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Sydney was under al-Qaida threat

Canberra: The al-Qaida network was seen as the major security threat to the Sydney Olympic Games after authorities found evidence of its involvement in a terror training camp near the Australian capital, the event’s intelligence chief Neil Fergus said Friday.

Fergus said his Olympic intelligence centre had suspected that a Bushland camp found in 2000 near the small rural town of Braidwood 80 kilometres east of Canberra, had been set up by a group affiliated to al-Qaida.

Now head of a private security firm, Fergus said his Olympic agency had worked closely with government agencies including the main domestic spy bureau, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), to protect the Sydney games, which passed off without incident.

“A great deal of analysis was done not only by the Olympic intelligence centre, it was also receiving feeds from ASIO and other agencies that al-Qaida and its surrogate groups was the greatest concern for the Olympics security operation,” Fergus added.

He informed that he had gone public with his comments to confirm a statement by Prime Minister John Howard to the Parliament Thursday that new information from intelligence agencies showed al-Qaida operatives were scouting targets in Australia in 2000 or 2001.

Fergus said media reports at the time had described the camp near Canberra — which lies 280 kilometers southwest of Sydney — as belonging to an Islamic youth movement, adding that he could not provide more information because of security restrictions. (AP)

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