Police in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus say they have killed a senior Islamist militant as part of a crackdown ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee says Eldar Magatov was killed on January 21 in a gun battle against security forces in Daghestan.
Magatov was named as the alleged leader of an insurgent group in Daghestan’s Babyurt district.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities also have named four woman as suspected “black widows” who are thought to be planning terrorist attacks in or near the Sochi Olympics.
They were identified as Ruzanna Ibragimova, Zaira Allieva, and Dzannet Tshakhaeva from Daghestan, and Oksana Aslanova from Turkmenistan.
The women are being called “black widows” because their husbands all have been killed by Russian forces in the North Caucasus as suspected Islamic militants.
Russian authorities say they fear the women may try to avenge their husbands’ deaths by attempting terrorist attacks on the Winter Olympics.
Police have been distributing posters in the region with photographs of all four women and saying they may be dressed in Western clothing to distract attention from their conservative Islamist beliefs.
Ibragimova, who reportedly walks with a limp, is thought by Russian authorities to have reached the city of Sochi in recent days after slipping through Russian security check points in the region.
In related news, national Olympic committees across Europe say they have received e-mail messages threatening their athletes with terrorist attacks.
Officials said on January 22 that the messages urged the sports delegations to stay away from the Winter Olympics, which start on February 7 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Countries to which such e-mails were sent included Hungary, Germany, Austria, and Italy.
The International Olympic Committee said, however, that the e-mail sent to Hungary’s Olympic Committee (HOC) contains no threat and seemed more like a "random message from a member of the public."
An HOC official said the Russian organizing committee had declared the threat as "not real."
Based on reporting by Reuters, CNN, NBC-TV, AP, AFP, and ITAR-TASS.