Beijing prepares for any terrorist threats to Olympics

BEIJING — Health officials said Wednesday that they were prepared for an array of nightmare terrorist attacks on the Beijing Summer Olympic Games, ranging from anthrax and black plague to radiological "dirty bombs."

"We have already made full preparations," Jin Dapeng, the head of medical security for the Olympic Games, said at a news briefing.

Jin said medical teams were undergoing training on how to deal with radiation and biological attack, and that squads could test for 10 biological toxins quickly should an attack be suspected.

Authorities have given no indication that extremist groups intend to target the Summer Games in Beijing, where security will be tight, but experts say that the Olympics always draw a lot of spectators and are an attractive target for global terrorists.

Some 500,000 foreigners are expected to visit Beijing for the event.

Security officials already are implementing a number of precautions around the capital, including removing doors from stalls at 200 public toilets near venues for the games.

By the end of June, security agents will have put metal detectors at all subway stations and will randomly frisk some riders, sweep handheld detectors over others and deploy dog patrols along platforms. Subway passengers won't be able to carry liquids past checkpoints. Some 1.5 million people ride the subway every day.

One of Beijing's five subway lines suspended operations twice during Wednesday evening rush hour, once for half an hour, and some passengers feared that a terrorist attack was the cause. But the state news agency, Xinhua, quoted officials as saying that "signal failure" was the reason.

Tens of thousands of surveillance cameras dot the city, and some 94,000 police officers will be deployed to ensure safety during the games Aug. 8-24.

Jin said that 156 first aid stations would be scattered around the capital of 16 million people, with 24 hospitals designated to deal with any Olympics-related health emergency.

He declined to say whether authorities had gathered any evidence identifying possible plots during the games, indicating instead that Beijing would try to smash any plot.

"Prevention is the most important thing," Jin said. "We've got all the pre-plans in place. These plans involve all kinds of agencies and departments in addition to the Health Department."

Earlier this month, the security chief for the games, Tian Yixiang, was quoted in state news media as saying that the greatest threat to the games comes from Muslim radicals under the banner of the outlawed East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Tibetan separatists and the banned Falun Gong religious sect.

He said any of the three groups "may try to disrupt and sabotage the smooth holding of the Olympic Games by various means or even by some extreme means of violence."

Dissidents say that China is playing up the terrorist threat to justify a crackdown on restive groups such as Tibetans in the southwest and Muslim Uighurs in the far west, although Interpol and the Bush administration have said that the games are a potential target for attack.

Last week, the U.N. nuclear agency, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, said its experts had provided Chinese authorities with simulated exercises to detect radiological attacks, and that small radiation detectors would be installed at various Olympic venues.

While terrorists have never used a "dirty bomb" before, in which a conventional explosive is used to spread radioactive material around an urban area, security experts fear that they may try to one day. Such an attack could have a huge psychological impact and serious economic consequences, due to radiation hazards in contaminated areas.