The alarm has sounded in Europe for fear of a terrorist attack in the run-up to Christmas and New Year. The cathedrals of Cologne, Vienna and Madrid are considered the number one targets with police authorities taking emergency measures. Among other things, even the bags of believers entering the churches will be searched.

Security measures are draconian, focusing on crowded places or places of worship in the context of festivities.

German newspaper Bild reported that its security services Austriaher Germany and her Spain have information according to which, Islamist organization wants to commit many attacks in Europe, probably on New Year’s Eve and Christmas.

According to the same source, the targets may be temples in Cologne, Vienna and Madrid.

Three persons, about whom there are suspicions that they are connected to an Islamist networkwere arrested in Austria, the country’s authorities announced.

The Austrian interior ministry said the initial arrests, made on Saturday, were four. One of the arrested has been released, while the others remain in custody, pending the completion of additional investigations.

Citing “increased risk” police stepped up checks mainly around churches, other places of worship and Vienna’s Christmas markets. Its representative noted, however, that “there is no immediate threat of attack” in the Austrian capital.

For its part, German police carried out checks at its cathedral on Saturday Colognewith specially trained dogs, following information about a possible hit on New Year’s Eve.

“Although the information concerns New Year’s Eve, we will ensure the safety of visitors to the cathedral in the run-up to Christmas,” Cologne’s police chief said.

On Sunday, “all visitors will be screened before entering the place of worship” clarified the police, recommending the faithful to arrive early and not to bring bags with them.

In the east Francethe counter-terrorism agency proceeded to five arrests for planning a terrorist attack. The Minister of the Interior made a recommendation to the police authorities to monitor especially the demonstrations and buildings of a religious nature during the holidays.

Security measures are also increased in Italy, with the aim of preventing terrorist attacks, as defined by a special circular of the Ministry of the Interior of Rome, which was sent to the prefects of the country.

The relevant instructions concern the strengthening of safeguarding measures and activities to prevent any kind of attack –with helicopter flights over central points of Italian cities- given the developments in the Middle East. At the same time, it is considered possible that there will be new, spectacular mobilizations of environmental organizations.

Most efforts will be made on New Year’s Day and Eve, when the streets and squares of Italian cities are filled with locals and tourists, also due to the now traditional open-air concerts on December 31st. During the hours, “special controls” of the traffic, police and carabinieri are carried out from the northernmost region of the country, Ano Adige, to Sicily.