Ex-Official: Sochi Bomb Suspect May Presage Multiple Threats to Olympics

Security personnel walk through Russia's Sochi Olympic Park earlier this month. A potential suicide bomber sought by authorities in Sochi could be a participant in a broader offensive planned against next month's Olympics, a former U.S. counterterrorism adviser said on Tuesday.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
Jan. 22, 2014, 9:57 a.m.

A former U.S. coun­terter­ror­ism ad­viser says a po­ten­tial sui­cide bomber’s pres­ence in So­chi, Rus­sia, may in­dic­ate a broad­er plot afoot against next month’s Olympics.

Rus­si­an of­fi­cials said they were search­ing the host city of the up­com­ing Winter Olympics for Ruz­anna Ibra­gimova, a 22-year-old wo­man de­scribed as a “black wid­ow” of a slain Is­lam­ic fight­er. Au­thor­it­ies de­scribed Ibra­gimova and two oth­er fe­males as pos­sible par­ti­cipants in sui­cide-bomb plots, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports.

Juan Za­r­ate, a former U.S. deputy na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­viser for com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism, on Tues­day said Ibra­gimova might be just one par­ti­cipant in a lar­ger con­spir­acy hatched by the Cau­cas­us Emir­ate, an ex­trem­ist or­gan­iz­a­tion that has threatened to carry out strikes at next month’s games. The group aims to cre­ate an autonom­ous Is­lam­ic state in the North Cau­cas­us re­gion, loc­ated east of So­chi in south­ern Rus­sia.

“The Cau­cas­us Emir­ates and their vari­ous groups and op­er­at­ives … can use a vari­ety of means to at­tack, not just a vari­ety of tar­gets to fo­cus on,” said the one-time White House of­fi­cial, speak­ing at a Wash­ing­ton pan­el dis­cus­sion hos­ted by the Cen­ter for Stra­tegic and In­ter­na­tion­al Stud­ies. “They’ve used sui­cide bombers, to in­clude the now-famed black wid­ows; they’ve used teams of op­er­at­ives; they’ve used as­sault teams. They’ve vec­tored against air­planes and met­ros and trains, hos­pit­als, se­cur­ity sites.”

Za­r­ate, who sup­por­ted the de­vel­op­ment of U.S. coun­terter­ror­ism strategy from 2005 to 2009, ad­ded that fu­ture tar­gets might sim­il­arly ex­tend bey­ond the Olympics.

“You have the po­ten­tial that [Ibra­gimova is] a sin­gu­lar act­or in­ten­ded to dis­rupt, but it also could be that she’s a part of a broad­er series of sui­cide bombers who have been dis­patched to at­tack dif­fer­ent sites,” he said.

“No doubt the Rus­si­ans are fol­low­ing not just re­ports of a sin­gu­lar act­or, but mul­tiple threat threads and in­di­vidu­als that they’re con­cerned with,” said Za­r­ate, who is now a CSIS seni­or ad­viser.

Olympics del­eg­a­tions from Hun­gary and Slov­e­nia said they have re­ceived writ­ten threats, ac­cord­ing to a Wed­nes­day news re­port. The mes­sages re­portedly came in ad­di­tion to threats is­sued pre­vi­ously by the Cau­cas­us Emir­ate and oth­ers.

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