PYATIGORSK, February 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s top domestic security official said on Tuesday more than 50 militants, including 14 group leaders, had been killed in Russia’s North Caucasus since the start of the year.
“So far, more than 50 militants have been killed, including 14 militant group leaders,” FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said at a meeting of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee in the southern Russian resort city of Pyatigorsk.
“More than 60 [armed] group members and their associates who committed no grave crimes, turned themselves in to the authorities,” he added.
A total of 66 suspected militants were also detained in that period.
Radical Islamist ideology is becoming increasingly popular in the North Caucasus against the background of the region’s social and economic problems, Bortnikov said.
“Such a trend persists not only in the North Caucasus, but also in a number of regions in the Volga, Urals and Siberian federal districts,” he said, without naming the regions.
“Based on a thorough study of the situation in Russian regions, we need to update regional anti-terrorism programs, anti-extremism measures and crime prevention,” Bortnikov said.
He also called on regional anti-terrorism commissions, law-enforcers and the local authorities to improve their propaganda and information work, especially in regions where extremist ideas enjoy widespread support.
The North Caucasus region is home to a predominantly Islamic population. It has been the scene of over two decades of separatist insurgency, with Islamist fighters involved in frequent attacks on the federal authorities.