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Insured property losses from Paris attacks likely to be low

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Insured property losses from the series of terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday are not expected to be large, but the events highlight the ever-present threat of terrorist activity on European soil, sources say.

London market terrorism underwriter sources said property losses stemming from the series of explosions and shootings that left 132 people dead across the French capital likely would not be significant and would be covered by the state-backed pool, Paris-based Gestion de l'Assurance et de la Réassurance des Risques Attentats et Actes de Terrorisme, or GAREAT.

Islamic State terrorist have claimed responsibility for the attacks, which took place at a concert venue, outside a soccer stadium and in bars and restaurants throughout the city.

There likely will be some contingency claims for canceled events, and some business interruption and personal accident claims, but the size of these is not yet known, London market sources said.

While they caused tragic loss of life, the attacks Friday did not cause widespread insured property damage, said Richard Halstead, London-based terrorism deputy line underwriter for Hiscox Ltd., which does not have exposure to any terrorism losses from the events in Paris.

But they underline the increased understanding that no country can be said to be completely safe from terrorism threats, he said.

“The events in Paris have once again brought terrorism to the West's front door, and this time to the heart of democracy and the birthplace of 'liberty, fraternity, equality,' ” said Andrew van den Born, executive director in the political and trade credit risk practice at Willis Group Holdings P.L.C. in London.

“Terrorism and the continued threat posed by IS can no longer be regarded as simply a Middle East problem, but without question the No. 1 threat to global security,” he said.

Further European attacks are inevitable, said Tim Holt, head of intelligence for Alert:24 at Special Contingency Risks Ltd., part of Willis.

“Whether or not these involve more coordination and destruction through the use of rocket launchers, small arms or explosives depends on the quality of monitoring and intelligence that can be shared in regards to communications and the movement of weapons and suspects,” he said.

“IS now has a wide arsenal ranging from the knife to small arms, explosives, media operations and cyber attack, which can be deployed on land or in the air,” he said.

In a statement, London-based Pool Reinsurance Co. Ltd., the U.K. government-backed terrorism pool, said it had written to GAREAT to express sympathy and offer support.

“Two weeks ago, terrorism reinsurance pools from around the world met in London to discuss ways of collaborating and learning from each other's experiences. None of us would have expected to have been faced with such terrible events so soon afterwards,” it said.

“We will continue our efforts to encourage resilience at crowded places” in the United Kingdom by encouraging underwriters to apply discounted terrorism insurance rates for buyers that comply with a Home Office protective security improvement program, Pool Re said.