NEWS

2004 air cover in place

The security umbrella for the Athens Olympics fell into place in its final form yesterday, three days ahead of the opening ceremony. The network combines Greek and NATO military forces. Late last night, Greek Mirage jetfighters began continuous nighttime patrols across the Attica sky. From 5 a. m. yesterday, NATO early warning AWACS planes began to patrol Greece’s skies. On the ground, a specially formed Olympic division of the Greek army was deployed. A senior Greek police official said that the Greeks were closely watching developments following the terrorist attacks that killed two people in Istanbul earlier yesterday but there was no sense that the groups responsible for such acts had any plans to do anything in Greece during the Games. Police also denied a report in the Greek daily Ta Nea yesterday that the National Intelligence Service was keeping about 10 Muslims suspected of having ties with extremists in isolation at a secret location. The police source said that security authorities had charted all the Muslim communities in Greece and illegal mosques had been investigated but no suspect activities had been found. Also, illegal immigrants were being investigated fully when caught. The Greek authorities are also receiving a great number of reports daily from the services of other countries. So far, there has been nothing to indicate that a terrorist attack against the Olympics was being planned, the source said. The Greek warplanes may not be visible, but will be patrolling the skies over the broader Athens region 24 hours daily. Sixteen planes are taking part in the operation. Four pairs are flying at 20,000 feet over Attica at any given moment and one pair each over the other cities hosting Olympic soccer – Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos and Iraklion. There are six AWACS, which will be patrolling the Athens Flight Information Region around the clock, with three in the air at any given moment. Four will be based at Aktion in western Greece and two in Italy. The Olympic army division comprises 11,000 troops whose chief mission is to guard Olympic installations and public utilities that could be targeted by terrorists. Their rules of engagement stipulate that they can use force when ordered to by a superior, in self-defense and when seeing a crime taking place.