Turkey Bombings Heighten Security Concern for Olympics

ATHENS, Greece (AP) *nbsp;- The terrorist bombings that have killed dozens in neighboring Turkey over the last week have also shaken Olympic security planning and may force Greeek authorities to rethink the threat level to the games from al-Qaida and its allies.
Government officials and security experts said the attacks*#8211;the first on their scale to take place in Europe*#8211;have raised new questions about how to safeguard the Aug. 13-29 Olympics and elevated worries about the overall stability of the region.
Greeks felt particularly unsettled by the Istanbul blasts, jointly claimed by al-Qaida and the militant Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front, or IBDA-C.

Many Greeks believed their country had some buffer from al-Qaida attacks because Greece*#8212;like Turkey*#8212;strongly opposed the war in Iraq. The IBDA-C, meanwhile, is linked to a 1997 bomb attack that injured a Greek Orthodox priest at the Ecumenical Patriarchate Cathedral in Istanbul.
*#8220;We are on alert, particularly after the attacks in Istanbul,*#8221; government spokesman Christos Protopapas said.
Olympic security planners would not divulge their precise reaction to the Turkish attacks. But Col. Lefteris Ikonomou, spokesman for the Greek police, told The Associated Press that *#8220;every terrorist attack, wherever it happens, contains an element of worry and is taken into account.*#8221;
In a move that could foreshadow a higher security level during the Olympics, Greek authorities immediately stepped up protection around British and U.S. embassies and companies following Thursdays attacks. Trucks, packed with explosives, blasted the London-based HSBC bank and British consulate in Istanbul. The victims included the British consul general.
Greece also plans to ask NATO for three AWACS radar planes to guard against attacks from the air, according to defense sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Ikonomou said the Olympic *#8220;plan has been has been adjusted for asymmetric threats*#8221;*#8211;a reference to suicide bombings and other potential terrorist strikes.
*#8220;The bell is tolling for everyone and complacency is not permitted,*#8221; he said.
Officials said the attacks in Turkey *#8211;a Muslim but secular state with a porous land and sea border with Greece*#8211;could also point toward a less stable region. This could force enhancements on what already has become the most expensive security operation in Olympic history.
*#8220;International terrorism concerns all countries and creates a problem of instability in our wider region,*#8221; foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said. *#8220;Efforts must be made from all sides to bolster cooperation to fight (terrorism).*#8221;
Greece has been pushed into deep debt by the Olympics, including a record US$755 for Olympic security. It is also working with a seven-nation security advisory group, that includes the United States, Britain and Israel.
*#8220;The Turkey attacks should definitely make the Olympic security planners jittery and force a long, hard look at the plans,*#8221; said Walter Purdy, director of the Terrorism Research Center in Burke, Virginia, and a top security planner for the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.
The head of the Athens Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, said recently that she didnt want the games to *#8220;look like a military zone.*#8221;
But Purdy said that unless the Greeks adopt the most stringent security, including intense scrutiny of all airport arrivals, the *#8220;Olympics will be vulnerable as hell.*#8221;
According to experts, enhanced security plans for Athens now include: X-ray machines capable of scanning entire trucks and cars to prevent bombings, seeking a list of supplies around the world to deal with biological or chemical attacks, and increased surveillance of Greeces enormous immigrant population.
A special 200-member military unit to deal with biological, chemical and nuclear threats will also be formed.
*#8220;Our general position is to have a full inventory of all the means available from all countries to face any eventuality because terrorism is unpredictable,*#8221; Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said after meeting with his European Union counterparts in Brussels.
Concerns over Olympic security, however, were high even before the Istanbul bombings.
FBI Director Robert Mueller visited Athens on Nov. 6-7 to apply personal pressure. The FBI and other U.S. agencies reportedly see gaps against potential threats including: car bombings at major hotels, Sept. 11-type attacks with airplanes, snipers in the hills surrounding Athens and chemical or biological attacks.
Another top concern are the illegal immigrant networks used to smuggle thousands of people into Greece through its northern borders and from Turkey.
More than 1 million legal and illegal immigrants have settled in Greece over the past decade. Security sources said fears that some could form *#8220;sleeper cells*#8221; have led to increased surveillance of some immigrant groups.
Greek newspapers carried banner headlines Friday about the attacks and the threat they represent to the Olympics.
*#8220;Al-Qaida claimed responsibility. They have again knocked on our door,*#8221; the Athens daily Ta Nea said, and wrote in its main editorial that a *#8220;detailed plan of security measures is demanded*#8221; for the Olympics. The English-language Athens News headlined *#8220;Istanbul blasts are a warning to Athens*#8221; and said Olympic security had acquired *#8220;renewed importance and urgency.*#8221;
*#8220;The sense of security has been shattered,*#8221; said Maria Bossi, one of Greeces leading terrorism experts.
Bossi said that both suicide bombers in the Nov. 15 synagogue attacks turned out to be Turkish, which indicated that the threat from *#8220;networking*#8221; terrorism from al-Qaida and groups working together was growing.
*#8220;This is what networking is all about. It can come from anyone, anytime,*#8221; she said.