January 27, 2006

No credible threats seen ahead of Turin Games: US

By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is no credible information
about terrorist threats to the upcoming Winter Olympics in
Italy, in contrast to security concerns that dogged the 2004
Athens Games, a U.S. counterterrorism official said on Friday.

The Olympics start in two weeks in an area of northern
Italy sprawling from the city of Turin to the French border.

"At this point there isn't specific, credible information
pointing to terror threats to the Olympics," the U.S.
counterterrorism official told Reuters. "That said, U.S.
officials throughout the government are for obvious reasons
paying a lot of attention to this issue."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
of the information's sensitivity, said the current situation
stood in stark contrast to the Athens Summer Olympics, for
which intelligence agencies had picked up ominous "chatter"
about possible terrorist attacks.

Security officials in Italy said on Friday the country was
prepared for any kind of terrorist attack linked to the Winter
Olympics and was ready to reintroduce border controls if
necessary ahead of the Games, which run from February 10-26.

Italy, an ally of the United States in the Iraq war, has
repeatedly been mentioned as a potential target for a militant
Islamist attack.

The Italian secret service warned this week that there was
a high risk of attack within the next two to three months, from
the start of the Olympics to Italy's general election in April,
even if there was no specific threat related to the Games.

The National Counterterrorism Center, the United States'
clearinghouse for intelligence on terrorism, has set up a
center at its headquarters outside Washington to monitor, track
and follow up on any terrorist threats during the Olympics,
center spokesman Mark Mansfield said.

Olympics organizers have so far spent some $110.6 million
on safety for the event, including the cost of 9,000 additional
police and security staff, such as firefighters trained to deal
with a biological, chemical or nuclear attack.

The final bill is expected to be considerably higher. At
the last Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, the United
States spent $310 million.

Greece spent a record $1.2 billion to protect the 2004
Athens Olympics, the first Summer Games since the September 11
attacks in the United States.