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WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States, which suffered a massive terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, would make a tougher target now than Europe due to strict security measures and a better-integrated Muslim community, experts said.
"Certainly, Europe has been a priority target for Al-Qaeda for some time, since (Osama) bin Laden himself announced that Europe was being given a grace period and then it will become a target," he said.
He attributed the fact that the United States has not been attacked since 2001, while Europe has been attacked twice recently -- in Madrid and London -- to "very, very high" security awareness in the United States and said "it is a little more difficult for Al-Qaeda to do major operations here now."
Peter Singer, a security expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, said that security in Europe is just not at the same level as it is in the United States. "The security restrictions are tougher here," he said, but he noted: "I still think there are a lot of gaps here."
"The reality is, terrorists tend to strike where they think the target is softer, where they think that the psychological impact will be greater, where they have established cells and that eases their access to the soft target," said David Rothkopf, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Cannistraro also noted that after the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, Al-Qaeda probably preferred to ensure that any subsequent attacks on the United States are on a grand scale.
"Al-Qaeda set a standard of mass casualties with the 9/11 events, and it probably would not want to do a one-off small operation, because then it would be looked at as a sign of weakness," he said.