Russian police kill four Islamist
militants in North Caucasus
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[February 10, 2014]
MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russian police
killed four suspected militants, law enforcement officials said on
Monday, in a shootout at a house in the North Caucasus, highlighting
regional security concerns near the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
The gun fight broke out on Saturday after police surrounded a
private house used by militants in the province of Dagestan, which
lies some 600 kilometers (380 miles) from Sochi on the other end of
the Caucasus Mountain chain.
There was no indication the shooting was connected with the Games.
President Vladimir Putin, who has invested personal and political
prestige to ensure the Games' success, ordered security forces on
high alert after a suicide bomber killed at least 37 in the southern
Russian city of Volgograd in December.
Militants wage violence to establish an Islamist state in the
predominantly Muslim North Caucasus. Militant leader Doku Umarov,
Russia's most wanted man, threatened to disrupt the Olympic Games in
a video posted online last year.
Russian newspaper Kommersant said among those killed was an ethnic
Russian convert to the insurgency.
Security experts say the use of ethnic Russians in the insurgency
shows the militants' increasing reach and a strategy that could help
them avoid detection in heavily policed areas like Sochi.
Russia says the Games are as safe from militant attacks as anywhere
in the West and Russian security services are working with
colleagues form Europe and North America.
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Russia's Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, which stretches
from Dagestan on the Caspian Sea to near Sochi's coast on the Black
Sea, is rooted in two wars between Russian forces and Chechen
separatists in 1994-96 and 1999-2000.
Dagestan has become the focal point of the violence.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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