SBD/December 30, 2013/Olympics

Bombings In Russia Raise Fears Of Terrorism Attacks At Sochi Games

A bomb blast on a trolley bus in Volgograd, Russia, this morning killed 14 people in the second such attack in as many days, and the "wave of attacks has raised questions about the safety of the Winter Olympics only 38 days away in Sochi, some 400 miles from Volgograd," according to NBC's Jim Maceda. Maceda: "Olympic officials are confident those games will be safe, but some Russian analysts are worried" (“Today,” NBC, 12/30). REUTERS' Maria Tsvetkova writes the bombings "underscored Russia's vulnerability to militant attacks." The consecutive attacks will "raise fears of a concerted campaign of violence before the Olympics," which start Feb. 7. An IOC spokesperson said, "Unfortunately, terrorism is a global phenomenon and no region is exempt, which is why security at the Games is a top priority for the IOC. At the Olympics, security is the responsibility of the local authorities, and we have no doubt that the Russian authorities will be up to the task" (REUTERS, 12/30). In N.Y., Steven Lee Myers writes the attacks "underscored the threat the country faces from a radical Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus that has periodically spilled into the Russian heartland." Never before has "an Olympic host country experienced terrorist violence on this scale in the run-up to the Games." One reason U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials are "concerned about Sochi is that the United States has more of an arms-length relationship with Russia than with most Olympic host countries." The U.S. "provided extensive security resources to the Greek government in 2004 to help with internal security, but the Russians have stronger capabilities and almost always refuse American offers of help" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/30). CBS’ Elizabeth Palmer said the perpetrators "may not be able to actually stop the Games from going forward, but they can certainly drive up the cost to Russia, primarily with massive security bills and, of course, drive ticket sales way down" (“CBS This Morning," 12/30).

MORE TO COME? Foreign Policy Research Institute Center for the Study of Terrorism co-Chair Edward Turzanski said that the first attack "had the hallmarks of a bombing by Chechen Islamic extremists." He added, "Without a doubt they could attack the Games. That would be their greatest prize" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/30). In London, Womack & Naughton reported the size and death toll of the bombing "emphasises the security challenge" Russia President Vladimir Putin faces in advance of the Winter Olympics. Putin "was immediately informed" of Sunday's explosion (LONDON TIMES, 12/29). USA TODAY's Larry Copeland notes the bombings "fit a pattern of recent terror attacks and increased the focus on already-heavy security" for the Olympics. The bombings came "several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games." The IOC said that it "was confident of Russia's security preparation for the Games" (USA TODAY, 12/30).
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