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 » Special Report  | Timeline  |  Faces of September 11  |  Fighting Terror

New threats in Asia as 9/11 dawns

Security is tight in Pakistan, the scene of a number of terrorist attacks this year
Security is tight in Pakistan, the scene of a number of terrorist attacks this year  


(CNN) -- The United States has closed a string of embassies across Asia amid regional nervousness and "credible and specific" threats of terrorist attacks on the anniversary of September 11.

Embassies and consulates in Pakistan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia will be shut -- the latter two closed their doors on Tuesday until further notice due to terrorism fears.

And the Australian government warned late Tuesday that it had received an unconfirmed report of a possible terrorist threat to its embassy in the former Indonesian province of East Timor.

Australia said it had placed Australian Defence Force members of the UN Peacekeeping Force currently operating in East Timor on heightened alert and had closed the embassy in the capital, Dili, until further notice.

The Australian high commission in Singapore is also operating on a restricted basis Wednesday due to security concerns.

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A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told CNN Wednesday that no other Australian offices had been closed down but a precautionary note had been sent to offices in Southeast Asia to review their security measures.

Australia's fears are prompted by its close military, political and trade ties with the United States.

The move coincides with a U.S. warning to Americans worldwide to boost security awareness on the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Warning)

The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan will be closed on Wednesday as a security precaution, though the closure has not been prompted by a specific threat, embassy officials said.

However, citing a "credible and specific" terrorist threat, the U.S. embassies in Kuala Lumpur have closed indefinitely, as has the embassy in Jakarta and the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Indonesian city of Surabaya. (Embassies closed)

U.S. officials said in a statement: "American citizens are urged to be extremely cautious during the coming days... They should maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to reduce their vulnerability and maintain a low profile."

Intelligence sources said information about threats came from Omar al-Farquq, an al Qaeda operative in custody at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.

A service at the Jakarta embassy commemorating the September 11 attacks has also been canceled because of the risk of a terror attack.

Manila threat

CNN has learned that Philippine authorities are on "red alert" because an al Qaeda plot to bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies in the capital of Manila has been activated.

At least four tonnes of explosives are missing in the Philippines and the threat is being taken extremely seriously.

Authorities have been told by an al Qaeda operative that the explosives are to be used by al Qaeda suicide bombers who will travel -- or have already traveled -- to the Philippines from outside the region.

"We have placed our entire police forces and armed forces on red alert," Angelo Reyes, the Philippine secretary of defense, told CNN. (Manila threat)

Intelligence officials say Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, considered the mastermind behind the September 11 terror attacks, has turned terrorism into a franchise, focusing on Muslim separatist groups in Southeast Asia and offering them support if they merge their goals with his anti-American agenda.

Beijing on terror alert

In Beijing, state media on Monday reported a large-scale anti-terrorist exercise by the fire-fighting department of the Ministry of Public Security in which officers from six provinces and cities took part in rescue operations following a mock attack on a Beijing high-rise building.

Official Chinese reports say police, firemen and crack anti-terrorist squads within the paramilitary People's Armed Police have all boosted training in the past year. (Beijing alert)

Australia has also stepped up its counter-terrorist measures, announcing on Tuesday expanded operations for its Protective Security Coordination Center which is used for national crisis management.

Last week, Australia doubled its counter-terrorism capabilities with the creation of two new national security units. Both the units are based in Sydney -- Australia's largest city and main business center. (Anti-terror force doubled)

The United States ambassador to Australia on Monday warned that Australia -- a key U.S. ally in the war on terror -- cannot afford to be complacent or believe itself immune to the threat of global terror.

Australian Attorney-General Daryl Williams on Tuesday said while there was no known specific threat to Australia, its citizens should have a heightened state of awareness in the knowledge that Australia was likely to be seen as an "appropriate target for terrorists."

Vigilance

While Americans and others in Asian cities are planning commemorative services for those killed in the attacks a year ago, the U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide alert to remain vigilant.

"Americans should increase their security awareness when they are at such locations, avoid them, or switch to other locations where Americans in large numbers generally do not congregate," it said.

"American citizens may be targeted for kidnapping or assassination," the warning says.

While not specifying Asian targets, the warning said the U.S. government had continued to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests.

The U.S. government has sent a "cable to all of our embassies and all our diplomatic posts to advise them to maintain a higher state of alert and implement appropriate security measures."

It warned that terrorist actions could be imminent and included "suicide operations."



 
 
 
 


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