Police shoot rebel armed with grenade in Russian Caucasus

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Russian police shot dead a rebel armed with a hand grenade after he fired at a policeman in the troubled Dagestan region of the North Caucasus, the region's interior ministry said Tuesday.

The rebel, who was armed with a pistol and "a homemade Khattabka grenade," was killed late Monday in the town of Kaspiisk, the Dagestan interior ministry said.

Homemade grenades are called Khattabkas in the Caucasus after a Chechen guerilla leader known as Emir Khattab.

The rebel earlier "shot at security forces, as a result of which one policeman was hospitalised," the ministry said.

The rebel was identified as Murad Shchashchayev, 31, "the leader of a Caspian sabotage and terrorist group," wanted for around 30 crimes, an interior ministry spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

In a separate incident, an imam died after being shot in the head in Dagestan town of Khasavyurt late Monday, the Dagestan interior ministry said.

"An unknown atttacker shot the 45-year-old imam of the mosque who lived in the complex before fleeing. The imam died from shot wounds to the head and chest on the way to hospital," the interior ministry said.

The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the 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 unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus such as Dagestan and Ingushetia.

© 2010 AFP

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