Three Russian police killed in Dagestan: reports
Islamist militants shot dead three Russian policemen on Monday in the volatile southern region of Dagestan, where a prominent imam was killed over the weekend, news reports said.
The gunmen shot at the policemen from the heavily wooded hills that they use as cover during springtime, when attacks usually become more frequent, Interfax reported.
The battle left six policemen wounded, with two rebels also killed in the violence.
The incident came two days after a prominent imam who discouraged youth from joining the militants was shot dead in his home, prompting outrage in the local religious community.
Magomed Saiputdinov was the sixth religious leader killed in Dagestan in 12 months, according to Russian security officials.
"What has to happen before actual steps are taken to stave off the mass elimination of religious leaders?" asked Muhammedgali Khuzin, a senior member of the Russian mufti association.
Dagestan has experienced some of the most deadly violence in Russia's mostly Muslim southern periphery since peace was largely restored in neighbouring Chechnya just under a decade ago.
The Caspian Sea region experiences almost daily shootings and bombings that officials blame on local criminals and Islamists with links to Chechnya.
Fuelled by endemic poverty and corruption, the militants are seeking to establish an independent Islamic state across the North Caucasus.
© 2011 AFP