Friday, January 3, 2014

Terror from the Caucuses

The terror attacks in Volgograd, Russia, earlier this week, have raised concerns about possible attacks on the Sochi Winter Olympics. According to the BBC, no group has claimed responsibility, although the terrorists are believed to have come from the North Caucuses; and Russian authorities have rounded up 700 people as part of their investigation.

Although most of the attention has been on the bombings in Volgograd on December 29 and 30, 2013, there was separate car bombing on December 27, 2013, in Pyatigorsk, a Russian city 170 miles east of Sochi. The latter story also links the Volgograd bombings earlier this week with an bombing in Volgograd in October 2013:
In October, another female suicide bomber was blamed for a bus explosion in Volgograd that killed five people. 
The blasts on Sunday and Monday were probably connected because the TNT and shrapnel-packed bombs were "identical," said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency. 
"That confirms the investigators' version that both terrorist attacks were linked," he told Russian television. "They could have been prepared in one place."
There are some clues, however, that terrorists may be planning something more spectacular for the Sochi Olympics. Earlier in December, the Debka File claimed that Al Qaeda in Syria has sarin gas, and may be planning on using at the Sochi Olympics:
[T]he ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced Monday, Dec. 4, the formation of a special unit to deal with “Syrian radicals”- both within the North Caucasus republic and abroad. 
He added: “Members of the special unit will be ready to interfere in the Syrian conflict if such operation is authorized by the Russian president.” 
DEBKAfile’s counter-terrorism sources explain that President Putin is loath to drop a Russian intervention force into Syria and risk upsetting his sensitive understandings with the Obama administration on Syria. He is therefore planning to send out a Chechen force to deal with the Chechens and other North Caucasian jihadists who are fighting under the al Qaeda flag in Syria and now gearing up, according to Russian and Syrian intelligence, for a spectacular attack on the Sochi Olympic Games. 
According to some reports, Al Qaeda in Syria has got hold of sarin nerve gas and is ready to use it. 
This was confirmed by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in an article he published in London on Dec. 8. 
He quoted “a large number of American intelligence officials” who said that “the chemical attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, in which more than 150 people died, may not have been carried out by Bashar Assad’s army but by Jabhat al Nusra [Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch].” 
A senior intelligence consultant told the reporter: “Already by late May… the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta.” 
DEBKAfile reports that both these organizations have enlisted many Chechen and North Caucasian members to fight in Syria.

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