|Russian authorities said al Emirat had been competing with Umarov, above, for power within the North Caucasus [EPA]
Russian security forces have killed an Arab man they say is al-Qaeda's top emissary to armed Islamist groups in Russia's North Caucasus region, the country's National Anti-Terrorist Committee has said.
In a statement, the committee said Khaled Yusef Mukhammed al Emirat was among its most wanted people and had participated in the planning of nearly all the suicide bomb attacks in Russia in recent years.
It said al Emirat, known by his code name Moganned, and another man were shot dead in a raid on Thursday near the village of Serzhen-Yurt in Chechnya's southern mountains.
The statement said al Emirat served as the top al-Qaida liaison with fighters in the region, helping them raise foreign funds.
Al Emirat had been in the North Caucasus since 1999.
A website sympathetic to the fighters, kavkazcenter.com, said on Friday that it had received confirmation of his death.
A decade after federal forces drove a separatist government from power in Chechnya in a war that started in 1999, Moscow is struggling to contain growing Islamist violence in the North Caucasus.
Russian officials say the Islamist cause depends on ideological and financial patronage from the Arabian peninsula and groups like al-Qaeda, although analysts dispute the extent of those links.
A suicide bomb attack claimed by Doku Umarov, a Chechen separatist leader, killed 37 people in Moscow's busiest airport in January.
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said al Emirat had been competing with Umarov for power within the region.
Chechnya still plays a major role in the fighting, but much of the violence has shifted to the neighbouring regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.