Interpol chief warns of Olympic terror threat

28-Apr-2008 Intellasia | 25/Apr/2008 AFP | 5:01 AM Print This Post

Interpol warned on Friday that China must be prepared for a possible Al-Qaeda attack on the Beijing Olympics, as well as potentially violent disruption from pro-Tibet protestors.


“We must be prepared for the possibility that Al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group will attempt to launch a deadly terrorist attack at these Olympics,” Interpol chief Ronald Noble told an international conference on security for the Games in Beijing, according to a copy of his speech.

“The threat is compounded by the very nature of the 2008 Summer Olympics,” the head of the international police organisation, based in the French city of Lyon, told the gathering.

“China will open its doors to hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors and journalists and an audience of billions watching on television. This could provide easy cover for terrorists and ensure any attack during the Olympics would have an immediate global impact.”

“There is no doubt that the biggest threat facing the Beijing Olympics is terrorism,” China’s minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu said, according to a translation of his speech at the conference.

“I hope that all parties will adopt practical and effective measures, strengthen border controls…to jointly prevent and suppress international terrorist activities targeting the Beijing Olympic Games,” he said.

Noble told delegates the security “situation has clearly changed” since September 2007, when Interpol reported it had no specific information from its 186 member countries on direct terrorist threats to the Beijing Olympics.

He cited a string of Chinese reports of failed plots to disrupt the Games which the authorities claimed were linked to separatist groups.

Chinese police announced this month they had cracked two terrorist gangs, including one planning to kidnap Olympic athletes, journalists and tourists, in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, which has a strong Muslim population of ethnic Uighurs.

In January, China announced the dismantling of an Islamist terror cell in Xinjiang, and also claimed to have foiled an attempt by a Uighur woman to blow up a Chinese airliner on March 7.

Rights groups and exiled Uighurs regularly accuse Beijing of inflating a terror threat in Xinjiang to tighten its control over the restive and oil-rich region, and one exiled leader has accused China of fabricating plots.

The Interpol chief also pointed to the arrest in Indonesia in December of several suspected Al-Qaeda members believed to have been plotting an attack during the Games, and who were reportedly in possession of a map of Beijing and data on various sports venues.

Noble also said the wave of protests over China’s crackdown in Tibet during the global Olympic torch relay had “introduced significant additional complications to the normal security considerations” for the Games.

“In light of recent events, all countries whose athletes will participate and whose citizens will attend the Beijing Olympics must be prepared for the possibility that the groups and individuals responsible for the violence during the global torch relay could carry out their protests at the actual Games.”

He said that Interpol had been working with Beijing to assess the threat of a terrorist attack at the Games, with an Interpol team to travel to China ahead of the Games to train Chinese officers in crisis operations.

The Interpol chief said his organisation was working with China to help it detect lost and stolen travel documents at Beijing airport and other major border entry points.

“This is absolutely crucial if we want to prevent terrorists or dangerous criminals from entering China,” he said.

 


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