TODAY   |  January 25, 2014

Olympic security concerns inside Russia’s pre-Sochi crackdown

Terrorist threats involving the Sochi Olympics are steadily increasing, with three new issued on the Internet and five suspected suicide bombers missing. It’s turning Sochi into a guarded fortress. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> the united states is talking specifically to olympic athletes and fans who will be traveling to russia for winter games . the state department 's saying u.s. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times. that alert and advice coming with less than two weeks now to go until the games and new threats to russia continuing to come to light. richard engel has the very latest for us this morning from sochi . richard, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, erica. security concerns have overshadowed the build-up to these games in a way that didn't happen before torino or vancouver. the question is why. the sochi games are rapidly becoming the security games. with the number of threats steadily increasing, at least three now issued on the internet, and five suspected suicide bombers still missing, sochi , the former soviet retreat by the black sea has become a guarded fortress. arriving in sochi is just the start of a journey through the security bubble. once you have your bags and leave the airport, you have to pass through at least four different checkpoints before you're actually sitting in a seat watching any sports. you'd better hope your team wins. [ sirens ] sochi is tightly protected, but the threat doesn't come from here. it comes from less than 1,000 miles away , from dagestan , a muslim republic with an old independent streak. and a growing problem of islamic extremism . russian special forces conduct counterterrorism raids here and maybe more. in the run-up to the olympics, young muslim men in dagestan have been disappearing, and according to human rights groups, subjected to horrific abuse.

>> what happens is once someone is abducted in an abduction, the individual is tortured, and i would want to emphasis once again, torture is not about exception. it's not about individual cases of torture that's happening here and there. essentially, torture is the rule as far as counterinsurgency in russia is concerned.

>> reporter: these women's sons are all missing. they accuse president putin of sending them to the gulla. "they beat my son brutally, right in front of people," she said, "and they threw him in the trunk of a car like he was a ram." russia has been fighting in the caucasus for centuries. now the olympics has been pulled into the middle of it. russian counterterrorism operations in dagestan and other parts of the north caucasus do eliminate some islamic extremists , but they also create more of them. erica?

>> richard engel in sochi . thank