Australia must heed threats on sportspersons in India: Terrorism expert

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Sydney, Feb.18 (ANI): A leading Australian terrorism expert has warned his government to take the reported threat by al-Qaeda's 313 Brigade against Australian and international sportsmen visiting India for the hockey world cup, the third edition of the Indian Premier League and the Commonwealth Games to be held in October this year, very seriously.

Professor Clive Williams, of the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at Macquarie University, New South Wales, said the threat should be seen as a deliberate ploy to destabilise India, and warned that if its warning was not heeded, action could follow soon.

The Australian and New Zealand hockey teams have temporarily halted plans to fly to India in the wake of the threat. Australia's hockey players are expected to head to India on Sunday after the government said its travel warning is not being upgraded.

The tournament is due to start on February 28.

"They obviously hope this will have an effect and that they don't have to do anything, but if these sporting events go ahead, they will be under pressure to do something, and you have got to assume they have the capability," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Williams, as saying.

"The concern has to be probably more with hockey and the Indian Premier League . . . by targeting the earlier events, they would be sending a message and hoping there is a flow-on effect and the Commonwealth Games would not proceed. I would have reservations going to those two events," he added.

India has reportedly pledged 1000 military force personnel and 200 armed commandos for the hockey tournament, bringing it into line with the level of security to be used for the Commonwealth Games.

Hockey Australia chief executive Mark Anderson said their security plans had taken into account that as the first of the three major events targeted by 313 Brigade, they were most vulnerable.

"The reality of our timing, that was always a risk, and that is not information we haven't considered. We're fully aware of that position. The Hockey World Cup has now been elevated to Commonwealth Games standard of security as a result of that," Anderson said.

The IPL is to be held between March 13 and April 25, and the Commonwealth Games from October 3 to 14.

India's Home Secretary, G. K. Pillai, said adequate security arrangements had been made for sporting events in Delhi.

"We are in close touch with the managements of the participating teams," he said.

Indian Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, said yesterday that terrorists would not be allowed to dictate terms in India, and insisted that the series of major international sporting events to be held there soon would all be secure.

IPL chairman Lalit Modi reportedly said there was a "Plan B" but did not elaborate on whether that meant the tournament could be moved - as it was last year to South Africa. (ANI)

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