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MOSCOW, July 4 (Itar-Tass) - Armed militants in the North Caucasus have addressed the Russian authorities with a threat to disrupt the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Experts believe, though, that the terrorists are unlikely to go farther than threats.
North Caucasus warlord Doku Umarov has placed a video message on the Internet to declare that he was cancelling the moratorium on terrorist attacks in Russia. He vowed he would exert every effort to upset the Sochi Olympics, where “contests will be held on the bones of killed North Caucasus people.”
“We, mojahedin fighters, are obliged to use every resort Allah will permit to prevent this from happening,” Umarov said.
Umarov included Russia’s civilian population in the list of his enemies back after the terrorist bomb blast at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on January 24, 2011, for which he claimed responsibility. However, on February 2, 2012 Umarov ordered his subordinates to refrain from attacking civilian targets, because many signs of civil protest against the authorities’ policies were much in sight in Russia at that time.
In his previous messages Umarov said that some major terrorist attacks committed of late, including the explosion that derailed the Nevsky Express train in 2009, and the Domodedovo airport blast in January 2011, were staged on his orders.
The warlord is on the federal wanted list on charges of robbery, murder, kidnapping, terrorism, calls for the overthrow of legal authorities and the incitement of ethnic discord. In messages addressed to his followers Umarov has said more than once that he was waging Holy Jihad with the aim to defend Islam and free the Muslim land of the Caucasus from the rule of the infidels.
There has been a reaction to this statement from the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. He said that even if Umarov succeeded in attaining his aims, he would in the first place affect Chechnya’s chances to host major public and sports activities. Last year Chechnya hosted 350 events involving over five million people - local residents and guests. There were no incidents. This year there have been about 200 sports events and political activities, which gathered a total of 300,000.
“I believe that that’s nothing but tongue-wagging. Umarov is trying to keep people anxious. Some of his Western handlers had told him to make such a statement in order to be able play their dirty games in the future,” Kadyrov said with certainty. In his opinion, Russia’s preparedness to host such an event is not to the liking of “western, European” enemies, and they are using Doku Umarov as a “handy tool.”
Earlier, Kadyrov declared that eliminating Umarov was his old-time dream and that he would feel sorry if that man died a natural death.
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in response to Umarov’s statement that the special services and law enforcement agencies of Russia were conducting a package of measures to ensure the safety of citizens, in particular, during major sports events. The NAC said special attention was being paid to preparations for and to holding major sporting activities on the international scale.
A year ago Russia’s federal security service FSB and Abkhazia’s state security service said they had upset an attempt by Umarov’s militants to stage terrorist attacks near Sochi. Ten caches containing weapons were said to have been seized then.
A highly critical report by Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, published last May, pointed to the militants’ terrorist threat as one of the seven risks capable of upsetting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
A source in Russia’s law enforcement has told Itar-Tass in the wake of Umarov’s video Russian security agencies and police were closely monitoring all likely threats by militants on the Internet.
“These days, after a string of successful security sweeps the militants operating underground have lost much of their original strength. They go to great lengths to regain some of their original acclaim by posting such messages on the Internet,” he said. At the same time the official acknowledged that ruling out such a threat altogether would be very wrong, so “all possible measures, including pre-emptive ones, are being taken to upset malicious designs.”
“Umarov’s statement looks very much like a provocation,” the portal Pravda.RU quotes Islamic studies expert Alexei Malashenko as saying. “For the real militants in the field Umarov is of no great authority, but one cannot help but wonder what line of action they will choose after such a statement. If they decide to act, they will do so largely on their own, regardless of what Umarov may be saying. In his opinion all this looks like some sort of grand stand play. Apparently, they are just trying to scare the athletes and the spectators. Besides, this warning will merely evoke tighter security measures.
The head of the center for Caucasus Studies at the Russian State Humanitarian University, Ismail Agakishiyev, has told the news agency Dialog no real action will follow Umarov’s call for disrupting the Sochi Olympics. “I believe that there is nothing serious behind this ominously looking statement. That’s just a threat. In reality there can happen nothing like that. I believe everything will be normal in that respect. There will be no problems,” Agakishiyev believes.
The expert also said that Umarov’s real purpose must be to induce an international boycott of the Sochi Games by many of the invited countries.
“That was done on purpose, with the aim to force some countries to refuse to participate. But I believe that security will be guaranteed by and large. It will be a great happening,” Agakishiyev said.