Terrorist threats have been emailed to the organizing committees of five European countries ahead of the Sochi Games. The International Olympic Committee said the letter contains “no real threats," adding that it is simply a “random message.”
The letters were sent out to committees in Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, and Slovakia, according to Reuters. An alarm was immediately raised, especially in the wake of the 34 deaths caused by two suicide blasts in the southern city of Volgograd last month.
Islamist militants have repeatedly threatened to strike the Games, and security forces are on high alert as they aim to track down a woman believed to be in Sochi who is suspected of planning a suicide bombing.
Militant leader Doku Umarov also contributed to fears after calling for militants to attack the sporting event - the location of which lies on the western side of the Caucasus.
However, the emails were quickly revealed to have been sent with the sole intention of stoking fears.
“I am very pleased to inform everyone that both the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and the Sochi organizing committee...declared after the analysis of the letter that this threat is not real,” Zsigmond Nagy, director of international relations at the Hungarian Olympic Committee, stated, adding that the letter in question had threatened Hungarian nationals, competitors, and officials.
Nagy added that the person responsible for issuing the threats was in fact stationed outside of Russia and had carried out similar hoaxes in the past. The identity of the person was not revealed.
The emails could undermine confidence in security at the US$50 billion sporting event. The IOC has expressed confidence in the security in place at the Olympics; some 37,000 people are on combat alert in the southern Black Sea resort of Sochi.
During the Winter Olympics, Russia’s security forces will cooperate with their foreign counterparts, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated.
“We have permanent round-the-clock headquarters maintaining contact with colleagues from the foreign countries’ corresponding services and army units. By the way, these colleagues are represented in the headquarters, there is, I repeat, a direct professional interaction,” Putin said on Sunday.