Numerous Explosives Discovered Near Winter Olympics Site
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/09/2014 16:46 -0500
Just a few short weeks away, the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic may go off with a bang, literally, judging by the amount of "terrorist" chatter surrounding the games. Today however, it is more than just chatter:earlier the Russian media reported that Russian security forces had come across multiple unexplained deaths and explosive devices in a region near Sochi, resulting in an aggressive "anti-terrorism sweep."
The developments are bizarre to say the least:
A car with a body inside exploded as police approached it in Russia's Stavropol Territory, reported Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti, citing the Interior Ministry. In the same area, Russian authorities reportedly discovered a car containing the bodies of three men along with explosive material. The day before, two more bodies were found in the same region.Russian officials are investigating the possible cause and motive for the deaths -- a Russia analyst speculated to ABC News the deaths could be related to organized crime -- but at any rate the mystery and the security sweep add to an already tense situation in southern Russia as the Olympics approach.
One person keeping a close eye on the developments is none other than president Obama, who as we reported yesterday, will unleash an ad blitz for Obamacare around the Olympics. The last thing he will want is for the participants in the games to have need of it. Which is why one can be certain that the NSA and various US security forces are already well aware of any potential sources of terrorism around the games. Sure enough, in a statement of condolences from the White House over the most recent Volgograd bombings, President Obama's National Security Council slipped in an apparent jab at the Russian government over the security situation. "The U.S. government has offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants," the NSC statement said."
Some thoughts on who they may be:
Just 10 days ago more than 30 people were killed in dual suicide bombings in Volgograd, Russia, some 400 miles northeast of Sochi. By comparison, Moscow lies more than 850 miles north of Sochi. In October seven people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives on a bus, also in Volgograd. The Stavropol Territory lies approximately halfway between Volgograd and Sochi – approximately 150 miles away from the Olympic site.No group has publicly claimed responsibility for the bombings, but in the case of the October bus bombing, Russian authorities said the bomber hailed from Dagestan, a restive region in southern Russia to Sochi's east that, along with Chechnya, is home to a violent Islamist insurgency that has fought Russian government forces for decades.The leader of the insurgency, Doku Umarov, sometimes referred to as "Russia's Osama bin Laden," last June called on his followers to "do their utmost to derail" the Sochi Olympics, which he called a "satanic dance on the bones of our ancestors." In the past Umarov has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on Russian civilians, including the 2011 bombing of Moscow's Domodedovo airport.
What is far more clear is who is providing the funding and supplies for the Islamists - the same puppetmaster who was behind the Syrian conflict. Recall:
Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. ... As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”
Putin laughed in Bandar's face, the Saudi natgas pipeline gambit in Syria failed, and as a result the escalation in Sochi is progressing just as Bandar implied it would. Naturally this puts Obama in a tough spot: he can't openly act against Saudi interests once again after alieanting his ally in the region and take out the terrorist camps in Chechnya, but the last thing he would want is to cart home coffins of athletes.
Which means US participants are resorting to Plan B:
the U.S. ski and snowboard team this year will be overseen by a private security firm, which plans to have as many as five aircraft on standby in case of a medical or security emergency in Sochi. "This environment is unique,'' Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards told USA Today Wednesday. "You just don't have competitions in places like Sochi with any frequency. … In the last 10 years, there has been nothing like it.''William Rathburn, who was the head of Olympic Security during the bombing of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, told ABC News that while he's confident Russian officials "have done everything they can" to secure the upcoming games, the odds of an incident are "very high.""It's an opportunity for the Chechen [militants] or anyone else to embarrass Russia or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, I think," he said. "It's far easier to protect against attacks on somebody who might be targeted, a group or country or delegation. [But] it's clear that the people who conducted the two bombings in Volgograd are willing to indiscriminately kill people. It's very difficult to protect against…"
And after last year in which Putin humiliated US and most western foreign policy on virtually every front, the number of people who want to embarass Putin is quite long.
MOSCOW (AP) — Six men are dead in a series of unexplained killings involving booby-trapped bombs in southern Russia, further heightening security fears ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Investigators were scrambling Thursday to find those responsible for the six bodies found Wednesday in four abandoned cars just north of Russia's volatile Caucasus Mountains region, where an Islamic insurgency is simmering.
Explosive devices had been placed near three of the cars, although only one of the bombs went off and no one was hurt. The victims had been shot, according to investigators.
Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency, said in a statement that no motive had yet been found for the killings on the outskirts of Pyatigorsk, the center of a Russian administrative district created in 2010 to combat the insurgency. In late December, a car bomb exploded outside traffic police offices there, killing three people.
Pyatigorsk is less than 200 miles by air from Sochi, host site for the 2014 Olympics, although nearly twice as far by road.
In an indication of Russia's unease over security ahead of the Olympics, Markin said Federal Security Service officers had joined the investigation and classified it as a counter-terrorist operation.
The shootings of local residents — at least a few of them taxi drivers — is more typical of criminal behavior, perhaps score-settling by organized gangs. But the use of explosives was suggestive of the kinds of terror attacks that take place nearly daily in the Caucasus.
Russia is still on edge following two suicide bombings in late December in Volgograd, also in southern Russia, which killed 34 people and wounded many more. No claim of responsibility has been made for those bombings, but they came several months after the leader of the Islamic insurgency called for attacks aimed at undermining the games, which run Feb. 7-23.
NTV television, a national channel loyal to the Kremlin, showed photographs of four suspects that it said had been distributed to police. The men were said to be from Kabardino-Balkaria, just south of Pyatigorsk and one of the predominantly Muslim republics in Russia's Caucasus.
The NTV journalist on the scene said investigators believed the killings were of a criminal nature, but were not ruling out other motives.
Kommersant, a major Moscow-based newspaper, suggested the attacks were carried out by militants and the explosives were intended to harm police when they arrived to investigate. That tactic has been used before in Pyatigorsk, where a taxi driver was killed in 2010 and his car then used as a bomb, wounding more than 30 people.
Three of the men found Wednesday have been identified: Two were taxi drivers and the third assembled furniture but also worked as a freelance taxi driver, Russian state news agencies reported, citing law enforcement agencies. Their names have not been released.
The men drove inexpensive Soviet-model Lada cars. Homemade bombs were placed near two of their cars; one of them went off as police approached and the other was defused.
The three other victims were found in a fourth vehicle. An explosive device had been placed next to the car in a metal bucket, but was defused by investigators, Markin said. No information about their identities has been released.
Chechen terrorist challenges Sochi Olympics
Chechen rebel leader and Russia's most wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov, has ordered his followers to sabotage the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi with whatever it takes, including attacks on civilian targets.
The Winter Olympics in Sochi kick off on February 7, but there are already serious concerns that they will be the target of attacks. Fears have grown since two recent attacks in the Russian city of Volgogradwhich left 34 people dead, and especially after Russia's public enemy number one, Doku Umarov, said he was prepared to use "maximum force" to prevent President Vladimir Putin from holding the event. In a July 2013 video message, Umarov had already called on his followers to use "any methods allowed by the almighty Allah" to sabotage the games.
"According to [Umarov], Allah also allows terrorist activities," said Uwe Halbach, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) focusing on political developments in the Caucasus region.
Russian authorities take Umarov's call to violence very seriously because the influential Chechen rebel leader's word is indeed powerful.
"When Umarov gives an order, as he did one and a half years ago, not to attack civilian targets, then most of the terror cells follow his lead," Gerhard Mangott, a political science professor at the University of Innsbruck, told DW.
"So when he says, as he did a couple of months ago, that the Olympics are being held 'on the bones of our ancestors,' as he put it, and therefore civilian targets should again be attacked, then that is something terror cells will comply with," Mangott explained.
The threat is indeed a real one, especially since Umarov, dubbed "Russia's bin Laden", has been responsible for some high-profile attacks in the past.
Multiple terror attacks
Umarov carried out multiple attacks from 2009 to 2011. His militants have been blamed for bombing Moscow's Domodedovo airport, two subway stations and a Russian train, among others.
In February 2012, Umarov ordered an end to the attacks. Later, though, in July 2013, he publicly explained this to have been a mistake since the Kremlin took this "as a sign of weakness instead of goodwill."
It hasn't been confirmed whether Umarov was indeed behind the recent attacks in Volgograd because no group has taken responsibility.
"There hasn't been a written claim of responsibility on the websites of the North Caucasian Islamist resistance, either," Mangott stated.
"However, judging by the type of terror attacks and by the explosives used, it's safe to say that they were the act of Umarov-inspired Islamists," he added, although it is unclear whether they were acting on his direct orders.
Establishing an independent Islamist state
Umarov will stop at nothing to reach his goal of establishing an independent Islamist state in the Caucasus region. That is why he is trying to drive Russia out of the region. In 2007, he declared himself "Emir of the new Caucasus Emirate" and he has been an ideological and military leader of the Islamist resistance ever since.
"He is an iconic figure who is recognized and accepted by all local [terror] cells operating in the North Caucasus region," Mangott said.
"Umarov draws on a long tradition of Islamist-led, anti-colonial resistance from the 19th century," SWP's Halbach told DW. "That was the most prolonged resistance against Russia's colonial rule. So, in that regard, it's a very prominent historic role model."
Suicide bombers attacked this bus, killing 14 in a second blast in Volgograd in December 2013
Just a few facts are known about Umarov's upbringing: He was born on April 13, 1964 in the southern Chechen village of Kharshenoi. His family is said to have been part of Chechnya's intelligentsia. He earned an engineering degree from the state-run Grozny Oil Institute.
Umarov is said to have joined the ranks of a distant relative who was a warlord. Umarov received military training and fought Russia in the first post-Soviet Chechen war in 1994. More than a decade later, in 2006, he then advanced to become the rebels' leader.
"Back then, he was basically still a Chechen nationalist aiming for Chechnya's independence, but within a very short time span of one and a half years, Umarov went through a radical transformation and became an Islamist fighter who was not only interested in Chechnya, but who wanted to separate all of the Muslim North Caucasus from Russia to establish a new Caucasus emirate," Mangott said.
During the 18-month ceasefire, Umarov was somewhat forgotten. Russian authorities repeatedly declared him dead. Observers say that now, with the truce over, Umarov needs to prove himself capable of leading the Islamist resistance - and the Olympics in Sochi are ideal for his purpose.
"With all the international attention [on the Games], Umarov is expected to carry out important symbolic acts that will hurt Russia," Mangott said.
This is what makes Umarov so dangerous, and explains why Moscow has him at the top of its most-wanted list.