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UK: London 2012 Olympics pose greatest terror risk

Published:Tuesday | March 23, 2010 | 12:00 AM


An attack on London during the 2012 Olympics poses a major security threat to Britain, the government said yesterday in its latest assessment of risks from terrorism.

"The government is working on the assumption that the greatest threat to the Games is international terrorism and that the threat in 2012 will be high," Britain's Home Office said in its annual report on counterterrorism strategy.

Officials fear terrorists could attempt raids similar to those in Mumbai, India, in 2008, arriving on small high-speed boats and using gangs of gunmen to attack targets in central London.

Security centre

Britain announced yesterday the opening of a dedicated maritime security centre - focused in part on piracy in eastern Africa, but also aimed at bolstering the country's defences against an attack from the water ahead of 2012. Security officials have expressed worries that an attack against London could be launched from the River Thames.

"Things like the attack on Mumbai and the forthcoming Olympics in 2012 made us realise we needed to look at the maritime domain more closely," Britain's terrorism minister, Alan West, said.

In a written statement to lawmakers, Home Secretary Alan Johnson said al-Qaida's core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan had been stymied over the last 12 months by military action in southern Afghanistan and strikes against key individuals.

Leaders killed

Since January 2008, seven senior al-Qaida leaders have been killed, he said.

But Johnson warned that groups in Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Algeria are increasingly capable of mounting attacks overseas. He cited as proof the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airliner at it approached Detroit.

"An increase in the capability of some al-Qaida affiliates and associated groups, highlighted by the attempted Detroit airline attack, demonstrates the evolving and diffuse threat we continue to face," Johnson said.