Russian security forces killed five suspected militants in the North Caucasus province of Dagestan on Friday including one believed to be a local Islamist insurgent leader, law enforcement authorities said.
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Police and Federal Security Service officers surrounded a home in the Caspian Sea coastal city of Derbent and exchanged fire with gunmen inside the building, which caught fire in he battle, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said.
It said authorities believed one of the men killed was Sherif Akhmedov, a suspected leader of a militant group in the Derbent area who has been wanted since 2011 for alleged involvement in bombings and attacks on law enforcement officers.
Akhmedov is also believed to be behind the July 24 shooting of Rabbi Artur Ovadia Isakov as he exited his car outside his home. Investigators said the attack was likely committed by Muslim extremists.
Isakov, 40, was airlifted to Israel for treatment and released from hospital in August. In an interview with JTA in early September, the Chabad rabbi said he plans to return to Derbent when it is safe and he is well enough to travel.
Some 2,000 Jews live in mostly Muslim Dagestan, which is plagued by bombings and shootings that mainly target police, state officials or moderate clerics.
Most of the violence is blamed on an Islamist insurgency that is rooted in post-Soviet separatist wars in Chechnya, a neighboring North Caucasus province where attacks are now less frequent than in Dagestan.
Last October, unknown assailants detonated a bomb in the interior yard of Derbent’s main synagogue. Nobody was hurt in the explosion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has staked his reputation on hosting a safe and successful Winter Olympics in February in Sochi, a city near the North Caucasus. He said this month that security in the region was improving too slowly.