Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Russia `liquidates' alleged rebels

SHOOTOUT Police killed five suspects in an operation to eliminate those thought to be responsible for attacks in Ingushetia in June which claimed the lives of 90 people

AP , ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA

A Russian special forces soldier stands near the bodies of a group of alleged militants killed in a sweep operation in the town of Nazran on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

More than 100 police and security agents backed by five armored personnel carriers surrounded a house in the restive southern Russian region of Ingushetia on Saturday and killed five alleged militants in a shootout, the Interior Ministry said.

The suspects had resisted capture, opening fire with automatic weapons and throwing grenades, said Yuri Smolyaninov, a spokesman for the Ingush regional branch of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet KGB.

He said the special operation to eliminate the militants had been completed by early afternoon.

The alleged militants were suspected in the attacks on Ingush police installations in June in which about 90 people were killed, said a duty officer in the Russian Interior Ministry's southern regional branch in Rostov-on-Don, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The operation to capture or kill the militants began early Saturday morning, Russian news agencies reported. There were no casualties among law enforcement officers or civilians in the shootout, the Interior Ministry duty officer said.

State-controlled television showed footage of the smoking ruins of a brick building, the wooden planks of its roof in splinters. A body could be seen sprawling in the wreckage.

NTV television said that the bodies of four militants were found shortly after the shootout ended, and the fifth was discovered only Saturday night. Investigators were to resume their search of the wreckage on Sunday, the duty officer said.

The Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Koryakov, the head of the Ingush branch of the Federal Security Service, as saying the dead militants had plotted further attacks.

"According to our information, the bandits who have been liquidated in the current operation, planned terrorist acts on the territory of the [Ingush] republic," Koryakov was quoted as saying.

In the June attacks, which targeted police and security officials, militants raided arsenals and seized a large number of weapons. A video released later showed Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and other camouflaged men pulling weapons and ammunition boxes off shelves in a building Basayev said was an Interior Ministry arsenal.

Authorities have said some of the stolen weapons were used in the September hostage-taking at the school in Beslan, in neighboring North Ossetia, in which more than 330 people were killed. Basayev has claimed responsibility for the Beslan raid and other recent terror attacks in Russia.

Police in Dagestan, another troubled region, were conducting an anti-terrorist sweep on Saturday for a fourth day. The regional Interior Ministry said reinforcements were brought in from neighboring regions for the operation, which began on Wednesday in the Khasavyurt region bordering Chechnya, and continued on Friday and Saturday in the regional capital Makhachkala.

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