Russia kills Moscow metro attacks mastermind

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Russian security forces Saturday killed a top militant suspected of organising the deadly suicide attacks on the Moscow metro and who was reportedly married to one of the female bombers.

Magomedali Vagabov was killed in a clash with security forces in the Caucasus region of Dagestan that left four other militants dead, the national anti-terror committee said in a statement published by Russian news agencies.

The double bombings carried out by two female suicide bombers on the Moscow metro on March 29 killed 40 and wounded more than 100.

"Vagabov was the organiser of the suicide bombings on the Moscow metro, was actively involved in recruiting youth for the underground and organised the training for the suicide bombers," the committee said.

He was described in the official statement as the number two figure in the Islamist-inspired insurgency that has plagued the Russian Northern Caucasus over the last years, after its overall leader Doku Umarov.

The clash, described as being brief, took place in the village of Gunib -- in the mountains of Dagestan southwest of the local capital Makhachkala -- where the militants were holed up in a house.

"Once the fire from the building was put out, one of the corpses was identified as Magomedali Vagabov," the statement said.

According to some reports, Vagabov was the husband of Mariam Sharipova, one of the metro suicide bombers.

This has been strongly denied by her father in media interviews but the Russian news agency reports described her as Vagabov's "sharia wife", implying he had made her one of a number of spouses.

As well as the Moscow metro attacks, Vagabov had also planned a string of attacks against security forces and on railway infrastructure, the statement said.

It said he had received training at a militant camp in Pakistan and had contacts with a number of international terror groups who had also passed on financing.

"The annihilation of the well-known bandit Vagabov and his henchmen is a success for the security forces and shows even the most sophisticated means will not allow bandits to escape responsibility for their deeds," it said.

There were no casualties among the security forces or the civilian population in the village.

The Russian security forces had targeted Vagabov in previous special operations but had until now failed to track him down. Russian media reported at the time of the attacks he lead a 40-strong group in the forested mountains.

Umarov, who heads the Caucasus Emirate group seeking to establish Islamic rule across the Caucasus mountains, has for years evaded capture or killing by the Russian security forces.

This month he unexpectedly announced he was stepping down in favour of a younger successor but then days later withdrew the announcement and vowed to carry on killing "enemies of Allah".

© 2010 AFP

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