Eight militants killed in southern Russia: reports

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Elite Russian security forces Sunday stormed a building in the capital of the turbulent North Caucasus region of Dagestan, killing eight militants in an hours-long gun battle, news reports said.

Security official identified one of the dead militants as the "Emir of Makhachkala," the region's capital, who was believed to have been responsible for killing several Russian policemen and organising other attacks.

There were no losses reported among the Federal Security Service (FSB) and interior ministry officers involved in the raid.

Russia is fighting a Muslim insurgency on its southern periphery and deadly attacks on government officials in Dagestan, the North Caucasus' most populous region, as well as neighboring Chechnya and Ingushetia are a daily occurrence.

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, which neighbours Dagestan to the west.

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 unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus such as Dagestan and Ingushetia.

© 2010 AFP

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