Apparent Olympics Terror Plot Foiled with Only Weeks to Go Before Games


Terrorism has already marred two Olympic games. Will it affect a third?

Unfortunately, even with perspicacious law enforcement, that’s looking increasingly likely. At the very least, officials in France say that they’ve headed off one terror plot before it got to the critical stage: on Friday, The Associated Press reported, an 18-year-old was charged with planning to target spectators at the soccer tournament at this year’s Summer Olympics in Paris, which open on July 26.

The man, unnamed by authorities, was supposedly looking to carry out a “violent action” on behalf of the Islamic State group at Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne, the home of several matches during the tournament.

The man, police said, was motivated by the wish “to die and become a martyr.”

It’s unclear what tipped security off to the man, but Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a statement that the suspect, who is from Chechnya, was detained on May 22 on suspicion of plotting the terror attack.

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The committee organizing the games said it was aware of the man’s arrest.

“Security is the highest priority of Paris 2024. We are working daily in close coordination with the Interior Ministry and all stakeholders — and will continue to be fully mobilized,” the organizing committee said in a statement, which praised France’s intelligence and security services for their response.

The coach of Canada’s women’s soccer team, which is scheduled to play at the stadium where the attacks were supposedly planned, said she trusted the organizers to keep her safe

“That’s a concern to hear, but I think a little bit like in Tokyo, the Olympic Committee, I would imagine that they’re going to step in and I think our faith and trust will be in making it a secure and safe environment for our players,” coach Bev Priestman said.

Will terrorism increase in Europe?

However, there are numerous worries before the games, particularly given the high profile of the event at a time of heightened global political tension.

“Security concerns are notably high for the the exceptional opening ceremony, which brings more than 100 world leaders to the French capital,” the AP noted. “It involves boats carrying athletes along the Seine River on a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) open-air parade and huge crowds watching from the embankments.

“In April, French President Emmanuel Macron said the July 26 opening ceremony could be moved instead to the country’s national stadium if the security threat is deemed too high.”

Two prior Olympic games have been affected by terrorist attacks.

In 1972, the Summer Games in Munich, Germany were overshadowed by the death of 11 Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian militant group Black September. In 1996, a white supremacist involved in the Christian identity movement planted a bomb at the Centennial Olympic Park during the Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia, killing one.

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Perhaps more worrying, however, is that Iran — arguably the world’s most dangerous state terrorist actor at the moment — is reportedly increasing support of its proxy groups throughout Europe in the run-up to the games.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Mossad released a report on Thursday which “highlighted in particular the activities of two criminal groups — FOXTROT and RUMBA” in the lead-in to the games.

These two groups, which receive funds from Iran, are “directly responsible for a violent activity and the promotion of terrorism in Sweden and throughout Europe,” Mossad said in the statement.

Mossad’s report also alleged that Tehran was behind the actors responsible for violence outside of two Israeli embassies in Europe, one in Belgium and one in Sweden, in the past month alone.

“FOXTROT, known for its murders and large-scale drug trafficking, is the largest criminal organization in Sweden and operates in other European countries,” the Post reported.

“It alleged that FOXTROT head Rua Majid, a Swedish citizen of Kurdish origin nicknamed the “Kurdish Fox,” had been arrested in Iran for criminal activity and then recruited for terror activity and released to carry out terror for Iran.”

“FOXTROT’s rival gang RUMBA, headed by Ismail Abdo, was behind the May 17 gunshots near Israel’s embassy in Sweden, the Mossad said.”

Mossad’s report also alleged that Tehran was looking to expand its proxy groups via the heightened anti-Semitism since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent response of the Israeli government.

While the Islamic State group is hardly an ally of Iran’s, it’s worth noting, they also have fewer resources than the Iranian government does and a diminished reach compared to the terror group’s mid-’10s peak. Given the environment and the openness of Europe, then, it’s not a question of if but when and where the attacks are planned and whether authorities are quick enough to step in to stop them.

That fact — combined with the willingness of a state actor to get stuck in with these terror cells — is something that should give every athlete, spectator, and world leader pause.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture