'Le Sheriff' predicts al-Qaeda attack in Asia

26th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Aug 26 (AFP) - Al-Qaeda is preparing an attack on a big financial centre in Asia, such as Tokyo, Singapore or Sydney, to undermine investor confidence in the region, France's top terrorist investigator says.

LONDON, Aug 26 (AFP) - Al-Qaeda is preparing an attack on a big financial centre in Asia, such as Tokyo, Singapore or Sydney, to undermine investor confidence in the region, France's top terrorist investigator says.

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper Friday, Jean-Louis Bruguière added that several Asian countries are less prepared than Britain or the United States for such an attack.

"We have elements of information that make us think that countries in this region, especially Japan, could have been targeted" by the al-Qaeda network, the investigating magistrate said.

"Any attack on a financial market like Japan would mechanically have an important economic impact on the confidence of investors. Other countries in this region, such as Singapore and Australia, are also potential targets," said Bruguière.

Despite the threat, Bruguière added: "We are somewhat neglecting the capacity or desire of the al-Qaeda organisation to destabilise [the region]."

Commenting on the warning, Japan said it already had tight security in place.

"It isn't clear how concrete this report is," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the spokesman for the Japanese government.

"The Japanese government has already been cooperating internationally" to prevent attacks, Hosoda told reporters. "We would like to do our best so that no such thing happens."

Al-Qaeda has repeatedly threatened Japan, a close US ally that stations 600 troops in Iraq and hosts the largest US military base in Asia.

Nicknamed 'Le Sheriff', Bruguière has been warning about the threat of Islamic terrorists since a string of bombings rocked Paris in the mid-1980s, the Financial Times recalled.

He has overseen the arrest of more than 500 terrorism suspects over the past 20 years, heading up a specialist team of judges who work alongside anti-terrorist police and intelligence agents.

He warned of the danger of terrorists hijacking aircraft well before the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, after foiling a 1994 attempt by Algerian radicals to crash an Air France jet into the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

He said there were signs that Britain would come under attack well before the July 7 attacks on three London subway trains and a double-decker bus that killed 56 people, including four apparent suicide bombers.

He recalled that the British consulate and HSBC bank in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul were bombed on the same day in November 2003 that US President George W. Bush was paying a state visit to London.

The July 7 attacks coincided with the first full day of the Group of Eight summit of leading industrialised nations in Gleneagles, Scotland, hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair and attended by Bush.

"The symbolism is a fundamental element that we neglect in the overall problem," Bruguière said, adding that for terrorists: "The issue is not just about the number of victims. It is also the value of the event in a media, political and geopolitical context."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, terrorism, al-Queda, Bruguière, Le Sheriff, Financial Times

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