By Brigitte L. Nacos
When members of the Palestinian Black September group forced their way into the living quarters of Israel’s Olympic team during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, killed two athletes and took nine others hostage, Germany’s security forces were utterly unprepared to deal with the crisis. As a result the hostage holders managed to kill those nine Israelis and one German policeman before they themselves were either killed or captured.
For four decades the official version had it that the attack was a complete surprise for the German authorities. But in July 2012, the news magazine DER SPIEGEL revealed in a cover story that the German government and the intelligence community had been warned by an informant weeks in advance of a Palestinian plan for “an incident” during the Olympics.
This is the cover of the Spiegel issue announcing the explosive revelations.
Informed by its embassy in Beirut about this informer’s message the foreign ministry in Bonn was alarmed enough to alert the German Secret Service and ask for all possible security measures. But neither the specific tip from Beirut nor a total of seventeen warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about the threat of a “Palestinian incident” at the Munich Games convinced German intelligence and police agencies to intensify their investigations and preparations. Tragically, forensic psychologist Georg Sieber had provided security agencies with several likely attack scenarios, among them, one that saw terrorists climbing over a fence to get access to the Olympic Village and take athletes hostage! Obviously, there were no specific preparations. And the result was catastrophic.
One important issue was not resolved by the belatedly released documents, namely, whether Gold Meir’s government offered to send a specially trained Israeli commando to assist in efforts to free the hostages. At the time, Israel had highly trained commandos that would not have botched rescue efforts as did the German police. But reports that the Israelis made such an offer were vehemently denied by highly placed German government officials and the Munich police chief.
All of this is interesting in advance of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
To begin with, Islamic militants fighting for independence of several republics in the North Caucasus region of Russia have posted videos on Internet sites threatening Russians and foreign visitors to Sochi with attacks in revenge for “all the Muslim blood that is shed every day around the world, be it in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, all around the world.” In a particularly bold move, one recent video shows two male jihadis without their faces covered threatens violence at the Winter Games as long as Russian forces occupy the Northern Caucasus. They also claimed responsibility for two recent, deadly suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd.
So, not only the Russian authorities but people and governments around the world are well aware and afraid of explicit threats by well-known separatists with a history of horrific terrorist attacks.
Indeed, reports from Sochi and the overall region reveal that there are now posters with wanted terrorists and requests for public vigilance and tips. This is particularly true for several so-called “Black Widows” who are according to Russian security experts in Sochi or nearby ready to launch “martyr” attacks.
The two women sought as "black widows"
In the past, separatists in Chechnya and Dagestan have regularly found women whose husbands were killed or injured in fighting Russian troops—thus “black widows”—to carry out suicide attacks.
German authorities deny to this day that they rejected Israel’s assistance in resolving the Munich terrorist crisis. The truth is that powerful host countries want to be in the driver’s seat, especially when it comes to security.
Yet, President Putin and the Russian security agencies have allowed some small U.S. security teams to be in Sochi, where an estimated 15,000 Americans will be present during the Winter Games next month. While the American officials are reportedly complaining that there is not enough cooperation between the two sides’ security experts, the good news is that the Russians agreed for experienced and, yes, armed American security teams to be stationed in Sochi during the Olympic Games.
P.S. After I wrote this blog post, the New York Times reported that “the United States and Russia have opened discussions about using sophisticated American electronic equipment, developed by the Pentagon to counter improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq, in a new effort to help secure the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next month.”
Hopefully, Russia will accept the American offer and, hopefully, the bilateral cooperation prevents violence in at the Sochi Olympic Games.