25 Jul 2008

China says terrorist cell discovered

6:57 pm on 25 July 2008

Chinese authorities say police in Shanghai have broken up an international terrorist group that had planned to attack an Olympic football preliminary match in the city.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Cheng Jiulong, Shanghai Public Security Bureau deputy director and head of the Shanghai security office for the Olympics, as saying police had staged raids and cracked a group of terrorists.

However, Mr Cheng did not say when the terrorists were first discovered, how many suspects were detained or where they came from, Xinhua said.

The report comes after state media said earlier in the day that Chinese paramilitary police swore to prevent terrorist attacks or "political incidents" from disrupting the Beijing Olympics in a show of force at the Games' main stadium.

Chinese officials have said their main Games security worries focused on separatist militants seeking an independent Uighur homeland in the country's far west Xinjiang region and campaigners for an independent Tibet.

Human rights critics say China has grossly exaggerated the security threats from Uighurs and Tibetans to justify harsh control in those regions.

Shanghai police have been put on a "crisis" footing as part of a campaign to ensure public safety during Olympic football matches in the city next month, said Xinhua.

Shanghai will host 12 Olympic football matches during the Games and the stadium has been closed for security checks since 20 July, with armed police conducting round-the-clock patrols, said the news agency.

Iranian athletes banned

Seven athletes from Iraq have been banned from taking part at the Beijing Olympics.

The team was already the subject of an interim ban after the Iraqi government replaced the country's Olympic committee with its own appointees.

Under the International Olympic Committee charter, all committees must be free of political influence.

As a result the team of two rowers, two sprinters, one archer, a weightlifter and a judo competitor cannot attend.