This Saturday Russian security forces killed Zaira Alieva, a woman suspected of planning a suicide bombing targeting the Sochi games. However, Russian authorities are still trying to hunt down two other so-called “Black Widows,” Islamist women who are purportedly seeking to terrorize the Sochi games after the Russian military killed their husbands. Here’s what you need to know about the ‘Widows’ and the threat they pose:
1. Russia Has Deployed Troops to Rostov-On-Don
Rostov-on-Don is the 120th stop for the Olympic torch, 350 miles and 16 stops north of Sochi. Russia suspects that the Black Widows will target one of these torch stops, which are much more difficult to defend than the games themselves.
According to NBC News, Russia had planned to establish a “ring of steel” around the Sochi games, a 1,500-square-mile security zone encompassing 40,000 police officers, special forces, drones, boats, and ultra-sensitive sonar.
Russian security expert Andrei Soldatov told NBC News: “The problem is that when you need to stop a lone-wolf suicide bomber, you need to think about government intelligence. You need to think about preventive measures. But not about the number of troops you can put on the ground.”
2. East of Sochi Is the Volatile Caucasus Region
The problem of Islamic extremism in the Caucasus region of Russia recently came to the attention of the American media, after two Caucasion-American Muslim men bombed the Boston Marathon last April.
In a 2013 poll, a majority of the region’s Muslim inhabitants (57%) said they were concerned about religious extremist groups in their country.
Russia has conducted targeted operations to kill the leadership of militant groups in the region, but Andrew Weiss told NBC that these leaders are easily replaced, as “plenty of foot soldiers and volunteers” are ready to take their places.
3. A Video of Terrorists Threatening the Games Surfaced Sunday
The video shows two men claiming responsibility for twin bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd last month, and announcing that they had a surprise in store for Putin and Olympic spectators.
In Volgograd 14 were killed in the bombing of a trolley bus, 17 more dying a day later when the city’s central station was bombed. Earlier in January, the bodies of three men and explosive material were found in a vehicle in Maryinskaya in Stavropol provinve, 150 miles from Sochi.
4. The Women May Be Disguised as Conventional Spectators
The posters of the Widows released by the Russian police warn that they may not be wearing traditional Islamic garb, but may instead be more liberally dressed, so as to more inconspicuously “infiltrate into places with mass gatherings without hindrances.”
The women’s names are Jhannet Tsakhaeva, 34, from Dagestan, and Oksana Aslanova, 26 from Turkmenistan. The Russian police have also identified two men, Ruslan Saufutdinov, 21, and Murad Musaev, 25, who they suspect are planning an attack in southern Russia.
5. The U.S. Has Offered To Loan Russia Military Help
On Monday, The Pentagon announced the U.S. has offered American air and naval assets, including two ships in the Black Sea, as potential support for Russian efforts to combat terrorist threats ahead of the games. However, one U.S. military offical told NBC News he believed the likelihood of Putin asking for such help was somewhere around zero.