British police foil attack on Games venues

British police foiled a planned attack by rioters on the site of the 2012 Olympics in London after they intercepted BlackBerry and Twitter messages about the plot, a top officer said.

Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Lynne Owens told MPs that police and site security guards were deployed to protect the Games venues after officers monitoring social networking found evidence they were targets.

Owens said that Oxford Street, a popular shopping destination for tourists, and Westfield, one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe which is situated in west London, were also targets, according to the intercepted messages.

“On that night through Twitter and BBM there was intelligence that the Olympic site, both Westfield and Oxford Street were indeed going to be targeted,” Owens told a special parliamentary hearing on the riots.

“We were able to secure all of those places and there was no damage at any of them.

“We were able to respond because of our livetime monitoring of Twitter and BBM,” she said, referring to the BlackBerry messaging system.

 Rioters looted shops and set fire to premises and cars during four nights of violence in London last week, including in Hackney in east London, near the Olympic site in Stratford.

The unrest also hit Birmingham, Manchester and other cities.

Police and politicians said they believe rioters used BBM to co-ordinate the violence because it offers a free alternative to texting and can send messages to many people at once.

BBM is encrypted, making it harder to intercept than Twitter messages.

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