Russian agents have foiled terror attack plans on the Black Sea resort of Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Games, and seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition, authorities said Thursday.
Russia's secret service agency FSB discovered ten caches of arms and ammunition on May 4 and May 5 in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia, the country's National Anti-Terrorist Committee said. The region is very close to Sochi.
The arms seized included portable surface-to-air missiles, grenade launchers, flame throwers, grenades, rifles and explosives including TNT, it said.
The FSB said it suspects the attacks targeting Sochi were being masterminded by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, whom it alleges has close ties to Georgia's secret service. The secret service said Umarov coordinated the delivery of the weapons and ammunition to Abkhazia and arranged caches for them.
Umarov has previously claimed responsibility for the 2011 deadly bombing in a Moscow airport that killed 35 people.
Authorities said the terrorists were planning to smuggle the explosives and arms to Sochi "between 2012 and 2014 in order to use them during the preparations and during the games." They did not elaborate on how they came to that conclusion but maps were among the items found.
Sochi is less than dozen miles away from Russia's border with Abkhazia, a tiny region on the Black Sea that declared independence from Georgia in 2008. Few countries other than Russia have supported its independence.
Georgia and Russia, both former Soviet republics, had a brief but intense war in 2008 and are still very distrustful of each other.
However, Shota Khizanishvili, chief of staff at Georgia's Interior Ministry, denied any links between Georgia and Umarov.
"I can only say that the National Anti-Terrorist Committee is staffed with people with peculiar fantasies," Khizanishvili told The Associated Press. "They're always trying to accuse Georgia and its secret services of everything in any situation and without any grounds. This is a sign of a severe paranoia."
Sochi's selection as the host of the 2014 Winter Games had sparked fears of possible terrorist activity, although no attacks have occurred so far. The city is located in the same area as Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, which is plagued with near-daily violence linked to an Islamist insurgency that spread from Chechnya to neighboring areas in the late 1990s.
The International Olympic Committee would not comment on the specific case at Sochi but said in a statement that "security is a top priority for the IOC.
"Security at the games is the responsibility of the local authorities and we have no doubt that the Russians will be up to the task," the statement said.
Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Steve Wilson in London contributed to this report.