Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:09 pm (KSA) 09:09 am (GMT)

Britain raises UAE terror alert to "high"

The Gulf's top tourism destination, Dubai (File)
The Gulf's top tourism destination, Dubai (File)

Britain has warned its nationals traveling to the United Arab Emirates of a "high threat from terrorism", raising its alert for the Gulf Arab trade hub that is home to large community of British expatriates.

"We believe terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks in the UAE," the British foreign office website wrote.

"Attacks could be indiscriminate and could happen at any time, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers such as residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests."

The British Embassy in Dubai declined to specify what had prompted the change, saying that threat alerts were continually being reviewed based on a variety of information.

The previous level referred to a "general threat from terrorism".

"It has gone up a level to high... but most threat levels go up and down," Simon Goldsmith, spokesman for the British Embassy in Dubai, told Reuters.

"We are not advising British nationals to change their travel plans. This is not what we are saying," Goldsmith added.

There has been no major attack or political unrest in the UAE, a federation of seven emirates that includes the Gulf's top tourism destination, Dubai.

The pro-Western UAE is one of the top members of OPEC and in recent years has become a major regional tourist hub, attracting millions of tourists each year, mainly in the bustling city-state of Dubai.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has been battling a wave of deadly violence waged by Islamist militants since 2003, including attacks targeting foreigners and key oil installations.

Its impoverished neighbor Yemen has also witnessed several attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda.

The embassy said that over one million British visitors traveled to the UAE in 2006, and that more than 100,000 British nationals are resident there, the largest Western community in the country.

More than 80 percent of the population of 5.6 million in the fast-developing UAE are foreigners, according to figures for 2006 published in February this year.

The foreign influx ranges from poorly-paid construction workers, many from the Indian sub-continent, to high-flying Western professionals.

Dubai, one of the seven emirates forming the UAE federation, attracts huge numbers of British investors who invest in its booming real estate sector. With its skyscrapers, plush hotels, vast shopping malls and desert tours, Dubai has also become a popular destination for tourists.

Dubai is home to the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Dubai, which is currently under construction and due for completion in September next year.

The UAE sits on 97.8 billion barrels of oil reserves, which are ranked as the fifth largest in the world. Its economy is estimated to have grown by 7.4 percent in 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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