Police in Sochi have distributed leaflets as they search for Ruzanna Ibragimova, an alleged “black widow” who may be intending to set off a suicide bomb at the site of next month’s Winter Olympics. Natalya Vasilyeva/AP
Is there already one or more “black widow” in or near Sochi, Russia, who might be determined to set off a suicide bomb at the site of next month’s Winter Olympics?
NPR’s Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow that Russian security forces are said to be looking for “Ruzanna Ibragimova, the 22-year-old widow of an Islamist militant who was killed by security forces.”
He tells our Newscast Desk that according to Russian news outlets:
“She was reportedly spotted in downtown Sochi, which is supposed to be under heavy security in the run-up to the Winter Games. It wasn’t clear how the woman was able to get through the security cordon around the city, or why police have been unable to locate her.
“So-called black widows — women whose husbands or family members have been killed by police — have been blamed for several suicide bomb attacks in Russia. Islamist insurgents have vowed to attack the Olympic Games.”
NBC News says it has been told by “U.S. and Russian sources” that Ibragimova may not be the only such widow who is allegedly on a suicide mission. “Russian security services may be looking for as many as four ‘black widows’ dispatched to carry out terrorist attacks related to the Winter Olympics,” NBC writes.
Meanwhile, CNN says:
“The U.S. military will have up to two warships and several transport aircraft on standby under a contingency plan to help evacuate American officials and athletes from the Winter Olympics, if ordered, a U.S. official said Monday. The State Department would take the lead in organizing and evacuating Americans, if necessary, the official with direct knowledge of the plan told CNN. …
“U.S. contingency planning calls for warships to launch helicopters to Sochi from the Black Sea. C-17 transport aircraft would be on standby in Germany and could be on the scene in about two hours.”
Concern about security may be one factor that’s depressing ticket sales to the games. The Associated Press says that:
“With less than three weeks to go until the opening ceremony, hundreds of thousands of tickets remain unsold, raising the prospect of empty seats and a lack of atmosphere at Russia’s first Winter Olympics.
“There are signs that many foreign fans are staying away, turned off by terrorist threats, expensive flights and hotels, long travel distances, a shortage of tourist attractions in the area, and the hassle of obtaining visas and spectator passes.
” ‘Some people are scared it costs too much and other people are scared because of security,’ senior International Olympic Committee member Gerhard Heiberg of Norway told The Associated Press.”