A US expert on terrorism reinforced warnings today that Australia should be on the alert for a terrorist attack saying it is vulnerable as a part of the global economy.

Matthew Devost, the president of the US-based Terrorism Research Centre, said it was more attractive to terrorists to act against the US, however attacks could occur where they thought they would have the highest likelihood of success. “An attack that was perpetrated here would have reverberations throughout the world, it would have impacts on the global economy”, he said. “It could be used to demonstrate a capability.” He added that everything should be seen as a target.

Devost’s warning came after the Australian government received information that some of its embassies in Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore and East Timor, had been targeted in recent weeks. Some of the warnings are reported to have come from the Singaporean government which arrested more than 30 suspected terrorists, 21 of them last month. Canberra took the warnings so seriously it withdrew most of its personnel from the embassy in Dili.

However, Alexander Downer, the Foreign Minister of Australia, said the threat of an attack had receded enough to allow a full reopening of the embassy in East Timor. “We’re changing our consular advice and instead of saying that we would urge Australians not to go to East Timor on non-essential business, we’re saying that it will be all right for them to go as long as they remain aware of security risks in East Timor,” Downer said.

The embassy had been operating on a skeleton staff recently, however, it would return to normal business tomorrow. “But we will still be maintaining pretty tight security, including some Australian soldiers protecting the Australian residential compound and the Australian embassy,” Downer added. – Sapa-AFP