Russia has suffered a huge increase in terrorists attacks the past 10 years, says a new report that underscores the threat athletes and tourists face at next week's Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland said Thursday that attacks have spiked from 50 in 2003 to more than 250 in 2010. The country felt the blow of 150 attacks in 2012.
"The frequency of terrorist attacks in Russia has been steadily increasing over the past two decades," the report states.
On Thursday, Russia's counterterrorism agency identified the two suicide bombers who hit the southern city of Volgograd and announced the arrest of two suspected accomplices. About 34 people were killed in the late December attacks on a train station and a trolley bus.
Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee said suspected bombers Asker Samedov and Suleiman Magomedov were members of an terrorist group based in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic that has become the center of an Islamic insurgency.
The committee said two brothers, Magomednabi and Tagir Batirov, were detained Wednesday in Dagestan on suspicion of helping the suicide bombers travel to Volgograd, about 400 miles to the north of Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin next Friday.
The group Vilayat Dagestan — part of the Caucasus Emirate, an Islamic separatist group — claimed responsibility for the blasts, and has threatened attacks against the Olympics.
According to the National Consortium report, terrorists in Russia have struck nearly 1,900 times and killed more than 3,800 people since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Attacks have spanned the country's populated western section, from St. Petersburg south to Moscow and further south to the terrorist-infested Caucasus region. In fact, the regions closest to Sochi — Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia — logged the lion's share of terror attacks since 1992, at 1,339. Moscow sat fourth with 163. The perpetrators are often unknown in Russia or there is no information available.
Of the groups that are known, most consist of Islamic extremists, such as the Caucasus Emirate, and the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
Twenty attacks were carried out by "black widows" — female suicide bombers tied to Chechen separatists. Russia last week sounded the alarm that a "black widow" may be on the loose in Sochi and determined to kill. Her predecessors have killed nearly 700 people since 1992.
al Qaeda-linked groups have called on followers to carry out attacks on athletes, security personnel and tourists. Hitting tourists would be a departure for Russian terrorists who typically go after Russians, with particular focus on police and government workers.
The report has good historical news for Sochi.
"The locations of the Olympic Games are quite safe with respect to terrorism," it says. "In five Olympic venues there were no terrorist attacks reported ... during the Olympics, six months prior to the Olympics, or during the same time period the previous year."
"The analysis indicates that there is no consistent increase or decrease in the frequency of terrorist attacks during the Olympics, suggesting that efforts to reinforce security are generally effective at mitigating any potential threats that may exist," the report adds.
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