A police officer and eight fighters have been killed in clashes in Russia's North Caucasus and the city of Astrakhan.

A shootout ensued early on Sunday after police discovered an encampment in a wooded area of the Kizlyar region of Dagestan, killing a police officer and seven fighters, Vyacheslav Gasanov, an interior ministry spokesman, said.

The men were believed to have been preparing terrorist attacks for Monday, a secular holiday in Russia observing the Nazi defeat in World War II, the police said.

Officers also reported that one fighter had been killed and two others detained in the city of Astrakhan.

Near-daily violence plagues the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, where poverty and religion has helped nurture an armed campaign to establish an independent state governed by sharia, or Islamic law.

The region includes Dagestan and Chechnya, where Russia drove separatists out of power a decade ago in the second of the two Chechen Wars.

Source: Agencies