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BEIRUT, Lebanon — Russian security services are increasingly concerned that Islamist militants from the Northern Caucasus will launch attacks in major Russian cities in an effort to draw security from the southern Russian resort city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are to take place.
Regional analysts say that the Federal Security Service, or FSB, has placed major security assets in Sochi, which is only 250 miles from the predominantly Muslim northern Caucasus provinces of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and South Ossetia in southern Russia.
The winter Olympics are to take place from Feb. 07-23, 2014. Moscow will also host the Paralympics in Sochi from Mar. 7-21, 2014. This event, too, will require extensive security.
Adding to this concern is the prospect that battled-hardened Chechens, and other north Caucasus Islamist militants who have gained fighting experience in Syria, will descend on Russia to launch attacks.
The indication is that attacks would be launched in major Russian cities in an effort to draw security forces from the Olympic area, which then could be the subject of attack itself, as promised by Dokku Umarov, leader of the militant Caucasus Emirates.
The Olympics are to be a showcase of Russia’s security capabilities. However, it could leave surrounding regions such as the North Caucasus and such major Russian cities as Moscow and St. Petersburg vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
“Militants from the Caucasus striking elsewhere in Russia during the games to avoid the intense security that will be present in Sochi and to capitalize on news coverage of the highly publicized event poses the greatest threat to the games,” according to a report by the open-intelligence group Stratfor.
The FSB is expected to have some 100,000 security personnel helping to ensure security of the athletes and spectators who will be coming from around the world.
“Caucasus militants remain a tactical threat to Russian security, having carried out effective attacks inside the Caucasus – particularly Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, as well as the Russian heartland – that mainly target Russian police and soft targets like mosques, shopping malls and transportation hubs throughout the region,” the Stratfor report said.
However, Umarov in a video last July said that he would resume attacks on civilian targets. In years past, the Caucasus militants have been known to have successfully attacked the Moscow subway, Moscow’s international airport and a Moscow theater.
In addition, Umarov in that video called on his fighters to stop Russia from holding the Sochi Olympics altogether.
In May 2012, Russian security forces stopped a plot by Umarov’s fighters to plan an attack on the Olympics. The Chechens had hidden weapons in the nearby breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia to be used for an attack on the Olympics once it began.
Russian security forces seized portable surface-to-air missiles, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, grenades, rifles and maps. Additional hidden weapons caches also may exist in areas surrounding Sochi and in other parts of Russia.
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