A security threat is gaining traction as a newly surfaced video warns of a potential attack on the Games. The video appears to come from a known branch of al Quaeda. But local Russian security officials are assuring that the event will be kept safe. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
SOCHI, Russia — A four-minute video posted by an ally of al Qaeda likens the Olympics of Russian President Vladimir Putin to those held under Adolf Hitler in 1936, and warns again of terror at the upcoming Sochi Games.
“Satan is with you, and he will leave you at the most inopportune moment,” says the speaker in the video, whose face is blurred. “And that moment will be coming soon.”
The video was posted earlier this month on a jihadist website but gained traction Friday, two weeks before the opening ceremony. It shows a militant, “Amin Abu Usama,” mocking how Russians have become terrified of “so-called Muslim extremists.”
“Putin has caused Russians to seriously think about life, and life is something that can end suddenly, like on a trolley bus, or along the Volga River,” the speaker says in the video.
The games will take place several hundred miles from the North Caucasus region, where militants are waging a campaign against Putin — and would love to humiliate the Russian leader during his most prominent moment on the international stage.
Russian security forces have swept through the Caucasus in recent days, and hotels in Sochi have been warned to be on the lookout for so-called “black widow” female terrorists who may be plotting attacks during the Olympics.
Putin, who is spending a reported $50 billion on the games, has vowed that they will be safe. A “ring of steel,” patrolled by roughly 40,000 Russian security forces, will protect a 1,500-square-mile area surrounding the Olympic venues.
A venue manager at the Olympic ice rink told NBC News on Thursday that Sochi will be the safest city in the world during the games, which run Feb. 7-23.
The video was recorded by the Islamic Jihad Union, an al Qaeda ally based near the Afghan-Pakistani border. It serves as an umbrella group for fighters from the Caucasus, Turkey and beyond, and has been involved in plots in Uzbekistan and Germany.
The title, in Russian, translates to something close to “In the Run-Up to the Demon Olympics 2014.”
President Barack Obama has spoken with Putin, and the United States plans to send FBI agents and diplomatic security officers to Sochi. The Navy will also position two warships in the Black Sea as a precaution.
Still, U.S. officials have stressed that responsibility for the security of the Olympics lies with Russia, and security analysts have said it is extremely unlikely that the image-conscious Putin would ask for American help, even after a terrorist attack.
Erin McClam reported from New York. Richard Engel of NBC News and NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:08 AM EST