(reuters) - The head of Interpol said Friday that there was a "real possibility" that the Beijing Olympics would be targeted by terrorists or that anti-China groups could attack athletes.
China has come down hard on anyone they fear could upset the Games, from people protesting against the demolition of their houses for venues to the country's ethnic minorities.
"An attempted act of terrorism is a real possibility and a real concern that all Olympic host countries have shared in recent years," Ronald Noble, the Interpol secretary general, said at the opening of the International Conference on Security Cooperation in Beijing. "Recent Tibet-related protests have introduced significant additional complications to the normal security considerations for a major international event like these Olympics." The international leg of the Olympic torch relay has been dogged by pro-Tibet and anti-China protests, after unrest in Tibet last month.
"In light of recent events, all countries whose athletes will participate and whose citizens will attend the Beijing Olympics must be prepared for the possibility that the groups and individuals responsible for the violence during the global torch relay could carry out their protests at the actual Games," Nobel said.
"These activities could range from disruptive behavior, like blocking major transportation routes or infrastructure or interfering with competitions, to more violent acts like assaulting Olympic officials or athletes or destroying property.
"Worse yet, we must be prepared for the possibility that Al Qaeda or some other terrorist group will attempt to launch a deadly terrorist attack at these Olympics."
China has accused Uighur militants in the far western, Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang of plotting attacks - with Al Qaeda's support - to help achieve their goal of establishing an independent country called East Turkistan.
Earlier this month, the Chinese authorities said they had detained 45 East Turkistan "terrorist" suspects and foiled plots to carry out suicide bomb attacks and kidnap athletes at the Games. China has also accused Uighur separatists of trying to bring down a civilian airliner.
"The threat is compounded by the very nature of the 2008 Summer Olympics. China will open its doors to hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors and journalists and an audience of billions watching on television." Noble said.
An Interpol support team will arrive in Beijing before the Games to train Chinese officers in crisis management and major event operations, he added.