotland Yard has “uncovered an Arab plot to blow up and sink a passenger ferry by driving a car packed with explosives onto a ferry and detonating it at sea.”

The broadcast said the plot was “hatched by a Middle East terror group as a reprisal for the bombing of Libya.”

Hundreds of thousands of passengers travel on the channel ferries during the summer tourist season, many of them taking their cars. The larger ferries carry as many as 1,300 people.

More than 300 passenger and cargo ships a day sail from Britain’s four major channel ports--Dover, Folkestone, Ramsgate and Sheerness. Dover is regarded as the world’s busiest passenger port, with about 17 million a year.

A Dutch military police spokesman said Sunday that “a state of increased vigilance with regard to passengers and cars” was declared at Hoek van Holland, a port near Rotterdam. Another military police spokesman at the southern ferry port of Vlissingen said similar measures were in place.

In Belgium, police sources said officers at the two channel ports, Ostend and Zeebrugge, were instructed to look for four Arabs driving a white Volvo. They said a car carrying passengers fitting the description was spotted Saturday afternoon at Ostend and was stopped but was released because nothing suspicious was found.

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French police said tighter checks were being made on cars and passengers crossing from the ports of Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Dunkirk.

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