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Experts: L.A. organized crime aids terrorists, city is top target

Experts: L.A. organized crime aids terrorists, city is top target

Los Angeles remains a top terrorist target and the United States is just as vulnerable to attack as it was before Sept. 11, 2001, a panel of terrorism experts said Monday.

   Speaking at a UCLA School of Public Affairs forum, law enforcement and security officials also said that regional organized crime groups are supporting international terrorists.

   “Al Qaeda recently announced on their Web site that they have two main targets: Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia,” said Michael Intriligator, a terrorism expert and UCLA professor who moderated the forum.

   “I don’t know why they picked Melbourne,' he said. 'But Los Angeles was specifically mentioned as a target for their next terrorist attack.”

   Experts have long pointed to the city's downtown skyscrapers, Los Angeles International Airport and the huge Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex as potential terrorist targets.

   Adding to the problem, according to the panel, is the growing involvement of organized crime sponsors of terrorism.

   “We are not safe, and we will not be safe for many years,” said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Mark Leap. “There are many, many more people who consider themselves jihadists now. And criminal enterprises are being used to support terrorist activities.”

   Panel members said the links between organized crime and terrorism are particularly troubling in light of a message posted on an al Qaeda Web site saying the group wants to kill 4 million Americans in retribution for the number of Muslims killed by the United States in recent years.

   The Los Angeles Sheriff Department's Lt. John Sullivan, founder of Los Angeles County's Terrorism Early Warning Group, said organized crime groups in Los Angeles County are supporting international terrorists and pointed to concerns over street gang activity such as human smuggling that could facilitate terrorist activities. The Los Angeles area is home to more than 40,000 gang members, the panel said.

   “As far as attacking Los Angeles, they have attempted to attack Los Angeles in the past,' Intriligator said. 'It’s reasonable to believe they will again.”

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