Tags: terror | cell | olympics

China Cracks Terror Cell Planning Olympics Attack

Thursday, 24 Jul 2008 10:47 AM

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SHANGHAI — Police in Shanghai have cracked a terrorist cell planning to attack an Olympic football venue in the Chinese financial hub, state media reported Thursday.

The report came as China ramps up security ahead of the Summer Games, set to begin on August 8 in the capital Beijing and several other cities including Shanghai, amid what it described as an unprecedented terror threat.

"We have obtained information that international terrorist organisations would likely launch an attack against an Olympic venue in the city during the Games," Xinhua news agency quoted the head of Shanghai's Olympic security office, Cheng Jiulong, as saying.

"We have staged raids and cracked a group of terrorists," he said.

Police officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Xinhua report did not specify when the operation had taken place, or how many suspects had been detained.

Cheng said the Olympic football venue in Shanghai, as well as players' housing, were now "at a safe level," adding: "But the threat of terror attack still exists."

Chinese authorities have warned of an unprecedented threat to the Olympics, particularly from its restive Muslim Xinjiang region in the northwest, and have said the security of athletes and tourists is their top priority.

Critics, however, say that China's communist rulers are exaggerating the security threat to clamp down on any form of protest during the Olympics.

Shanghai is set to host 12 Olympic football matches during next month's Summer Games. The venue has been closed since Sunday, with police conducting around-the-clock patrols, Xinhua said.

Police had been placed on a "crisis" footing as part of efforts to ensure public safety in the city, the report said.

Random identity checks would be conducted near Shanghai Stadium and in other well-travelled parts of the city in the lead-up to the Games, Xinhua quoted Cheng as saying.

He said security personnel should "spare no effort to maintain law and order in the city," the report said.

An official with the Shanghai public security bureau, Hu Shunkang, said surveillance cameras had been installed on 1,500 public buses that regularly pass by the stadium, according to Xinhua.

Extra security checkpoints have been set up at underground rail stations.

Shanghai also has moved to stop foreign business people from visiting the city during the Olympics, according to a government notice, saying authorities would not issue invitation letters to support visa applications until after the Games.

Earlier this month, state media said police had arrested 82 suspected terrorists in Xinjiang this year who had been involved in plotting attacks on the Olympics.

Remote Xinjiang borders Central Asia and is home to more than eight million Turkic-speaking Uighurs who have long complained about repression under six decades of Chinese control.

Authorities are also concerned about the threat posed by pro-independence activists in Buddhist Tibet following China's harsh crackdown on unrest that erupted there in March, which sparked widespread international condemnation.

— AFP

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