MOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti) – Seven militants have been killed during an operation in the capital of Russia’s troubled North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, security officials said Saturday.
The six men and one woman were killed by security forces following a siege in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala, Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee said in a statement.
The killings follow a Friday grenade launcher attack on a restaurant in Makhachkala that was followed by a car bombing when police arrived to secure the area. Investigators said Saturday that 16 people, including several police officers, were injured in the incident.
Violence is an almost daily occurrence in the North Caucasus, which is just a few hundred miles from the resort town of Sochi where Russia will next month host the Winter Olympics.
A counter terrorist operation was also underway Saturday in a district of Kabardino-Balkaria, another republic in the North Caucasus, according to regional officials. The reason for the operation was not immediately clear.
The seven people killed by security forces Saturday in Dagestan included a local militant leader and the widow of a dead militant preparing for a suicide attack, the Anti-Terrorism Committee said.
Other Russian media reports quoted security officials as suggesting that the dead people had been linked to the attack on the Makhachkala restaurant the evening before.
Russian security officials often announce the prompt killing of those allegedly responsible for attacks in the North Caucasus, but such reports are almost impossible to verify independently.
Persistent violence in the restive North Caucasus is fuelled by endemic poverty and corruption, as well as ethnic divisions and an ongoing Islamist insurgency.
Islamist fighters, once confined largely to Chechnya, have spread across the North Caucasus in recent years, and are frequently linked to the attacks on security forces, police and civilians that are reported in the nearby republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.
Updated with number of killings, new headline and background