U.S., European security officials worry about Sochi-related attacks

Thu Feb 6, 2014 7:01pm EST
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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Intelligence agencies believe attacks by militants during the Sochi Winter Olympics are highly likely, but will probably be aimed at "softer" targets elsewhere in Russia, such as public transportation or other civilian venues, U.S. and European officials said.

Several U.S. and European security officials said that last-minute intelligence reports about possible Olympics-related attacks have continued to flow into Western agencies and that U.S. and European agencies take them very seriously.

"I'm more concerned now than a week ago," one U.S. official said on Thursday. He said there are multiple militant groups who have indicated they intend to carry out attacks during the Games. The official and other officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The U.S. official added that, while security at the Olympic venues is formidable, there are potential soft targets not far outside the Olympic perimeter where militants might be able to attack, attracting huge media coverage.

At a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center said, "We think the ... greater danger from a terrorist perspective is in potential for attacks to occur outside of the actual venues of the games themselves in the area surrounding Sochi or outside of Sochi in the region."

Other officials said the Russian capitol, Moscow, could be high on militants lists' of potential targets.

In a sign of heightened concern, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is temporarily banning all liquids, aerosols, gels and powders in carry-on luggage on flights between Russia and the United States, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official said on Thursday.

"As always, our security posture, which at all times includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond and appropriately adapt to protect the American people from an ever evolving threat picture," the official said.   Continued...

A Russian soldier stands in front of the flags during the welcoming ceremony for the U.S Olympic team in the Athletes Village at the Olympic Park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh