A look at the troubled history of the mountainous republics in Russia’s south.
Russian troops have reportedly killing 49 fighters in a massive security sweep that followed angry comments from President Vladimir Putin about raging violence in the North Caucasus.
The National Anti-Terror Committee said on Sunday the operation was conducted across several republics of the volatile Muslim region and resulted in the removal of some of the most “odious” guerrilla commanders and their followers.
“The co-ordinated action helped terminate the activities of several odious gang leaders, gang members and their associates, substantially damaging the system under which the bandits operate,” the committee said in a statement.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said that the details around the operations were not very clear.
“There is only one source for the information that we have – that is the National Anti-Terror Committee. They released a statement on Sunday morning, bit it was dated October 18, which means it was written a few days ago.”
In the statement, the committee said the “large-scale and massive” raids involved both local and federal troops and that 90 bases had been destroyed.
However, it gave no details about the timeframe for the operation or when it started.
“The incidents that it describes don’t have a timeframe – this could have happened several days ago, or even several weeks ago, or even going further than that,” our correspondent said.
Putin held a meeting on Friday on the North Caucasus in which he berated officials for failing to do enough to bring the region under full control after it witnessed two post-Soviet wars for the independence of rebel Chechnya.
The region has since witnessed an armed movement that has focused most heavily on Chechnya’s larger eastern neighbour Dagestan and the tiny, poverty-wrecked republic of Ingushetia.
Russian officials are especially concerned about security on the restless frontier as they prepare to stage the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, near the border with ex-Soviet Georgia.
Putin referred to the Winter Games and Russia’s subsequent plans to host the football World Cup in 2018 as reasons to keep a close eye on the problem.
“I would like to point out that a series of very major events, both sports-related and political, will soon be held in Russia,” Putin told his most senior security advisers during the meeting.
“It is a matter of honour for all law enforcement officials to ensure that these events are staged in a normal, business-like and festive manner, so that nothing can put a pall over these events.”
Putin did not specify what political events he had in mind. Russia held elections in March that saw the veteran leader return to a third presidential term.
Security officials had last year announced uncovering a plot to attack Sochi during the Olympics that they linked to guerrillas based not only in the North Caucasus but also Georgia, Russia’s regional foe.
Officials in Georgia angrily denied the charges and accused Russia of trying to pin blame on them for their own security problems.
Finger of suspicion
In its latest statement, the National Anti-Terror Committee statement listed a series of operations conducted in Dagestan and other republics that resulted in the discovery of huge caches of arms and explosives.
It added that 30 people had been arrested while another 20 were “convinced” to appear at police stations voluntarily and confess their involvement in rebel gangs.
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Ingushetia’s president, published what he said was his personal mobile phone number that the rebels could use to confess their past illegal activities and come clean.
“Today, you can all return home having repented for what you have done,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Yevkurov as saying.
“I promise everyone who comes in peace and gives themselves up that they will have all their rights protected.”