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'Black Widow' Threat Hangs Over Sochi

Less than three weeks before the Winter Olympics are set to begin in the Russian city of Sochi, police there have begun hunting for suspected terrorists allegedly plotting attacks. Among them is at least one black widow, the term Russians use for female suicide bombers seeking to avenge their husbands' deaths at the hands of the security services.

The warning followed one bombing in Pyatigorsk and three in Volgograd that have killed more than 40 people since October. The threat emanates from the North Caucasus region, where a homegrown insurgency is fighting to establish an Islamic state. On Jan. 20, a website linked to the insurgency posted a video of two men claiming responsibility for the Volgograd bombings and threatening Olympic tourists with more attacks.

The state has responded with what it calls a ring of steel around Sochi's venues, sending some 40,000 security personnel to the area, along with surveillance drones, navy patrol boats and antiaircraft batteries. On Jan. 17, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would do "whatever it takes" to protect the Games. Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed security measures in a telephone conversation on Jan. 21; the two nations are sharing intelligence and weighing whether to share special antiterrorist equipment as well.

The worry is that terrorists are adept at blending in. Of the six posters being circulated in Sochi, four depict female suspects, including a 22-year-old whose Islamist husband was reportedly killed last year. She fits the textbook profile of a black widow.


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