US warns of toothpaste bombs on Russia flights
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS PhotoThe US government warned American and foreign airlines Wednesday -- just ahead of the Sochi Olympics -- that terrorists could try to hide explosives in toothpaste tubes on Russia-bound flights.
An official told AFP it has information "specifically targeting flights to Russia," where the Winter Games kick off on Friday.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said that, "out of an abundance of caution," it regularly shares relevant information with partners both at home and abroad.
"While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority," it said. "As always, our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, and DHS will continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment." President Barack Obama's National Security Council said the disclosure had not affected existing guidelines about travel to the resort city of Sochi.
"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 through the State Department's usual channels," spokeswoman Laura Magnuson said.
Two US ships arrive in Black Sea before Sochi Olympics
Two US warships have arrived in the Black Sea and will stand ready to offer assistance in the case of a security emergency at the Sochi Olympic games, officials said Wednesday.
The USS Mount Whitney, a command vessel for the Navy's 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, arrived on Tuesday after departing its port in Naples, Italy over the weekend, officials said.
With a crew of 300 sailors and civilian mariners on board, the Whitney is outfitted with sophisticated communications equipment and a helicopter landing deck.
The second ship, the USS Taylor, is a frigate that arrived in the area on Wednesday, carrying a crew of about 200 sailors.
"Both ships will perform routine operations in the Black Sea to establish and enhance cooperation, mutual training and interoperability with regional partner nations and allies," the US Navy said in a statement.
Military officers said the vessels would be capable of providing a range of assistance, including potential evacuations of Americans or other foreign nationals, in the event of a possible terror attack at the games.
Russian state media had earlier reported inaccurately that the Whitney would be accompanied by a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Ramage, a larger vessel than the Taylor with more firepower.
The White House said on Tuesday the United States is "taking all appropriate steps regarding the safety of Americans" at the winter games.
US officials have voiced concerns over security at the February 7-23 games in Russia after two deadly December suicide attacks in the southern city of Volgograd.