News / Europe

Sochi is Target for Terror Attacks

Security guards check visitors at the entrance to the olympic park in Adler near Sochi, Jan. 16, 2014.
Security guards check visitors at the entrance to the olympic park in Adler near Sochi, Jan. 16, 2014.
Russian authorities have spent an estimated $2 billion to shore up security in advance of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, which begin February 7. Thousands of security personnel are patrolling what is described as a “ring of steel” around the Black Sea resort to prevent any terrorist attack.

The main threat comes from separatist and jihadi groups in the North Caucasus, especially from Chechnya and Dagestan, located some 500 kilometers from Sochi.  

Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terrorism with Georgetown University, said many groups come under an umbrella organization known as the "Caucasus Emirate" - "a militant group led by Doku Umarov, who’s death had been reported some weeks ago, but apparently is still alive. And he himself has vowed explicitly to disrupt the games.”

Focus on Sochi

In late December, a group affiliated with Umarov claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings that killed more than 30 people in Volgograd, the largest city closest to Sochi, some 600 kilometers away.

Thomas de Waal, who has written extensively on the North Caucasus, said the security threat comes from a “low-intensity but serious Islamic insurgency which is left over from the second war in Chechnya, which finished about 10 years ago and was never completely resolved.”

Various groups threaten Winter Olympics

“We are not talking about a kind of unified single organization which is fighting the Russian state,” said de Waal. “There is one self-styled organization called the ‘Caucasus Emirate,’ but people have some questions about how serious it really is. But we are talking about a number of quite desperate individuals who have an Islamist ideology, who have a personal loathing for the Russian state and for President Putin and who certainly want to disrupt the Sochi games if they can.”

De Waal said Moscow is faced with a problem.

“For the Russian state it would be easier if there was one group they could combat and they knew who they were," he said. "We are talking about a lot of rogue individuals in some cases, some of whom have a kind of personal motive of revenge, some of them a bit of organization - but people who it is very hard to monitor.”

Difficult to track 'black widows'

Bruce Hoffman said it is very difficult to keep track of those female suicide bombers known as the “black widows.”

“The ‘black widows’ are styled as the widows or spouses of male jihadists who have perished fighting against Russian forces whether it’s in Chechnya, Dagestan or other parts of the Caucasus,” said Hoffman. “They take that name in that they are so inconsolable, given their sorrow that they have vowed to avenge the deaths of their - it’s not only spouses, husbands, but brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins. And of course, revenge is one of the most visceral of emotions.”

Hoffman said the “black widows” are responsible for some high-profile bombings and terrorist attacks.

Threat of attacks outside of Sochi

“For more than a decade, women have played a very important and certainly a very prominent role in terrorism emanating from the Caucasus. Both the seizure of the Moscow Theatre [2002],” said Hoffman, “the seizure in 2004 of the school in Beslan, women were certainly involved in those operations - as well as in several suicide bombings of the Moscow subway [2004, 2010]. And then, of course, also in 2004, a woman with a bomb concealed allegedly in her brassiere blew up an internal, domestic Russian flight.”

Many analysts say the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will be well secured, making it difficult for terrorists to act. But experts also say there is a good chance of terrorist attacks away from the Olympic venues - anywhere in Russia.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Map Shows Every US School Shooting Since 2013

There have been at least 150 school shootings in the United States since 2013, an average of nearly one per week More

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs