Airlines have been warned to stay on the look out for explosives that terrorists might use on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.
On Thursday, the Transportation Security Administration temporarily banned liquids, gels and aerosols aboard any flight between the U.S. and Russia. The ban came one day after a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bulletin that warned airlines to be on alert for explosive materials hidden in toothpaste tubes.
The word of warning comes on the eve of the opening ceremonies with concerns that terrorists may smuggle explosives on board and into the Olympic site. Currently, the only group to openly threaten an attack on the games is the Caucasus Emirate — a loose network of Islamists operating in southern Russia with suspected ties to al-Qaida. Other Chenchen extremist groups have come forward pledging revenge for attacks against Muslims in Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
The safety of hosting the games in and around southern Russia has been put into question by members of Congress after reports of “Black widow” terrorists and in the wake of a suicide bombing in December that killed 34 people at a train station about 400 miles north of Sochi.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a member of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives, raised eyebrows when he encouraged Americans not to visit the games in Sochi because the risk of an attack.
“Just as a spectator, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” he told CNN. “Odds are nothing is going to happen, but the odds are higher than for any other Olympics.”
Thursday afternoon, Calif. Sen. Diane Feinstein — chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee — told CNN that she read reports from intelligence agencies and urged Americans visiting Sochi to keep up their guard.
“People going to the Olympics should be careful. I think they should watch their backs, I think they should stay out of crowds if they can. If I had a son or daughter performing in the Olympics, I would go. Now that I don’t, I probably would not,” said Feinstein.
U.S. warships have entered the Black Sea ahead of the games, in case of an attack.