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How serious is the threat to the Olympic Games?

15 January 2014 15:30 (UTC+04:00)
How serious is the threat to the Olympic Games?

By Claude Salhani

Senior editor of the English service of Trend Agency

In ancient Greece the Athenians and Spartans would suspend wars to partake in the Olympic Games. This is a long way from today's antagonists who will use the Games to win some notoriety and blood-stained publicity.

Indeed. Modern warfare has made many technological advances but regrettably modern day warriors have regressed in their morality. It seems that today anything and everything is fair game in war and the rule book, if there ever was one, just went out the window.

As the Winter Olympic Games that are to be held in Sochi, Russia approach, so too does the worry of terrorist activity by politicized Islamist groups, namely a promise made by Doku Umarov, aka Warrior-1, Abu Muslim and Aisa, and his Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz) a group that has emerged in 2007 in the Russian Autonomous Republic of Ichkeria. CE is seeking to have an independent state governed under Shariah law and to spread global jihad.
The Causasus Emirate is more of an umbrella group rather than a structured organization, according to the Terrorism and Analysis Consortium. CE gathers a number of ethic and nationalist groups under its wings, including groups like Yarmuk (Kabardino-Bakjaria) Jamaat, Dagestan Shariah Jamaat, Ingush Jamaat, and Riyad us-Saliheyn, the latter is known for its suicide bombing,

It is widely believes that the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up killing more than 34 people in the Russian city of Volgograd belonged to one of those groups. Their area of operations is spread across six areas in the North Caucasus, spread across Chechnya, Ingushetia and North Ossetia, Nogay Steppe (Northern Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai), Cherkess and Southern Krasnodar Krai, Dagestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay. They call these "vilayets," a Turkish word meaning provinces. Those in turn report to their respective emirs who report to the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, Doku Umarov.
The Russians have had limited success is tracking down and eliminating local rebel leadership. As TRAC points out, "in Dagestan the "republic" leader hardly ever survives for more than one year."

If Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it a point of honor to guarantee that the Winter Games in Sochi would unfold without a hitch. Umarov has equally promised to see that it does not.

In a video released on July 3, 2013, Umarov urges his fighters to "do their utmost to derail' the (Sochi Olympic) Games." The guerrilla leader said, "We have an obligation to use all means to prevent this."

Moscow is taking the threats very seriously and Putin ahs ordered the dispatch of some 35,000 security personnel between Interior Ministry troops undercover security personnel and special forces. Two security parameters have been set up around the Olympic sites and every vehicle and everyone who enters must be pre-cleared and will undergo some of the strictest security measures.

No doubt that for the terrorists to launch an attack at this time on a city that has turned into the largest armed camp in the world must be quite a challenge. After all what better way to mark points and get noticed? What better way to grab the world's attention than to strike while the world's cameras are focused right there? Almost too tempting to resist.

On the other hand it would be suicidal to attempt anything during the Games given some of the incredibly strict security that will be in place? For the Russian president it would be a terrible loss of face if in spite of all the security measures taken, the terrorists were still able to strike. But it would be a terrible loss of face for the terrorists if they did not strike. We did say that it would be suicidal to attempt an attack during the Games? Yes, certainly, but isn't that what suicide bombers do?

Would it not be better is today's warriors were to put aside their grievances and emulate the ancient Athenians and Spartans and if only for the Game? The ancient Greeks were indeed wiser. But then again, their athletes did compete in the nude.

Claude Salhani is a journalist and political analyst specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and terrorism. He is senior editor of the English service of the Trend Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan. Follow him on Twitter

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