It was only this week that it dawned on the International Olympic Committee that the decision to hold the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi may hold the threat of the worst security catastrophe in the games’ history.
The two suicide attacks in Volgograd on Dec. 29 and 30, in which 34 people were killed, suddenly laid bare the fact that the Northern Caucasus is in a state of war. This conflict is capable of spilling over and striking the sports facilities installed on the mountain slopes surrounding Sochi and the town itself at some point in the February 7-23 Olympic events.
All too late, IOC members realized that the security briefings provided by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) were couched in general terms, without covering the hard data of day-to-day occurrences.
To reassure sportspersons and audiences soon heading for Sochi, President Vladimir Putin Friday, Dec. 20 issued a catalogue of statistics to demonstrate that his security agencies were on top of any threats.
Addressing a gala celebrating Security Agency Workers Day, he reported that the FSB had foiled 77 terrorism-related crimes in the past year, including 12 terrorist attacks.
As a result of special operations, 255 militants were neutralized, he said, including 40 gang leaders, and more than 500 militants and their accomplices detained.
The National Anti-Terror Committee in North Caucasus reported that law enforcers had “neutralized” more than 260 “bandits” including 42 leaders of illegal armed formations in the region.
More than 320 homemade explosive devices were seized, 70 counter-terror operations were conducted and more than 78 terror-related crimes thwarted.
To fill in some of the blanks, DEBKA Weekly’s analysts have drawn up an up-to-the-minute statistical chart of their own, covering Russia’s war on terror in the two-week period from Dec. 20, 2013 to Jan. 2, 2014 (without the two Volgograd attacks.)
Here are the results:
Nine local firefights between security forces and terrorists.
Seven security officers shot dead by terrorists.
Three civilians murdered by Islamist terrorists for selling wine.
Nine terrorists killed resisting security raids on their hideouts.
Five explosive devices dismantled by security forces.
Total: 53 dead in the last two weeks (counting in the Volgograd victims)
A “somber and disturbing” report
DEBKA Weekly’s counter-terror sources report that International Olympic Committee members decided this week to consult Western and Middle Eastern terror experts for an independent, professional assessment of the risks the Sochi games face of exposure to terrorist action.
The reports they received covered three “somber and disturbing” predictions:
- The Volgograd attacks may have been the first shots of a Caucasian al Qaeda-related campaign of terror against Russian cities.
- Whereas the town of Sochi is fairly secure in view of the tight security rings surround it, the transport routes between the town and the sporting events in the mountains are not sufficiently protected against terrorist attack. This is not due to Russian inefficiency, but because of the great distances the sportsmen must travel between their lodgings and hotels in the town of Sochi and the sporting facilities. The bus and train routes wind through valleys and mountains which are extremely difficult to safeguard.
- The experts reckon that sports participants face the greatest threat, because the long ski slopes are bound to be exposed. Caucasian terrorists are practiced in moving around at great speed on snow-clad slopes and very hard to locate – even from the air.