People stand in front of a board with mugshots of wanted
people in the Adler district of Sochi. REUTERS/Alexander
At least five European countries' Olympic committees and
the United States have received letters in Russian making a
"terrorist threat" before the Sochi Games, but Olympic chiefs
said they posed no danger.
Despite the assurances, the letters to committees in Italy,
Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and Slovakia briefly caused alarm
and underlined nervousness about security at the $50 billion
event on which Russian President Vladimir Putin's legacy may
The U.S. Olympic Committee later confirmed that it also
received a letter by email.
Suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in a city in
southern Russia last month, Islamist militants have
threatened to attack the Winter Games and security forces are
hunting a woman suspected of planning a suicide bombing and
of being in Sochi already.
"I am very pleased to inform everyone that both the IOC and
the Sochi organising committee ... declared after the
analysis of the letter that this threat is not real,"
Zsigmond Nagy, director of international relations at the
Hungarian Olympic Committee, told Reuters.
He said "this person has been sending all kinds of messages
to many members of the Olympic family."
The letter, he said, threatened Hungarian nationals,
competitors and officials, saying that "persons attending the
Olympic Games might be blown up."
Nagy also quoted IOC officials saying the letters had been
sent by someone living outside Russia who had carried out
such hoaxes before, but did not identify the person. He said
there was "nothing to worry about."
In addition to Hungary and the United States, Italy, Germany,
Slovakia and Slovenia said their national committees also had
received threats and all had passed them to police.
"We have received the email in question and we have forwarded
the message to the appropriate authorities," U.S. Olympic
Committee CEO Scott Blackmun told Reuters. "The safety and
security of Team USA is our top priority."
The committee is working with the U.S. State Department,
local organizers and law enforcement to protect the U.S.
delegation and other Americans traveling to Sochi, he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. lawmaker Michael McCaul, chairman
of the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee
who recently toured Sochi, told CNN he had not heard of any
threats against the U.S. Olympic team.
"Not to the U.S. Olympic team," he said from Moscow. "There
are threats. I can't go specifically into these, but not to
the American team."
The IOC, which is based in Switzerland, moved quickly to ease
concern after the first of the letters was received in
Budapest. It said it took security very seriously and passed
on any credible information to the relevant security
"However, in this case it seems like the email sent to the
Hungarian Olympic Committee contains no threat and appears to
be a random message from a member of the public," it said.
RUSSIA ON HIGH ALERT
The IOC has said it is confident that the games, opening in
Sochi on the shores of the Black Sea on Feb. 7, will be safe,
and Putin has put about 37,000 security personnel on combat
alert in the Black Sea resort and increased security
Russia also has been discussing its security operation with
the United States, and Putin, who has played a big role in
winning and organising the games, spoke about security at
Sochi with U.S. President Barack Obama by telephone on
Even so, Moscow has failed to dampen concern that it will be
able to guarantee visitors' and competitors' safety, despite
the most elaborate security preparations for an Olympics.
A militant leader, Doku Umarov, has called for insurgents
fighting for an Islamist state in Russia's North Caucasus to
attack Sochi - which lies on the western edge of the Caucasus
mountains where the insurgency is focused.
Security concerns were heightened by the suicide bombings
last month in Volgograd, a southern Russian city that serves
as a gateway to the North Caucasus, and by a video in which
the Islamist militant group which claimed responsibility for
the attacks threatened more violence.
In Sochi, which plans to host hundreds of thousands of
visitors during the games, security forces are searching for
a woman called Ruzanna Ibragimova, 23, who they suspect may
be planning a suicide attack.
She may have arrived in the Olympic host city on Jan. 11-12,
a letter seen by Reuters said.
"(She) may be used as a terrorist-suicide bomber by
(insurgency) leaders to organise terrorist acts during
preparations for and during the 2014 Winter Olympics," read
the letter, asking police to look immediately into the
The letter from Russia's Federal Security Services to local
police said she was the widow of a slain Islamist militant
and is believed to have recently left her home in Dagestan,
in the turbulent, mainly Muslim North Caucasus.
Photographs of Ibragimova show a woman in a hijab, wearing a
Some Russian media say Russian forces may also be looking for
other would-be suicide bombers known as "Black Widows", but
the reports have not been confirmed.