- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

SYDNEY, Australia New fears of terrorism swept parts of Asia yesterday as security guards were posted at Sydney's Opera House and Australia and Canada shut down their embassies in Manila, citing specific threats of attacks by Islamic extremists, perhaps within days.
Both governments strongly warned their citizens to stay away from the Philippines, long wracked by violence by militant groups linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
In Manila, police closed streets, set up barricades and circled the Australian Embassy.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Canberra had received a "very specific" intelligence report Wednesday night that warned of a potential Islamic militant attack.
"It is not only location-specific, targeting the Australian Embassy itself, but also it's time-specific in the sense that we are talking over the next few days," Mr. Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
He said threats also were made against targets linked to other nations, which he declined to identify.
The minister said 24-hour security by private guards were put in place to protect some national landmarks. They included Sydney's Opera House and Harbor Bridge, Australia's two top tourist attractions, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, one of its largest stadiums.
He described the move as a precaution and not related to a specific threat.
Canada closed its embassy in Manila "for an indefinite period of time," said a tape played on the embassy telephone.
"We have recently received specific and credible information of a threat to the Canadian Embassy in Manila, and we're advising Canadians not to travel to the Philippines until further notice," said Canadian foreign affairs spokeswomen Marie-Christine Lilkoff.
Both Canada and Australia have supported Washington's war on terror.
Australia has been on a heightened state of alert since Oct. 12 when bombs shook the Indonesian resort island of Bali, killing about 190 people, half of them Australian tourists.
The carnage shocked the nation that thought its relative geographic isolation and tolerant multicultural way of life were guarantees against international terrorism.
Since the Bali blasts, the Australian government has told its citizens not to travel to many parts of neighboring Southeast Asia.
Earlier this month, an audiotape, purportedly by bin Laden, singled out Australia and several other U.S. allies for more attacks. It claimed the Bali bombings were conducted as payback for Australia's deployment of elite troops who helped U.S. forces hunt for al Qaeda and bin Laden.
Last week, the Australian government said it had received a threat that Australia could be targeted by terrorists "in the next couple of months."
The U.S. Embassy in Manila was closed yesterday for Thanksgiving, but officials planned to open as usual today, spokeswoman Karen Kelley said.
Several terrorist groups, some with suspected links to al Qaeda, operate in the Philippines. They include Jemaah Islamiah, which is blamed for the Bali attacks.


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