WASHINGTON — Airlines flying into Russia in advance of the Winter Olympic Games are being advised that terror operatives could fabricate explosives from toothpaste tubes, a federal law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The official, who has been briefed on the matter but is not authorized to comment publicly, said the warning was not based on a specific threat and it was still unclear whether launching such an attack was viable.
Information about the possible threat was picked up in a stream of intelligence that authorities have been analyzing in advance of the Sochi Games, which have been threatened by Islamist extremists.
The official said the decision to alert the airlines was made out of an abundance of caution and may likely be the first of many such bulletins issued related to possible threats in Russia.
Security preparations for the Sochi Games have been among the most extensive in the history of the Olympics because of the persistent threat posed by extremists just outside the perimeter of the host city.
A security force of more than 40,000 has been dispatched to create what Russian authorities have described as a "ring of steel'' around the city and venues that stretch from the Black Sea Coast to the Caucasus Mountains to the east.
Preparations were stepped up in late December after twin suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd, nearly 500 miles from Sochi, left more than 30 dead.
As recently as Tuesday, President Obama was briefed on the U.S. government's involvement in the security effort and directed American authorities to "work closely closely with the Russian Government and...act on any new information that might affect the security of the Games.''