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‘It is very difficult to prevent terror attacks’ – security expert

The twin bomb blasts in Volgagrad were designed to psychologically terrorize the civilian population ahead of the Winter Olympics games in Sochi, Matthew Clements, a security expert with IHT, told RT.

RT:The attacks in Volgograd came in very quick succession. What's the reason, do you think?

Matthew Clements: I think the militants are aiming to create an idea of the sustained operation to increase the psychological impact of these attacks. I think also on Friday, there was an attack in Pyatigorsk in Stavropol, a car bomb attack which left several dead. So in quick succession we’ve seen three quite significant terrorist attacks targeting civilians and in particular the transport infrastructure. And I think this is really designed to heighten the psychological impacts of these attacks, which we assess are partly designed to try and create a sense of insecurity ahead of the Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi in February.

RT:We know some countries have been actually supporting Al-Qaeda-linked groups – in Syria for example. How is this affecting the global security situation?

MC: Well, I think when – you try to take it back to the North Caucasus – we’ve certainly seen a lot of reports coming through that there are fighters from the North Caucasus operating in Syria alongside jihadist groups. However what we have not seen yet is any direct evidence that these fighters are returning to Russia having received training and experienced on the ground in Syria to increase the level of threat there. So from a Russian perspective we have not yet seen an impact from this issue. What we however are looking at more widely is the issue of Syrian returnees, and this is to Russia, and also to a number of European countries and even across Africa and the Middle East. And whether these fighters, who are traveling to Syria to fight on behalf of jihadist groups maybe receiving experience and training and therefore can pose a significant terrorist threat to other countries when they return to them.

RT:Do you think the world's doing enough to tackle the terror threat?

MC: It is very difficult to give an answer for an entire global remit of how anti-terrorist measures are taken place and I can probably be talking to you here for several hours on this topic. But I think if we go and take it back to Russia, we have seen the state implement a very severe and strict security apparatus around the Sochi Olympics, while also undertaking heightened counter-terrorism operations across the North Caucasus. Now, I think what this does do, it’s going to reduce the threat of attacks taking place at the Games venues themselves. But as we have seen in Volgograd, it is very difficult to prevent individuals or small groups of people from undertaking what are meant to be high profile, high casualty attacks against softer targets such as public infrastructure. So I think there is a risk that over the coming months, despite the government’s efforts to try and create a security zone in those areas and to trying to prevent attacks from taking in the first place, there is a heightened risk of further attacks particularly in the cities across Southern Russia and also against major cities like Moscow and even St. Petersburg.

RT:The July 2005 London bombings also targeted the public transport system, like the attacks in Volgograd. What do those similarities tell us?

MC: I think what it really demonstrates is that transport infrastructure is a very easy target relatively for terrorist groups. And it is an attractive one because of the psychological impact on the population who will be using that transport and also for the simple fact that it will often cause a high level of casualties due to tight spaces and the large number of people using them. I think what it also shows, especially the Volgograd attacks, is the difficulty of securing such locations, because as we saw with the train attack, the bomber was actually prevented by the security measures in place from entering the station and although this may result in a fewer casualties, exploding the suicide vest outside the station still cause a very big psychological impact as to have caused very significant number of civilian casualties. So even with security measures in place, it is very difficult to prevent attacks from happening in and around transport infrastructure.