ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – More than 100 police and security agents backed by five armored personnel carriers surrounded a house Saturday in the restive southern Russian region of Ingushetia 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 regional branch of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet KGB. He said the special operation to eliminate the militants was completed by Saturday afternoon.
The alleged militants were suspected in the June attacks on Ingush police installations, in which about 90 people were killed, said a duty officer in the Russian Interior Ministry’s southern regional branch in Rostov-on-Don. No casualties were reported among law enforcement officers or civilians, the duty officer said on condition of anonymity.
State-controlled television showed the smoking ruins of a brick building, the wooden planks of its roof in splinters. A body could be seen in the wreckage.
NTV television said the bodies of four militants were found shortly after the shootout ended Saturday afternoon, and the fifth was discovered at night. Investigators were to resume searching 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 said.
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 that Basayev said was an Interior Ministry arsenal.
Officials said some of the arms were used in the September attack on a school in Beslan, in neighboring North Ossetia, in which more than 330 people died. Basayev has claimed responsibility for the Beslan raid and other recent attacks in Russia.
Police in Dagestan, another troubled region, conducted the fourth day of an anti-terrorist sweep Saturday. The regional Interior Ministry said reinforcements were brought in from three neighboring regions.
The operation began Wednesday in the Khasavyurt region bordering Chechnya (news – web sites), and continued Friday and Saturday in the regional capital, Makhachkala.
The border with Chechnya was closed and police checked cars, markets, hospitals, dormitories and private residences in hopes of identifying suspected militants. Some 175 people suspected of belonging to militant groups were turned in to police in Khasavyurt and hundreds of people “of interest to investigators” were detained in Makhachkala, the Interior Ministry said.