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Olympics: China deploys missiles to guard Games

A Chinese soldier stands guards in front of surface-to-air missile launchers at a military administrative area near the Olympic Green on June 25, 2008. China has strengthened security for the Olympics by deploying surface-to-air missile launchers close to the Olympic venues. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 25, 2008
China has deployed surface-to-air missile batteries near its main Beijing Olympic venues as an apparent defence against airborne terror attacks on the Games.

An AFP reporter on Wednesday saw a pair of missile batteries in clear view under camouflage netting in a grassy area in northern Beijing about one kilometre (half a mile) south of the newly built National Stadium.

The stadium, known as the "Bird's Nest" for its design of interlacing steel beams, will play host to the opening and closing ceremonies and other major events during the August 8-24 Olympics.

China has embarked on a wide-ranging security crackdown ahead of the Games.

It has repeatedly warned that it faces the threat of terror attacks on the Olympics, particularly from "separatists" in its far-western Xinjiang region, which is predominantly Muslim.

Recent reports in state press said the missiles deployed were of the Red Flag 7 variety.

The grassy area, which was protected by a more than two-metre-high (six-foot) security fence, also featured a radar apparatus set-up.

The missile batteries were pointed north in the direction of the stadium.

In recent months China has announced it has broken up four separate "terrorist" cells from Xinjiang, two of which planned Olympic attacks.

It also has dramatically tightened airline security after saying that a hijack attempt by a Xinjiang "terrorist" had been foiled in March. It has provided no public evidence of the plots.

Critics have accused Beijing of exaggerating or fabricating the terror threat to provide an excuse to crack down on any dissent that could embarrass China during its time in the Olympic spotlight.

But the United States, Britain and Interpol have all issued travel warnings, saying the Games are a potential target for attack.

China has also tightened up requirements for the issuing of visas ahead of the Games.

US-made Patriot missiles were deployed for security reasons at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

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