MOSCOW -- A leading Chechen rebel called on Islamist militants in Russia's North Caucasus on Wednesday to disrupt the upcoming Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, reversing his previous appeal not to target civilians in the region.
Sochi is hosting the Winter Games in February, a pet project for President Vladimir Putin. The bill for the games stands at $51 billion, by far the most in Olympics history.
Doku Umarov, a widely known Chechen rebel leader, urged his fighters to "derail" the games, which he described as "satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors." "We have the obligation to use all means to prevent this," he said in a video posted Wednesday on a rebel website.
Last year, Umarov urged his fighters to avoid hitting civilian targets because Russians in Moscow were protesting against Putin.
Security experts have said the Islamic insurgency raging across the North Caucasus mountains that tower over Sochi is a daunting threat to the games, although rebels have not attacked Sochi so far.
Dagestan, about 300 miles east of Sochi, has become the center of the insurgency that spread across the North Caucasus region after two separatist wars in the 1990s in neighboring Chechnya. Rebels seeking to carve out a caliphate, or Islamic state, have targeted police and other officials in near-daily shootings and bombings. Umarov is believed to be their most influential leader.
"We get threats before every Olympics," said Jean-Claude Killy, head of the IOC coordination commission for Sochi "This cannot be taken lightly." -- AP