Russian security forces have killed 49 militants in an operation across the North Caucasus region, where rebels are fighting to carve out an Islamic state, Russia‘s top anti-terrorism body has said.
The agency, which serves as a mouthpiece for law enforcement agencies operating in the region, gave no time period for the operation, which was launched days after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, led a meeting of the country’s security council.
Putin has pushed the North Caucasus insurgency, rooted in two separatist wars in Chechnya, back to the forefront of national politics.
He has told security forces to ensure that militants do not launch attacks on the 2014 Winter Olympics and other high-profile events planned in Russia.
“A series of co-ordinated measures allowed for the suppression of the activity of a number of notorious leaders, members of bandit groups and associates and allowed for a significant disruption of the bandits’ supply system,” Interfax quoted an agency statement as saying.
Operations, which can often take place in residential areas in the patchwork of regions that make up the North Caucasus, can last between a few hours and a number of weeks with the involvement of local police and special forces.
The Caucasus Emirate, which leads the insurgency, has vowed to attack the Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, west of the predominantly Muslim region where it wages nearly daily violence against local authorities and law enforcement officers.
The anti-terrorism agency said nine local leaders were among those killed and 30 militants had been detained. It said 90 militant bases had been destroyed along with 26 weapons caches.
Putin has promised to hunt down Russia’s most wanted man, the self-styled Amir of the Caucasus Emirate, Doku Umarov.