12 militants killed in Russia's Chechnya: officials
Security forces in Russia's Chechnya region in the North Caucasus killed 12 militants in several different operations, officials said Thursday.
Four were killed in a raid on an apartment building in Chechen capital Grozny just after midnight on Thursday, investigators said.
"Chechen interior ministry officers blocked four members of an illegal armed band in the apartment on the first floor who showed armed resistance and were destroyed by return fire," said the regional branch of Russia's Investigative Committee.
Apartment building raids are controversial in the North Caucasus as civilians often get caught in the crossfire, and insurgency-affiliated Kavkazcenter website claimed residents were not warned and sustained injuries.
A second operation continued against militants Thursday near the village Duts-Khote in the southern part of Chechnya.
"According to the latest information, the number of destroyed militants has reached seven," Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in a statement. "One has been identified as well known militant leader Mairbek Abdusalamov."
Policemen have also killed 28-year-old Iskander Timarov in a forest near Chishki village about 30 kilometres south of Grozny. He "resisted arrest and was killed by return fire," the interior ministry said Thursday.
In neighboring Dagestan policemen killed two suspected militants in Makhachkala after they opened fire at the request to stop their car, the interior ministry said Thursday.
The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, waging a war in 1994-1996 against separatist rebels in Chechnya.
After a second war in Chechnya in 1999, the rebellion's inspiration moved towards Islam with the aim of imposing an Islamic state in the region.
Although the war ended in 2000, rebels have waged an increasingly deadly insurgency, with the unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus.
© 2011 AFP