Bin Laden Attack Not Expected At G-8 Conference

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Counter-terrorism experts here believe it unlikely that Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden is planning an assassination attempt on President Bush at the G-8 summit in Italy later this week.

Such a high profile gathering, with topnotch security in place, is not likely to interest bin Laden, who is wanted in the U.S. for masterminding the twin bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Bin Laden tends to operate "where he's not expected," according to security specialist Dr. Yoram Schweitzer of the Israel-based International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).

"He does not like to operate where he's being watched," Schweitzer told reporters at a briefing.

If there is to be any security threat to Bush or other leaders at the summit, is would more likely take the form of a less spectacular attack from a local group, possibly trained in terrorism by bin Laden's organization but is not directly under his command, he added.

Leaders of the world's seven wealthiest nations - the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy - as well as Russia will be meeting in Genoa from July 20-22 in Genoa.

Italy is deploying some 2,700 army, navy and air force troops, including chemical, nuclear and biological warfare experts, to ensure the safety of the participants.

It is setting up a short-range anti-missile system at the airport, and sending in minesweeping naval vessels as well as other ships to guard the port. Air Force planes will patrol the skies over Genoa and bomb disposal experts will be on hand on the ground.

The U.S. Secret Service will be responsible for Bush's protection.

Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal security chief announced that bin Laden was threatening Bush. There was even talk of moving the summit onto an aircraft carrier off the coast.

"Bin Laden is threatening the American president, but we know what international terrorism is today and therefore all the bodyguard units concerned are preparing for this," Yevgeny Murov was quoted as saying in the Itar-Tass news agency.

"We view the threats as totally serious, but hope that with joint efforts we can solve all the problems," said Murov.

Dr. Ely Karmon, senior research scholar at the ICT, also downplayed any threat against the American leader. Although he admitted that an assassination bid was a "possibility," he said it was not likely that it could succeed.

Karmon said when media reports first emerged that bin Laden was planning an attack on Bush, the Italian ambassador to Pakistan visited Kabul, Afghanistan officially to discuss a hospital that the Italians manage there.

However, he said, according to Pakistani press reports the ambassador also raised the issue of the threat of terror attacks during the G-8 summit and asked the Taliban, the radical Islamic militia ruling most of the country where bin Laden is based, to use its influence to stop bin Laden's group from carrying out such an action.

The Taliban, which is being subjected to U.N. sanctions for sheltering the fugitive, denied that he had any plans to attack the U.S. president.

Karmon said he would sooner expect trouble from "leftist anarchist" organizations in the West than from bin Laden. Such group may hijack expected anti-globalization protests for their own violent purposes, he said.

Tens of thousands of anti-globalization protestors are expected to show up at the conference. Up to 16,000 Italian police will be on duty for crowd control armed with tear gas, water cannons and batons.

Massive protests at international meetings have tended toward violence since riots broke out at the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle.

The State Department earlier issued a travel advisory warning U.S. citizens that demonstrations in the city could become "disorderly or violent" and result in injuries or arrests.

"U.S. citizens, other than those with official summit-related duties, should avoid travel to Genoa during the summit period. Those who must travel to Genoa, should exercise caution, avoid any crowds or demonstrations, and monitor the local media to keep informed," the advisory said.