Sochi threat e-mail sent to several nations, IOC says not seen as credible

Posted at 6:48 AM, Jan 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-22 08:48:00-05

By Laura Smith-Spark and Marilia Brocchetto

(CNN) — Olympic officials in a number of countries have received an e-mail warning of a terrorist threat to Sochi visitors, the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday, but it is not viewed as credible.

The purported warning comes at a time of heightened security in Sochi, and as Russia clamps down on suspected militants in the region, including the restive republic of Dagestan.

The e-mail said that Hungarians were in danger and exposed to a terrorist threat in Sochi, Zsigmond Nagy, director for international relations for Hungary’s National Olympic Committee, told CNN.

Nagy said the Hungarian Olympic Committee had shared the letter with the organizers of the Sochi Winter Olympics as well as the IOC.

The Olympic committees for Italy and Germany also confirmed that they had received the e-mail.

The IOC said that “several” countries had received the same message but that it is not regarded as a genuine threat.

“The IOC takes security very seriously and passes on any credible information to the relevant security services,” its media service said in a prepared statement.

“However, in this case it seems like the e-mail sent to a number of NOCs (national Olympic committees) contains no threat and appears to be a random message from a member of the public.”

Nagy said Hungary’s counterterrorism agency was analyzing the e-mail. But, he said, Hungary does not intend to change its plans to attend Sochi.

In a prepared statement, Italy’s Olympic committee expressed its “serenity and confidence in the security measures that have been guaranteed by the organizers” of the Games.

Medvedev: Huge buildup of security

Russia has been battling a low-level Islamist insurgency in Dagestan and the North Caucasus region for more than a decade, and militants have vowed to strike at the Olympics.

Among those hunted by Russian security forces are three women suspected of being “black widows” — a group of women who have carried out high-profile suicide bombings after government forces killed their insurgent husbands.

Police have handed out fliers with the women’s names and pictures to hotels in Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian town through which the Olympic Torch relay is due to pass Wednesday, and in the Sochi area.

In an interview set to air Wednesday on CNN’s “Amanpour” program, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said “there are always some threats” to public events, “not only this country, but also in others.”

But Russian authorities are aware of those threats and are planning accordingly, he said.

“I am referring to the mobilization, buildup, of police forces, and a huge number of policemen will watch the progress of the Games,” Medvedev said.

Over the weekend, as President Vladimir Putin told reporters that his government has a “perfect understanding” of the threat and how to stop it, a video posted online warned that insurgents had “a present” for Olympic visitors.

CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Matt Smith and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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