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June 17, 2000
Sydney officials say no specific threat made to Olympic safety

 CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Sydney Olympic officials are playing down television reports from the U.S. that Islamic terrorists are planning to target the Sydney Games in September.

 Following reports that supporters of Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden have been on reconnaissance in Sydney, Australian security officials were warned the Sydney Olympic Games were a top target of bin Laden.

 A CBS News report in New York said U.S. federal law enforcement authorities were worried that bin Laden, working from a base in Afghanistan, has built a network of loyal extremists throughout the Pacific.

 American authorities are said to have issued the alert to Australia after receiving new information about the activities of bin Laden.

 The CBS report said Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louie Freeh is so concerned about threats to American interests at the games that he recently dispatched a top assistant to Sydney, and he came back warning that bin Laden supporters had targeted Sydney.

 Twelve FBI agents already had been sent to Sydney, and more would follow, according to the CBS News report.

 A former FBI agent, Joe Conley, said Saturday he was concerned that bin Laden would target American athletes at the Sydney Games.

 "Any threat that has been attributed to Osama bin Laden has to be taken seriously -- he's one of the most capable of all the individuals operating in the terrorist field today," Conley told Australia's Sky News television.

 "He has clearly indicated that wants to target U.S. citizens and U.S. interests anywhere in the world, and of course an Olympic venue is an area which would gain him a tremendous amount of publicity for what he is doing."

 Prue Goward, the Commonwealth spokeswoman for the Sydney Olympics, said Australia was working closely with other law enforcement agencies from around the world.

 "Obviously, intelligence is an ongoing responsibility of the Australian government with respect to the Games, but I can say that we have not identified any specific threat to the Sydney Games," Goward said.

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