Regional head says Russia is 'at war' in Caucasus: report

27th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia is at war in its North Caucasus region and can no longer pretend otherwise, the head of one of the troubled republics said Monday after his region was hit by the worst militant strike in months.

In an interview with Kommersant daily, the head of North Ossetia, Taymuraz Mamsurov, called on security forces to step up their effort to hunt down Islamic militants and for the death penalty to be reimposed for "terrorists".

"This is war! We are not just talking about small-time bandits. And when in war, you go to war," Mamsurov told the paper.

"We have got to be straight with people, it's a war ... I don't want to peddle lies," he said.

Shootings and bomb attacks have become a near-daily occurrence in the North Caucasus, where the pro-Kremlin authorities are battling an increasingly deadly Islamist insurgency.

On September 9, North Ossetia's capital of Vladikavkaz was rocked by the deadliest suicide bombing in months when the attacker blew himself up outside a market, killing 19 people and wounding 200 others.

The blast was the most serious suicide attack since a double bombing carried out by two female suicide bombers on the Moscow metro on March 29 killed 40 and wounded more than 100.

"I think those who do this and those who back them, must be shot. I have become a supporter of the death penalty," Mamsurov told Kommersant.

Mamsurov, 54, has headed North Ossetia since 2005 and was reappointed this year. He is a member of the ruling United Russia party.

He warned the battle pitting an Islamic insurgency against the pro-Kremlin authorities in Russia's southern regions could not be won in the next decade.

"We can't completely eliminate this threat... I don't think (it will be over) within the next 10 years," he told the paper.

North Ossetia was the site of one of Russia's worst tragedies in 2004 when more than 330 people died, most of them children, after armed Chechen rebels seized the Beslan school.

Militants have directed strikes against civilians in the mostly Christian region, while they usually target officials and police forces in the nearby Caucasus regions of Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya.

© 2010 AFP

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