News / Europe

    Mounting Threats Against Sochi Olympics Worry Terrorism Experts

    Mounting Threats Against Sochi Olympics Worry Terrorism Expertsi
    X
    January 28, 2014 6:44 PM
    Sochi’s neighbor to the East, the Northern Caucasus, is home to separatists who for years have waged a war of independence against Russia. As VOA's Arash Arabasadi reports, some question holding the Winter Games in close proximity to those who have vowed to fight Russia to the death.
    Mounting Threats Against Sochi Olympics Worry Terrorism Experts
    The Olympic Games in Sochi are just weeks away, but the terror threats keep coming. The biggest concern: The Northern Caucasus, Sochi’s neighbors to the East. The region is home to separatists who for years have waged a war of independence against Russia. Recent bombings in Volgograd, north of Sochi, have experts on high alert. Some question holding the Winter Games in close proximity to those who have vowed to fight Russia to the death.

    One month ago, despite promises of heightened security at the Olympic Games, two suicide attacks killed 34 people in Volgograd, some 700 kilometers north of Sochi. A militant Islamist group in Russia's North Caucasus claimed responsibility in a video posted on an Islamist website.

    Ian von Gordon, who is Director of Operations at the Diplomatic Protection Training Institute in Youngstown, Ohio, said, “Chechen rebels have already shown that they’re targeting trains, airplanes, transport, highways.” The institute provides security to civilians in high threat environments. He's an expert on terror groups in the Northern Caucasus.  

    “Since Sochi was announced as a venue, there’s no doubt that they sent cells in immediately to embed themselves and, to that end, it’s very likely that there’s people on the staff at the Winter Olympics who are possibly part of a cell,” said von Gordon.

    Including those who have been building the games' venues, said Glen Howard at the Jamestown Foundation, a research institute in Washington, D.C. “You’ve had over 100,000 laborers come from all over Russia to work there, and Central Asia. It is impossible to verify whether all these people that have worked in Sochi as laborers… whether they were a security risk.”

    Motive, opportunity

    Von Gordon said terrorists may not match the pictures many of us are used to seeing. “We’re looking for the tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman. Traditionally, Chechen rebels have used young women, usually widows of soldiers, but that’s not necessarily always the case.”

    He’s referring to the so-called “black widows," widows of slain rebel fighters.  

    Militants also carry out more conventional attacks, however, like the 2004 takeover of a school in Beslan, where 334 hostages died, more than half of them children.

    “Putin has strategically located the Games very close to the Caucasus, where he’s basically daring those people," said von Gordon. "That creates a very dangerous situation, because now you have opportunity. You have motive. You have an unprecedented situation where you have people from all over the world - civilians - participating in a highly publicized event.”

    Juan Zarate, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he expected to see cooperation with the international community. But the opposite is happening.

    “The Russians have grown more and more concerned over the threat, and are concerned over the perception of insecurity, and therefore have not wanted to allow the United States and other, security services in on the ground to assist,” said Zarate.

    While Russia battles a bloody insurgency not far from next month's Winter Olympics, it’s likely the world will be watching to see what happens in the streets of Sochi.

    Arash Arabasadi

    Arash Arabasadi is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a decade of experience shooting, producing, writing and editing. He has reported from conflicts in Iraq, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and Ukraine, as well as domestically in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. Arash has also been a guest lecturer at Howard University, Hampton University, Georgetown University, and his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Ashley and their two dogs.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ron Sturm from: Vancouver, BC, Canada
    January 30, 2014 12:53 AM
    I am concerned that the Russian Security Forces are not prepared adequately for these games. Putin, as the former Head of the KGB believes numbers compensates for inadequate training. The Olympic grounds are littered with construction debris. If the Russians can't get sites ready, do you think security will be any different? Unlike in Vancouver, where the RCMP co-ordinated security between themselves, the Canadian military and private security forces and they communicated between themselves, the Russian appear to be in disarray. With alcoholism being a dominant problem among the Russian Military and Police Forces I wouldn't recommend relying on them for your safety. Stay away from cramped places, travel by taxis, avoid rapid transit (danger noted by the several recent bombing on public transit or public areas). Be aware of your surroundings, note individuals around you and be sensitive to "strange" or "unusual" behaviour. Always carry a fully charged cell phone and if you can pack an extra fully charged battery. If you gut tells you to leave, listen to your gut instinct and leave. Always plan an escape route and don't travel alone. Enjoy the games but keep your eyes and ears open!
    In Response

    by: Spencer Maze from: Malibu, Ca
    January 30, 2014 5:22 PM
    Great post Ron! Very good advice all the way around.

    by: Jose79845 from: Texas
    January 29, 2014 2:43 PM
    US citizens have a higher probability of being shot by the police within the US borders than being killed by a terrorist at the Olympics.


    by: Andrew from: NY
    January 29, 2014 10:16 AM
    I am very concerned about this. There are many world class athletes nd their families here. Let's hope nothing happens.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora