WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell is calling the Sochi Olympics “the most dangerous Olympics” he’s ever seen.
Speaking to “CBS This Morning” on Monday, Morell warned of a dedicated terrorist group looking to cause chaos during the winter games.
“I think these are the most dangerous Olympics that I’ve experienced in my adult life,” Morell told CBS News. “You have a capable, dedicated, determined terrorist group that has been around for a long time that recently conducted two attacks in Russia (and) who say they want to attack during the games.”
Morell believes that the most vulnerable targets are sites away from the Olympics.
“With 40,000 Russian security personnel at the Olympics, I think the venue itself is fairly safe,” Morell stated. “I’d worry about airports elsewhere in Russia, I’d worry about western hotels elsewhere in Russia. That’s where I would put my focus.”
Despite the security concerns, Morell said he would go to the Sochi Olympics with his family, but would be extra vigilant.
“I would be very careful, I’d be very aware of my surroundings,” Morell said. “If somebody put a package down or a backpack down, I would walk away from it as fast as I could and I’d inform the security personnel. I’d also watch people’s behavior and if there was anything concerning I would walk away.”
Because of the security concerns surrounding the Olympics, some American athletes are telling their families to stay home, including NHL players Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and speedskater Turner Fredricks.
“You hear all these stories about different things, and it’s definitely a concern,” Suter said. “But at the same time, I feel that the U.S. government and the Russian government is going to do everything in their power to protect us.”
Athletes have been warned not to wear their American gear outside of the Olympic village as to not be targeted.
Russia remains on high alert as security officials hunt down three potential female suicide bombers, one of whom is believed to be in Sochi.
Police leaflets seen by an Associated Press reporter at a central Sochi hotel contain warnings about three potential suicide bombers. A police letter said that one of them, Ruzanna Ibragimova, a 22-year-old widow of an Islamic militant, was at large in Sochi.
Russian authorities have blamed the so-called “black widows” of slain insurgents for previous suicide attacks in the country.
The Black Sea resort town will host the games amid concerns about security and potential terrorist attacks.
The southern city of Volgograd was rocked by two suicide bombings in late December, which killed 34 and injured scores more. An Islamic militant group in Dagestan posted a video on Sunday claiming responsibility for the bombings and threatened to strike the games in Sochi, about 300 miles west of Dagestan.
Police material distributed to the hotel staff included pictures of two other women in veils: 26-year-old Zaira Aliyeva and 34-year-old Dzhannet Tsakhayeva. It said they had been trained “to perpetrate acts of terrorism.”
It warned that the two women “are probably among us,” but, unlike Ibragimova’s case, did not say if they are in Sochi.
No further information was provided about the two women or their motivation. The term “black widow” refers to the belief that women who have carried out past suicide attacks in Russia did so to avenge the deaths of husbands or other male relatives.
The Olympics are to be held Feb. 7-23. Russia has mounted an intense security operation in the city, but concern persists that “soft targets” outside the Olympic venues, such as buses and tourist facilities, are vulnerable to attack.
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