Terrorist attacks forces closure of Russian ski resort

A wave of terrorists attacks in Russia last weekend has left three dead and a burgeoning tourist region closed off to travelers. Those attacks prompted Russian officials to impose a a counter-terrorism regime in two areas of the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria near Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

The first attack occurred last weekend when a bus carrying travelers to a ski resort was stopped on the road by five men claiming to be police officers. When the travelers asked to see their identification, the men opened fire on them, killing three and injuring two others.

Other attacks included blowing up a tower supporting a ski gondola, which plummeted to the ground with four passengers aboard. Fortunately they survived with only minor injuries. The leader of a local village wasn’t so lucky, as he was shot dead on the street. Hours later, the hotel at a nearby ski resort was evacuated when a car packed with explosives was discovered parked outside.

The attacks are believed to be the acts of Muslim separatists hoping to to build an Islamic state in the North Caucasus. Rebel activity in the region has been on the rise in recent weeks, and there have been a number of clashes with local police and military. Five suspected rebels were killed over the weekend in a response to the latest wave of terrorism.

Because of the recent terrorist activity, the Russian government has enacted the counter-terrorism regime in an attempt to crack down on the rebels. That means that local resorts are closed for the time being, and travelers are being discouraged from visiting the region.

This move comes as a major blow to Russian tourism efforts. The Mt. Elbrus region is being marketed as a major ski area and with the 2014 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place there, the last thing the need is instability and security issues. Unfortunately, that is exactly what they have for now.

If you were planning a spring break escape to the Northern Caucasus mountains, you may want to rethink those plans for now.

[Photo credit: Reuters]