Bits and Pieces

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Al Qaeda Planned World Cup Attack

TOKYO (Reuters) - A senior member of Al Qaeda has told U.S. authorities that the group drew up a plan to launch attacks in Japan during the 2002 World Cup, Japanese media say.

The reports came at a time of growing concern in Japan about possible attacks on its soil linked to its decision to dispatch non-combat troops on a reconstruction mission for Iraq.

Such concerns were fanned by reported threats late last year by al Qaeda to "strike at the heart of Tokyo" if Japan sent troops to Iraq.

The United States has informed Japan of this information, which U.S. authorities are thought to have gained from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Sankei Shimbun daily said, quoting a government source.

Read the full story here.

I was in Melbourne during the 2002 World Cup, and basically spent a month sitting in a sports bar in Chinatown with a bowl of peanuts and a Carlton Cold in front of me (OK, with a short break to visit Ramsey Street, home of Neighbours). It struck me as odd that nobody was raising the issue of terrorist threats at the tournament. After all, this was less than a year after September 11th, and it's not like nobody has ever set off a bomb at a sporting event.

What made me worry more was the fact that Japan and South Korea are so damned crowded. There must have been about, I don't know, 2 million Korean guys packed in the bar every day. Just imagine how many are packed in Seoul and Tokyo. Add to this the tens of thousands of travelling supporters from across the world; the inevitable civil disturbances tying up the emergency services; the difficulty of tracking the movements of possible terrorists in the crowds, and the impossibility of searching every ticketholder at every game. They could have picked a day and killed thousands.

Did we get off lightly, or did we know that they didn't have the capability?
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