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Australia Issues Terrorist Alert to Crowds Watching Rugby World Cup - 2003-11-21

Australia has issued a stern warning to its citizens overseas who are planning to watch Saturday's Rugby World Cup final on television in crowded bars and clubs. The warning follows Thursday's devastating bomb attacks in Turkey, which killed at least 27 people. The final - between England and Australia - will be played in Sydney under tight security.

Once again Australia is on its highest state of terrorist alert.

The government in Canberra is insisting there is no doubt that terrorists are again targeting Westerners, with bomb attacks on the British consulate and offices of a London-based bank in Turkey.

There is a fear this Saturday's Rugby World Cup final could be another target. Police in Sydney say they have received no specific threats but security will be the tightest Australia has seen since the Olympic Games here three years ago.

Australia and England will face off in the final. Both are close allies of the United States in the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq. In recent weeks, there have been warnings allegedly from the al-Qaida terror network that U.S. allies would be targeted for car bombings.

Overseas, thousands of Australian and British expatriates are expected to gather in bars and restaurants to watch the final game beamed live from Sydney.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is urging Australians abroad to be careful when going to watch the game.

"They may be more at risk than if they separate more and don't congregate so strongly together in those kinds of locations," he said.

Mr. Downer says it is a general warning and not based on any specific intelligence.

Australia issued numerous travel warnings since 88 Australians were among the 202 people killed in bomb attacks on the Indonesian island of Bali a year ago.

Many of the victims were amateur rugby players on holiday from Australia.

The government has reacted swiftly to the latest outrage in Istanbul. It has released a list of six countries that Australians should avoid at all costs and has advised its citizens to defer non-essential travel to dozen other destinations, adding Turkey to this list on Friday.

Prime Minister John Howard has said security at Australia's diplomatic missions around the world would be urgently reviewed following the truck bombings in Turkey.