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Manhunt intensifies for Sochi ‘black widows’

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Following on the heels of recent reports that at least one female suicide-bomber, identified as 22-year-old Ruzana Ibragimov, is already in Sochi prepared to disrupt the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian authorities are now actively searching for three additional young Muslim women, now known as the “black widows,” who are feared to be ready to “target the final stages of the Olympic torch relay with suicide bomb attacks.”

The first black widow to be identified by authorities, Ruzana Ibragimov, “has promised to get revenge for the death of her husband, an Islamic militant killed last year by Russian security forces,” according to a Jan. 20 report from CBS News.

On Jan. 21, NBC News shared the wanted posters for the other three black widows, identified as Zaira Alieva, 26, Jhannet Tsakhaeva, 34, and Oksana Aslanova, 26. Additionally, two males who are suspected of planning the attacks - Ruslan Saufutdinov, 21, and Murad Musaev, 25 – are also shown on the wanted posters.

The posters warn that the suspected terrorists may wear clothes that do not adhere to Islamic tradition, such as long dresses and hijabs, so that they can blend and “infiltrate into places with mass gatherings without hindrances.”

Although Russia is implementing its protective “ring of steel” around Sochi, described as a “1,500-square-mile security zone that includes more than 40,000 police officers, special forces, ultra-sensitive sonar, monitoring drones and patrol boats,” U.S. security analysts are saying that the wanted posters distributed around the threatened area suggest a “gaping hole” in Sochi’s security.

“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,” said Andrei Soldatov, a Russian security expert.

“But not about the number of troops you can put on the ground.”

Fears of terrorist attacks in Sochi began in earnest when two suicide-bombers blew themselves up less than 24 hours apart in the Russian city of Volgograd on Dec. 29 and 30, killing at least 31 innocents and injuring at least 70 more.

Adding to the fears of new terrorist attacks, a video was released on Jan. 19 in which “two men claimed responsibility for twin bombings last month in the Russian city of Volgograd, and vowed they had a ‘surprise’ in store for Putin and Olympic tourists.”

"These are reportedly the young men who carried out a terror attack not far from Sochi. ... You can see them preparing a bomb and also issuing a fresh threat." ~ ABC News

Excerpts from the video include the following statements from the two men:

"We've prepared a present for you and all tourists who'll come over"

"If you will hold the Olympics, you'll get a present from us for the Muslim blood that's been spilled."

After the second suicide-bombing in Volgograd, Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, offered Russia the U.S. government’s “full support” to fight the terrorist threats aimed at the Sochi Olympics, saying “…we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants.”

Senior U.S. military officials, however, told NBC News on Monday that the likelihood that Putin would ask for help was zero.

According to CBS News though, “the FBI will have almost 40 agents stationed throughout Russia to assist with American security.”

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will be taking place Feb. 7 through 23.

For more on the Russian search for the Sochi black widows, see the video accompanying this article.

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