'Specific Threats' at Sochi Winter Olympics Worry US Officials

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 08:45 AM

By Michael Mullins

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There are "specific threats" to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games that have some U.S. officials worried about the safety of athletes and attendees of the event.

Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, highlighted some of those concerns while speaking before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, CNN reported.

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"The primary threat, from a terrorism perspective, comes from Imarat Kavkaz, probably the most prominent terrorist group in Russia. It's made its intent clear to seek to carry out attacks in the run-up to the Games," Olsen said. "We think the greater danger from a terrorist perspective is in potential for attacks to occur outside of the actual venues for the Games themselves in the area surrounding Sochi or outside of Sochi in the region."

"There are a number of specific threats of varying degrees of credibility that we're tracking," Olsen added. "And we're working very closely with the Russians and with other partners to monitor any threats we see and to disrupt those."

One day after Olsen's warning to the House, the U.S. Homeland Security Department issued an even more specific threat. Muslim terrorists, who have sworn to disrupt the games, might target airlines flying into Russia by concealing explosives inside toothpaste containers, officials say.

With upwards of 40,000 security officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and explosive detectors of all sorts, the Sochi Games have been surrounded by what Russian officials have characterized as a "ring of steel" to prevent terrorists from infiltrating the venue.

Due to this increased level of security, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" Tuesday night that he felt the games would likely be OK.

"I think the venues themselves will be OK. The Russians have done a lot of guards, gates and guns to try to secure the venues and try to get a ring around the Games," Rogers said. "I'm very concerned by the sheer level of attention and effort, not just from Chechens and folks in that region, but outside of that region that have expressed an interest in actually having a violent act occur at the Games."

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The terroristic threats around Sochi largely stem from Doku Umarov, the murderous Chechen warlord who is often referred to as "Russia's Bin Laden," who has in the past called for attacks at the Sochi Olympics.

Though unconfirmed, it is believed Umarov played a role in the late December double bombing in the city of Volgograd – formerly known as Stalingrad – that killed 31 people.

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