Sochi 2014: The Terrorist Threat

Al Qaeda-inspired Chechen jihadists are eager to sow mayhem.

There’s been no shortage of political controversy surrounding the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympic Games. But the tensions are obscuring a potentially vitally important security issue: Could the Sochi 2014 Games become another Olympics where terrorists exploit it to propagate their political views?

In 1972, the Olympic spirit of peace and international cooperation was shattered with the murder of eleven Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Aiming for the release of prisoners held in Israeli and German jails, Black September used the Munich games to call attention to the demands for a Palestinian state. Today the justified fear is that the Caucasus Emirate—Russia’s own Islamist terrorist organization seeking to create a caliphate throughout the North Caucasus and certain parts of Russia—will attack the Olympics to bolster its standing and visibility.

The Emirate’s predecessors were responsible for some of the most atrocious and reprehensible examples of religiously inspired violence: the 2002 Moscow theater siege (130 hostages killed), and the 2004 Beslan school siege (331 killed, mostly children). The Caucasus Emirate was formed in 2007 and was the culmination of a gradual evolution towards an Al Qaeda- and radical-Islam-inspired ideology from its genesis in nationalist resistance to Russian control. And the Emirate’s Leader, Doku Umarov, has continued his predecessor’s policy of terrorist attacks outside of the North Caucasus; altering the insurgency from a Chechen orientation into one encompassing the whole of the North Caucasus, “We consider the CE and Russia as a single theater of war...We are not in a hurry. The path has been chosen, we know our tasks, and we will not turn back, Insha’Allah, from this path. Today, the battlefield is not just Chechnya and the Caucasus Emirate, but also the whole [of] Russia. The situation is visible to everybody who has eyes. The Jihad is spreading, steadily and inevitably, everywhere.”