by Jillian Torre
In less than a week the world’s attention will be on the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and terrorist threats are at an all time high.
According to NBC a video posted on a online Jihad forum showed two men claiming responsibility for two bombings in Volgograd, Russia last month. They also threaten more attacks if the games are held.
“We’ve prepared a present for you and all your tourists who’ll come over,” the video said. “If you hold the Olympics, you’ll get a present from us for the Muslim blood that’s been spilled.”
Last month’s attacks targeted public transportation, specifically a train and trolley bus, and killed more than 30 people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia has a “perfect understanding” of the threat and how to prevent an attack. He promised visitors will be kept safe.
Possibly the biggest threat to Sochi is suicide bombers known as “black widows.” According to NPR the “black widows” are women trained to carry out suicide bombings avenging the deaths of their husbands or family members killed by Russian forces.
It is suspected one of these “black widows” already infiltrated security and is inside the “ring of steel,” a 1,500 square mile security zone heavily protected with police officers, special forces, and advanced security technology. Ruzana Ibragimova, 22, was widowed last year when her husband was killed by Russian forces.
Ibragimova’s mug shot, along with two other suspected “black widows” are on wanted posters all over the city. The poster shows a four-inch scar across her cheek, a wound said to have been inflicted by Russian forces. They also warn that the bombers will not be wearing traditional Islamic wardrobe as a way to blend in.
According to NPR the threats are thought to be linked to a Islamic militant group trying to overthrow Russian control in the North Caucasus Mountains.
While Russia and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are confident in the security, others are not as assured.
USA Today reports the Australian Olympic Committee placed travel restrictions on the nation’s competitors, suggesting athletes remain in the secure perimeter.
Despite President Obama saying he believes the Olympics will be safe, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Americans attending the games. Many athletes also asked their families to stay home. As is the case for speedskater Tucker Fredricks and USA Hockey Team skaters Ryan Suter and Zach Praise. The long journey to Sochi may be part of the reason their support teams will be cheering from in front of the television, but Suter said the terrorist threats made the decision “a little bit easier.”
Unfortunately the terrorists have already had an effect on the games. According to NPR only around 70 percent of the tickets have been sold.
As much as the U.S. would like to see gold medals, I don’t think that will be the country’s first priority as everyone begins to watch anxiously this week.