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Protesters, terrorists potential Olympic threats, US warns

Local protesters are named alongside al-Qaeda as the biggest security threats to the 2010 Olympics in a U.S. government travel advisory.

“Domestic protest groups, supporting various political causes, may attempt to disrupt the Olympics through demonstration or other activities,” reads a fact sheet for Americans travelling to Vancouver’s Winter Games.

“While Canadian security services are highly skilled at protecting large events and controlling demonstrations, even peaceful events can turn violent, and Americans are therefore advised to avoid any areas of public protest.”

The advisory was prepared by the U.S. Department of State and likely posted sometime in the past six weeks, the Globe and Mail reported.

It warns Americans that groups such as al-Qaeda could strike at any time, though no specific 2010 threats have been identified.

“In the post-September 11th world, the threat from international terrorist groups at major public events is always a principal concern,” it reads.

With heightened security at venues, targets of attack could range anywhere from restaurants to churches, the document warns.

Some observers argue terrorists are unlikely to target the 2010 Games, when a major attack in any big city would attract world-wide media attention.

Last July, Olympic security boss Bud Mercer told Vancouver city council violent protests are possible.

“Locally, provincially, nationally and internationally,” Mercer said, “there are groups which are considering and planning to engage in criminal protesting during the 2010 Games.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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