Twelve people have been killed in two separate violent clashes in Russia, including the regional leader of a group of Islamic fighters, according to news agencies.
More than a decade after federal forces toppled a rebel government in Chechnya, Russia continues to contain an battle across its mainly Muslim Caucasus region, where it plans to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
A shootout in the region of Dagestan on Friday killed five fighters and four Interior Ministry troops, Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing a source from the local Investigative Committee.
Security forces also killed three fighters in Ingushetia who had blockaded themselves in a private home in the village of Ekazhevo, the hometown of a suicide bomber who killed 37 at Moscow’s busiest airport last year, news agencies reported.
The fighting, rooted in two Chechen separatist wars, is led by Chechen-born Doku Umarov, who claimed responsibility for the airport bombing.
Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee said one of the men killed, Dzhamaleil Mutaliyev, was the leader of the Caucasus Emirate in Ingushetia and was the confidante of Shamil Basayev, mastermind of some of Russia’s bloodiest attacks.
Basayev was killed in 2006, about two years after he sent fighters to an incident in Beslan in 2004 that prompted a botched rescue effort in which 331 people, most of them children, died.