Black Widows in Sochi
A new scare has arisen concerning four “black widows” who are making their way to Sochi as suicide bombers, one of which may have already slipped in.With the Winter Olympics slated to start on Feb. 7, tensions surrounding adequate security for the event are on the rise. “Black widow” is the term applied to widows of slain terrorists. They are routinely recruited as suicide bombers, coerced by the notion of “joining their husbands in paradise.”
With Russia reeling from its own terrorist attacks, wanting to play it close to the vest with Olympic security seems hardly a wise decision. The U.S. has urged further cooperation with Russian security forces and have worked on contingency plans for the evacuation of Americans should a worst-case scenario arise. Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, claims that Russian security forces are very nationalistic about security at the Olympics, and views protection of the venues as “their turf.”
Considering recent events, how effective will Russian security be without aid? In late December 2013, the city of Volgograd suffered two successful terrorist attacks. A suicide bomber blew up a train station, killing over 16, and less than 24 hours later, another explosion took apart a trolley bus, killing over 13. These were attacks carried out in heavily populated areas of the city, and illustrates that terrorists can pick any target they choose and hit it with relative immunity—not counting their own deaths in the process.
In a pre-Olympics sweep for militants, three security officers and four gunmen were killed in Southern Russia during a shootout, a situation that does not seem to bode well for security at the Olympics itself. A war of attrition for securing venues of major events is not successful security. Likely, many more ground-level clashes such as this one will continue up to, and possibly during, the Winter Olympics.
The city of Sochi borders Georgia/Abkhazia and Russia, along the Black Sea coast, a region that has been historically unstable. With all the unrest in the nearby Caucasus Mountains, the choice of this location for the Winter Olympics seems a bit like tempting fate. Vladimir Putin, however, has assured the public he will do everything he can to ensure the safety of the participants and attendees. The scare of these black widows in Sochi hardly seems to phase him.
Currently, Russian authorities are circulating wanted posters for the four black widows and warning hotels that they may be potential targets. A video released by the separatists warns of a “present” being sent to Sochi, clearly indicating they are targeting the Olympics. One of the black widows is reported to have been seen in a Sochi plaza.
Black widows are particularly worrisome because of their ability to get into locations virtually undetected, since they don’t visually fit the profile of a typical militant. As suicide bombers, their lives mean nothing to them, only accomplishing what they perceive as “Allah’s will” and joining their husbands in paradise. If these four black widows manage to accomplish their objectives, the resultant psychological effect on the world at large would be incalculable.
Editorial by Lee Birdine