ATHENS Ñ Greece has determined that its national security interests
are being threatened by Al Qaida-aligned Arab agents in Bosnia.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Costas Simitis has convened to discuss
what officials termed the threat from an estimated 2,000 Bosnian Arabs to
the Olympic Games in August 2004. Officials said Western intelligence
agencies have assessed that some of those Arab nationals could be training
to carry out attacks on Israeli, U.S. or other targets during the Olympics
Officials said the threat of an Al Qaida-related attack will be one of
the scenarios in a series of exercises scheduled to take place in February
and March 2004. They said the United States has been pressing to revise
security arrangements agreed upon a year ago.
[Last week, Greek prosecutors recommended life sentences for six
November 17 insurgents convicted of killing Greek and Western diplomats and
defense officials, Middle East Newsline reported. Sentencing of 15 November 17 insurgents by the
three-judge panel is set for Wednesday.]
"Greece, as well as every other country, has the fundamental obligation
to safeguard its internal and external security," Greek Culture Minister
Evangelos Venizelos said. "And it is evident that military planning for the
country's security takes into consideration the simple fact that the country
is a member-state of NATO and, consequently, our military planning takes
NATO planning into consideration."
A Greek government report distributed to the Cabinet asserted that Al
Qaida has direct and indirect links with the Bosnian Arabs. Many of them
were trained in Afghanistan and fought Serb forces during the Yugoslav civil
war in the mid-1990s and later settled in Bosnia.
The report said the Bosnian Arabs have established a route for the
smuggling of insurgents and explosives that begins in Bosnia, moves through
the Balkans, Albania, Romania and to Greece. The Arabs were said to have
engaged in drug and weapons smuggling as well as the harboring of Al Qaida
and related insurgents who have escaped from the Middle East and South Asia.
Greek officials are concerned that the Al Qaida suicide bombings in
Istanbul in November could be a prelude to insurgency attacks in Athens
during the Olympic Games. But they denied any link between the Istanbul
attacks and the capture of a shipload full of explosives off the coast of
Greece last summer.
Security at the Olympic Games has been directed by a seven-member
international coordinating panel comprised of Australia, Britain, France,
Germany, Israel, Russia and the United States. Greece plans to deploy 10,000
military and security forces around the Olympic Village and Athens during
"We would like greater response to exist, greater speed and better
cooperation inside the joint venture," Venizelos said.