|France's terror alert level is at Reinforced Red, the second-highest level below Scarlette Red [GALLO/GETTY]
Saudi intelligence services have warned of an al-Qaeda plot to target Europe, and France in particular, a French minister has said.
"Several days ago the Saudi services alerted their European counterparts that there was a terrorist threat on the continent, notably in France, coming from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)," Brice Hortefeux, the French interior minister, told RTL Radio in an interview on Sunday.
AQAP was formed in January 2009 after the merger of groups in Saudi Arabia and Yemen
The message indicated that al-Qaeda's offshoot in Yemen was active or about to become active in Europe.
"This is not about overestimating the threat or underestimating it," he said. "I am indicating, based on all these elements, that the threat is real."
The new warning comes at a time of heightened security in Europe.
France's threat level is at Reinforced Red, the second-highest level below Scarlette Red.
The interior minister said at least two attacks were foiled in France in the past year, and 61 people are currently jailed for suspected involvement in "terrorism".
France has not suffered a major attack since the 1995 bombing campaign on Paris public transport which killed eight people.
The Saudi warning follows several over the past few weeks, including one from Interpol and one of a possible attack by a female suicide bomber.
Western intelligence agencies have also warned of a commando-style attack, similar to the 2008 Mumbai bombings.
Earlier this month, France urged its citizens travelling to Britain to be "extremely vigilant" amid raised fears of a attack.
The US government has warned its citizens in an official travel advisory to be vigilant travelling in Europe, amid fears of an al-Qaeda attack. Sweden and Japan also warned their citizens.
On Friday, Australia raised its travel warning level for Yemen to the highest level, advising citizens not to travel there "because of the very high threat of terrorist attack and volatile security situation."
AQAP, since its inception in January 2009, has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Saudi Arabian, Korean, Yemeni and US targets.
Yemeni security forces have been battling members of AQAP for more than a year.