UK & World News

  • 6 February 2014, 18:05

'Toothpaste Bomb' Fears Over Russia Flights

Terrorists could be trying to place explosives disguised as toothpaste on Russia-bound flights, the US Government has warned.

An intelligence official saidinformation suggested terrorists were "specifically targeting flights to Russia" as the Winter Olympics get under way.

It is understood the toothpaste tubes could hold ingredients that could be used to make a bomb during a flight.

The official did not say whether any specific intelligence led to the warning.

Vladimir Putin has insisted Russia is ready to host the Winter Olympics as Sochi enters a state of virtual siege ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.

Islamist militants have vowed to stop the games by any means.

Chechen warlord Doku Umarov has urged his followers to use "maximum force" to attack what he called "satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors".

The skiing and snowboarding events are being held in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia'smost volatile region.

A senior US counter-terrorism official has said they are tracking a number of specific threats, of varying degrees of credibility.

Russian security forces have imposed a special administration zone around the Black Sea resort, in an attempt to build a "ring of steel" to protect the games.

The skies above Sochi are patrolled by helicopters and drones.

The silhouettes of Russian naval ships, controlling the approaches by sea, can be seen on the horizon.

Checkpoints have been set up on all the roads leading towards the town, with every vehicle stopped, searched, and swept for explosives.

Anti-aircraft missile defences are positioned in the hills above.

But Russian security analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told Sky News the measures were no guarantee the games would be safe.

"Getting in there right now is impossible but we don't know for sure if there are embedded cells already in Sochi," he said.

"Maybe they have inserted explosives in the sporting items as they were being built.

"Right now everything is under control but it is not 100% guaranteed because we don't know what the terrorists have prepared in advance.

"The main problem for the security services is that they don't have information from inside the terror networks."

The primary terrorist threat is thought to come from Umarov'sCaucasus Emirate group -an Islamist insurgent organisation based close to Sochi in Russia's North Caucasus.

He claimed he ordered suicide bomb attacks on Moscow's metro system in 2010, along with the bombing of the capital's Domodedovo airport in 2011.

Militants from a faction called Vilayat Dagestan claim they carried out two suicide attacks in Volgograd, in part because of Umarov's order to disrupt the games, although they did not say he had specifically directed them.

The Volgograd bombing in December killed 34 people in co-ordinated attacks at bus and train stations.

Ekaterina Sokorianskaia, North Caucasus Director for the International Crisis Group, said: "It's a region-wide insurgency that operates not only in Checnhya, but in seven other regions of the north caucasus and its main goal is to create a state, an Islamist state, based on Sharia - and to separate from Russia."

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