SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Counterterrorism officials in Greece's rough neighborhood are concerned al-Qaida or other groups may be plotting attacks on the Summer Olympics from elsewhere in the southern Balkans, or targeting foreign athletes who plan to train in countries like Bulgaria.
The nations involved are working closely with the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies to minimize the threat that terrorists might try to carry out strikes during the Olympic Games in Athens this Aug. 13-29, the officials told The Associated Press.
Although there is no hard evidence that al-Qaida has operatives in the area, experts see a clear and present danger. Much of the region is known for lax border controls, vast caches of easy-to-buy arms and explosives, and plenty of militants - including some with ties to radical Islam.
"The Olympics is the biggest event in the world. If a terrorist act occurred in Bulgaria against some of the teams training here, it would spoil everything," Maj. Gen. Boiko Borisov, a senior Interior Ministry official in charge of law enforcement in the country, told AP.
Bulgaria has established an Olympics security team that, once it becomes fully operational this spring, will have 24-hour hot lines. Borisov said the country is working with Greek authorities as well as with officials from the CIA, FBI and British, German and Russian intelligence "to share the whole spectrum of information on an operational level."
As the Games draw closer, Greek authorities have beefed up security, including asking NATO for flyovers to secure the country's airspace.
After the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, the alliance stepped up its patrols of the Mediterranean and is said to be considering expanding them to the Black Sea.