MOSCOW (Reuters) – The bodyguard of Russia‘s most wanted insurgent was killed by security forces on Saturday, officials said, as Moscow tries to curb militancy in its Caucasus region before it hosts the Winter Olympics near there in February.
Russian authorities said Mikhail Musikhanov, killed along with another militant in a shootout in Ingushetia‘s Sunzha region, was the personal bodyguard of rebel leader Doku Umarov who has vowed to use “maximum force” to prevent President Vladimir Putin staging the 2014 Games in Sochi.
“The criminals tried to break through the security cordon. As a result of the ensuing gunfire their resistance was crushed and the bandits were neutralized,” Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) said in a statement.
Since 2011, 29-year-old Musikhanov was part of the inner circle of Umarov, leader of the outlawed Caucasus Emirate, accompanying him everywhere as his bodyguard, NAK said.
Two months ago, Umarov’s right-hand man Dzhamaleil Mutaliyev died in a similar shootout after refusing to surrender to security forces in Ingushetia.
Russia is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus and Putin has promised tight security at the Games, which he sees as a chance for Russia to show the world what his nation can achieve.
Umarov’s group has a record of violent attacks, claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport that killed 37 people in January 2011 and twin bombings that killed 40 people in the Moscow metro in 2010.
(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Alistair Lyon)