Dubai: Britain has warned of a high risk of a terror attack in the United Arab Emirates, the booming oil-rich Gulf state that is home to several million foreigners.
“There is a high threat from terrorism. We believe terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks in the UAE,” said a travel advice posted online by the embassy on Saturday.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate and could happen at any time, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers such as residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests,” it said.
It informed Britons in the desert nation that they should “maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.”
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.
While other Gulf countries have witnesses bloody attacks blamed on the Al-Qaeda network of Saudi-born terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, the UAE has not been targeted.
“We believe that threat to be high. It was a general threat before,” said a British embassy spokeswoman in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. “There are a number of factors that came into consideration. The threat level was raised and the travel advisory was amended to reflect that,” she told AFP.
Saudi Arabia, Yemen have been under threat since 2003
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 neighbour Yemen has also witnessed several attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda. The embassy said that over one million British visitors travelled 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% 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 hard-partying professionals.
Dubai, particularly vulnerable
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% in 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund.