Australian sports asked to review security arrangements

Tue Dec 16, 2014 5:48am EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has asked Australia to beef up security for next month's Asian Cup in the wake of the deadly hostage siege in Sydney.

Asia's biggest soccer tournament will be held for the first time in Australia from Jan. 9-31, and AFC officials are worried about safety plans following the 16-hour siege at a Sydney cafe that left two hostages and their captor dead.

Alex Soosay, the general secretary of the AFC, said he contacted Australia's organizing committee (ALOC) on Tuesday, asking for increased protection.

"Thousands of media and fans will be traveling to Australia for the competition, apart from 16 teams, and their security is our utmost priority," Soosay said in a statement.

"We have asked ALOC to provide extra security in team and AFC hotels as well as police escorts for all official activities including training and matches in addition to increase in security across all venues."

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, has been on high alert for attacks by homegrown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East or their supporters.

In September, anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and, days later, a teenager in the city of Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife.

Australian police sources said the gunman in the Sydney hostage siege was an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh, who was known to the authorities.

Australia is still on edge after the siege and security experts said it was difficult to prevent attacks by people acting alone.   Continued...