Nightly News   |  December 30, 2013

Russian Bombings Strike Fears of Sochi Terror Attacks

As Islamist militants seem set to carry out their bombing up to and during the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to find a way to stop them. NBC’s Jim Maceda reports and counterterrorism analyst Michael Leiter examines role of the US in curbing the threat.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. i'm lester holt in tonight for brian. two bombings in two days have killed more than 30 people in the russian city of volgograd striking fears of a terror campaign in the lead-up to the sochi olympics . the suicide bombing aboard a bus follows yesterday's attack inside the rail station in the city once known as stalingrad. it occurs against a backdrop of terror targets five weeks before american athletes begin arriving for the olympic games . we begin with jim maceda in moscow. good evening.

>> reporter: lester , as islamic militants seem set to carry up bombings up to and during the sochi olympics russian president vladimir putin who spent a fortune and staked his reputation on the games has yet to find a way to stop them. all that was left of the bus that had been packed with people during morning rush hour. the explosion leaving twisted metal and mass carnage. the second suicide bombing in as many days. sunday's train station blast was with caught on security camera video. in all, more than 30 killed, a hundred wounded and a city of a million terrified.

>> translator: we were afraid that could be us or one of our family or friends. it's frightening especially around the new year's holiday.

>> reporter: vladimir putin has ordered a crack down, beefing up security at train stations and airports across the country. investigators now believe both bombings and a third attack in october by a female suicide bomber , also on a bus killing seven, were inspired by this man. this warlord known as the russian bin laden , the current leader of a long, bloody uprising including two wars in chechnya. accused of carrying out a school siege where hundreds died including many children. he's anyway ordered fighters to disrupt the winter olympics in sochi by killing civilians. volgograd is just 400 mileses from the olympic venue in sochi and near the north caucusus, a haven for them. putin turned sochi into a fortress with some 40,000 security forces patrolling what is called a ring of steel.

>> basically you won't be able to move in sochi without somebody knowing you are moving 57 and knowing where you are going.

>> reporter: that leaves targets like volgograd vulnerable.

>> it is my fear this is the beginning of a concerted series of terrorist attacks that are going to take place essentially to bring russia to a higher state of terror.

>> reporter: today the head of the international olympic committee is fully confident russia will deliver safe, secure olympic games . many others aren't so sure. also today, the u.s. government concerned that islamist militants may strike during the games extended an olive branch to russia offering closer cooperation on matters of security. lester ?

>> jim, thanks.

>>> for more on the threat we are joined by the former director of the t national counter terrorism center michael lighter and a counter terrorism analyst for nbc news. the u.s. has a seen security interest here. there are thousands of americans traveling to the games in sochi . what help can u.s. intelligence officials offer?

>> lester , the u.s. is not a cure-all for the threats. there are some things that the u.s. could do. first, the u.s. could be very helpful in identifying militants who may have traveled to pakistan or syria and are returning to engage in terrorism in russia . second, as we saw in boston , every thread of information might lead to uncovering threats. any bolder and broad sharing with the u.s. would be critical to giving us an opportunity to help the russians.

>> with with with these attacks a lot of minds went back to the boston bombings. the alleged attackers had connections to russia . we are about to watch a million people gather in times square for the ball drop. should u.s. officials have deeper terrorism concerns based on what we are seeing overseas?

>> people around the u.s. will see cities like new york and los angeles take heightened precautions because of the threats. i don't think in this case we see a homeland nexus. the groups that attacked here are very focused on russia , on putin and on the olympics. although we saw in boston there can be links that's the exception rather than the rule with terrorist organizations .

>> michael, good to have you on tonight. thank you.