Winter Olympics 2014: Airlines warned of possible toothpaste bombs

US Homeland Security issues threat warning ahead of start of Sochi Games
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The US Homeland Security Department is warning airlines flying to Russia during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that terrorists could attempt to smuggle explosives on board flights by hiding them in toothpaste tubes.

The alert was passed on to airlines running direct flights to Russia, including some that originate in the United States, according to a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the airlines have been warned that explosive devices concealed in the tubes could be assembled in flight or upon arrival at the Olympics.

The department said in a statement that the US is not aware of a "specific threat" to the homeland at this time, but "this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority." It said the department “regularly shares information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics.”

The White House National Security Council spokeswoman, Laura Magnuson, told US media: "If we should receive information in the coming days and weeks that changes our assessment of whether people should travel to Sochi, we will make that information public."

Delta Airlines is the only US carrier with a direct flight from the United States to Moscow. Russian airlines Aeroflot and Transaero both operate several non-stop flights from the US.

United Airlines, the official airline of the US Olympic team, does not have scheduled service to Russia but is operating some charter flights to Sochi.

The warning became public on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Last week, Whitehall officials warned terrorist attacks were "very likely to occur" in Russia either before or during the Games as part of a threat assessment. Olympic committees in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and the UK also received messages threatening their delegations at the Winter Olympics, but these were dismissed by officials as unfounded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged the Games will be safe, and Russian authorities are deploying up to 60,000 law enforcement personnel around Sochi as part of a major security operation until 23 February. As part of their “ring of steel” operation, the city has been closed off to all vehicles not registered in the city since 7 January.


Additional reporting by Associated Press