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China Unleashes Olympic Anti-Terrorism Commando Unit

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BEIJING - China had mobilized a 100,000-strong anti-terrorism force to guard against threats to the Beijing Olympics, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

Police commandos, specialist units and regular army troops made up the force, which was activated following a series of drills earlier this month, Xinhua said.

It also included the paramilitary Snow Wolf Commando Unit that was tasked with handling terrorist alerts and public unrest during or around the Aug. 8-24 Games, Xinhua said.

"Experiences of past games show that terrorist attacks may occur before the games, so our anti-terrorist forces have been in action ahead of the opening ceremony," the report quoted Liu Shaowu, security director for the Beijing organizing committee, as saying.

Liu said his department had prepared more than 500 specific plans for security, transport, fire-fighting, and VIP protection.

China had previously enacted a raft of security restrictions and organized an additional 440,000 security guards and volunteers to ward off attacks. They included, Xinhua said, 70-year-old professor Li Gaoxiang, who it quoted as saying: "We will never allow the terrorists to attack the games. I will stop them once I have found any clue."

China's government said terrorism was the biggest threat to the games and claimed to have already foiled multiple plots by domestic separatists to sabotage the event. Authorities had provided scant evidence of the plots, but said suspects admitted to foreign links and anti-Olympics agendas.

Earlier this month, the government appointed a terrorism expert as vice public security minister ahead of the Olympic torch's procession through the restive areas of Tibet and Xinjiang.

China officials claim Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama is a separatist and had accused his supporters of orchestrating protests in Tibetan areas this year to sabotage the Olympics and also of preparing "suicide squads" to carry out attacks. Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited parts of western China had been closed to foreign tourists and journalists since the protests broke out in March.

Authorities said they foiled plots by separatists in Xinjiang -- a region of northwest China that borders Tibet and includes much of China's Muslim population -- targeting the games, including alleged attempts to crash an airliner and kidnap athletes and journalists.


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