BRITISH expats and tourists in Dubai were yesterday issued with a stark warning from the UK government that terrorists may be plotting attacks on the booming Middle East business hub.
More than 100,000 Britons live in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), mostly in Dubai. In addition, at least one million British tourists visit the area annually.
Specialist intelligence is believed to have forced the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to upgrade the threat of an attack to "high" in the previously peaceful state.
The UAE had up to now been perceived as being largely immune to terrorist activity and experts last night said that its security was unlikely to be able to withstand attempts to breach it.
Although the FCO – which has upped the warning level from "general" for the whole of the UAE – has refused to release any details of the threat, sources said it was very likely to originate from al-Qaeda.
Travel advice posted by the Foreign Office on its website states: "There is a high threat of terrorism. We believe terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks in the UAE. 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."
Britons living in the Emirates were advised to "maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places" but the FCO has not advised Britons not to travel out.
Stuart Crawford, an Edinburgh-based defence analyst, said: "Terrorism is now global so whilst traditionally places like Dubai and Scotland were perhaps deemed to be safe, nowhere is safe now.
"The United Arab Emirates are also in an area of the world where those who would carry out such attacks for ideological reasons don't have to travel too far.
"There is a huge overseas presence there – it's associated with wealth and capitalism and the West and I think it can offer numerous targets."
No other western embassies in the UAE have heightened their warnings – which Mr Crawford said suggested there was specific intelligence of a threat to Britons.
A senior Arab analyst in the Gulf said the FCO advice could have serious ramifications for investment confidence and employment in the region.
UK nationals represent the biggest western community in the UAE and Scots make up a large proportion of them.