On December 30th, 2013, AlertsUSA issued the following
Flash message to subscriber mobile devices:
|15 killed in bus explosion in Volgograd (Stalingrad), Russia. Follows 12/29 bombing @ Volgograd train station. Security questioned for Sochi Winter Olympics..|
On Monday of this week, AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices of a bomb blast in Volgograd, Russia, which killed 15 and injured 28. This bombing took place less than 24 hrs after a suicide bomb attack on the Volgograd train station (see video in right-hand margin), which killed 19 and injured 32. In late October, another bus bombing took place the same city which killed 7 and injured 36. In this incident, the suicide bomber was identified as being a women (rare).
Formerly known as Stalingrad, Volgograd is a major rail hub in southern Russia and a main transit point for people traveling by train to Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics just 5 weeks away.
Terrorism and defense experts are concerned that extremists are probing in advance of a larger attack against either the Sochi Olympics or Moscow. There are also significant concerns the presence of Olympic athletes, and spectators, from the US, Israel, the UK, Russia and China, who also battling radical Muslims in the western part of their country, presents a rare, highly tempting target. It is also believed that groups such as Al Qaeda may see the Olympic games as an opportunity to demonstrate they remain powerful and capable of carrying out attacks after Osama bin Laden’s death.
The U.S. State Department is warning American citizens planning on attending the Winter Olympics that while the Russian government is ramping up significant security measures, be aware that acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage taking, continues to occur in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region. In addition to this week’s bombings, other attacks have occurred at Russian government buildings, airports, hotels, tourist sites, markets, entertainment venues, schools, and residential complexes. There have also been large-scale attacks on public transportation including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights. You never hear about these attacks as they are rarely covered by U.S. media outlets but they are happening.
In 2011, the U.S. government designated the Caucasus Emirate as a terrorist organization. The Caucasus Emirate is responsible for many of the aforementioned attacks.
In July of 2013, Doku Umarov, the Chechen leader of the Caucasus Emirate, released a video message rescinding prior directions not to attack civilians and directly called for use of “maximum force” in attacks to prevent or severaly upset the Winter Olympics in Sochi. This terrorist group has previously targeted civilians, including attacks on a ski resort, metro system, high-speed rail, airport, and a theater. While westerners have not specifically been targeted, the State Department indicates they are viewed by the Caucasus Emirate as complicit in the Russian government’s efforts to prevent the insurgents from forming an Islamic state out of a swath of southern Russia that includes Sochi.
In terms of geography, Sochi is located on the East coast of the Black Sea in SW Russia about 200 miles from Chechnya, and approximately 250 miles from Dagestan. Less than 10 miles to its south, Sochi is bordered by the disputed territory of Abkhazia, Georgia, which has witnessed its own share of extremist violence.
U.S. citizens attending the games should be particularly vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation.
POSSIBLE SAUDI INVOLVEMENT
There may in fact be Saudi involvement in the terrorist attacks on Russia. Leaked transcripts of a stormy meeting in August of 2013 between Russian President Vladimir Puttin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan actually quotes the Prince as offering a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics as they control the Chechen groups who carrying out the bombings and threatening the security of the games. The threat was made as the Saudi Prince was attempting to negotiate a deal where Russia would drop their military alliance and support for Syria in exchange for highly favorable Middle East oil and gas positions. Prince Bandar is also reported to have indicated that the U.S. was also behind the idea.
Needless to say, Russian President Putin shot down the idea and subsequently bolstered the Russian military presence in the region, including a massive naval buildup in the Med and shipment of advanced missile systems to Syria.
Only time will tell, but it is highly unlikely that Russia will sit idly by while these terrorist attacks continue. An article published this week in the Russian newspaper Pravada indicates that during the meeting Russian President Putin promised to strike a “massive military blow” on terrorist training camps. Western analysts concluded that Russia was threatening Saudi Arabia.
And during a New Year’s Eve address to his country, Russian President Putin vowed to “annihilate” the terrorists.
Considering all that is taking place, the Sochi Olympic Games have the potential to be one of the most dangerous in recent memory. It is no wonder that neither President Obama, Vice President Biden or any other senior U.S. officials will be attending the games.
AlertsUSA continues to monitor the security situation in Russia leading up to and throughout the Olympics and will notify service subscribers of changes in the threat environment as events warrant.