US Travel Alert Now Mentions the Black Widow

Jan 24, 2014 8:14pm

The U.S. State Department has updated its travel alert for Americans heading to the Winter Olympics in Sochi – following news that Russian authorities are hunting for a suspected “black widow” suicide-bomb plotter.

In its “terrorism” section, the new alert includes language about the “black widow” suspect, bolded below:

TERRORISM: Large-scale public events such as the Olympics present an attractive target for terrorists, and the U.S. government continues to monitor reported threats of potential terrorist attacks in Sochi or in Russia in general. Acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage takings, continue to occur in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region. Between October 15 and December 30, 2013, there were three suicide bombings targeting public transportation in the city of Volgograd (600 miles from Sochi), two of which occurred within the same 24-hour period.In early January 2014, media reports emerged about the possible presence of so-called “black widow” suicide bombers in Sochi. These reports have not been corroborated, and the U.S. government continues to seek further information. Other bombings over the past 10-15 years occurred at Russian government buildings, airports, hotels, tourist sites, markets, entertainment venues, schools, and residential complexes. There have also been large-scale attacks on public transportation including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights, in the same time period.

The updated alert replaces one issued January 10. Both warnings include general advice for travelers to beware of crime, but also references to the Volgograd bombings and a warning to be “remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation.”

Here’s the same section of the old alert:

TERRORISM: Large-scale public events such as the Olympics present an attractive target for terrorists. Russian authorities have indicated that they are taking appropriate security measures in Sochi in light of this. Acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage takings, continue to occur in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region. Between October 15 and December 30, 2013, there were three suicide bombings targeting public transportation in the city of Volgograd (600 miles from Sochi), two of which occurred within the same 24-hour period. Other bombings over the past 10-15 years occurred at Russian government buildings, airports, hotels, tourist sites, markets, entertainment venues, schools, and residential complexes.

At the time of this posting, the State Department had not updated its Sochi travel alert online. It maintains its Russian Federation travel alert here and a hub page for Sochi travelers here.

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