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High-alert ahead of World Cup kick-off

SK commando
A South Korean police commando oversees the U.S. football teamís training  

By Andrew Demaria

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- On the eve of the World Cup finals, security in Seoul is paramount, with army helicopters, patrol boats and paramilitary soldiers on high alert guarding the sky, sea and land.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States, the Korean government and World Cup organizers say they are taking every precaution possible to thwart any possible terrorist attacks, even installing portable missile batteries in and around stadia in the event of an air-launched strike.

The tournament kicks off on Friday night at Seoul's World Cup stadium with a match between defending champions France and Senegal, and officials say that more than 5,000 security personnel will be posted in the vicinity of the stadium or patrolling other sites in Seoul.

"Military troops will be deployed around World Cup stadia and other strategic points," a presidential statement said. "During this period, the army, navy and air force will maintain high alertness."

High-tech radar and airborne surveillance, using U.S. early warning aircraft and fighter jets, will also be operating and all commercial flights will not be allowed to fly within a 10-km radius of stadiums while matches are being played.

Police are on every major street corner while their presence has been boosted around major tourist or business areas.

"We are taking every precaution. We hope it will not have to be used, but it is there if needed," Kwon Jin-ho, chief of World Cup security control told CNN.

"We have tried to make sure that this will be a very safe tournament for all the fans and the players," he said.


As part of the security arrangements, more than 9,000 suspected terrorists and hooligans have been barred from entering Korea, the government says.

Intelligence agencies are also monitoring almost 3,000 foreigners living in Korea who hail from nations listed by the United States' as terrorist-sponsoring countries.

"We are operating round-the-clock communication channels with 80 intelligence agencies in 55 nations to exchange intelligence on terrorism," South Korea's Justice Minister Song Jeong-ho told reporters.

Song said that stockpiles of vaccines and other materials to deal with contagious diseases were close at hand to cope with any biological attack.

Security has also been stepped up at major hotels requiring all vehicles to be searched and every guest to undergo an extensive security check before entering.

Journalists and other press are also required to have their bags checked and to walk through metal detectors before they can enter any media areas.

U.S. team protection

SK SWAT team
A member of the South Korean SWAT team provides security  

The U.S. football team, based in Seoul, has been given extra security protection with dozens of heavily armed police commandos and secret police monitoring their every move.

"We have a lot of security people traveling with us, and there's enough so that everybody feels safe," a U.S. team official told CNN.

More than a dozen commandos surrounded the U.S. team's training ground on Thursday while private security agents kept a close eye on proceedings.

But the heavy security presence was not affecting the players.

"It doesn't annoy us at all because most of the time we don't know its there," forward Chris Mathis told CNN.

"There's a lot of behind the scenes stuff that we don't even know about. It's very comforting to know that you've got this much security to not have to worry about anything."

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