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Experts: Attack on cricket team doesn't elevate threat

Terrorism experts, saying the assault in Pakistan was the result of a regional conflict, note that sporting events have been on high alert since Sept. 11.

March 08, 2009|Kurt Streeter

Last week's attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan should not increase the threat faced by athletes and sports fans globally, leading international terrorism experts say.

"Nothing has changed since the days right after Sept. 11, when people were asking me if they should go to the Super Bowl," said Brian Jenkins, senior terrorism advisor at the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. "My response was, 'If you don't want your tickets, I will take them.' Throughout most of the world, you still have a much higher chance dying on the way to the airport to fly to a sports event than you do dying from terrorism once you are there."

Following the Pakistan attack, in which six police officers and a bus driver were killed Tuesday when a bus carrying the Sri Lankan team was ambushed in Lahore, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory calling for increased vigilance at upcoming American sporting events. But Jenkins and other leading experts believe that the Pakistan attack was the result of a regional conflict in South Asia, and were not carried out by a group with a broader reach or broader aims.

"You have to be careful in generalizing this too much and saying because of what happened this week it is likely to spread around the world," said John Agnew, a geography professor and international relations expert at UCLA.

Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, said, "I don't see it as a worldwide trend. As a South Asian trend, I am not so sanguine."

Jenkins recalled the 1958 kidnapping of South American race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio by Fidel Castro's rebel group, and the Munich Olympic attacks that killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and a German police officer in 1972. He said athletes and sporting events have long been "high-value targets" for terrorists, and will continue to be. He noted, however, that after the Sept. 11 attacks, major American sporting events are laden with security, providing a level of safety previously unseen.

"The average American has a one in 8,000 chance of dying on the highways," Jenkins said. "The chances of someone dying because of terrorism at a sporting event, if we had a proper insurance underwriters chart with proper length of time, are one in millions. It simply is not to the individual citizen a significant danger."

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kurt.streeter@latimes.com

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