The right-hand man of Russia's most wanted insurgent was killed by security forces on Tuesday, officials said, as Moscow tries to contain militancy in its Caucasus region before it hosts the Winter Olympics near there next February.
Dzhamaleil Mutaliyev, a senior figure in a group fighting to establish an Islamist state, was killed along with another militant in a shootout in the town of Nazran in Ingushetia, a spokesman for local investigators said.
Mutaliyev masterminded a bombing that killed 18 people at a market in the nearby city of Vladikavkaz in 2010 and was a close aide of Doku Umarov, leader of the outlawed Caucasus Emirate, Russia's Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) said.
“Doku Umarov's right-hand man was neutralized,” Ingushetia's President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov told the state news agency RIA.
Mutaliyev and the other man, named by officials as Alikhan Ozdoyev, were killed in a gun battle after refusing to surrender during a night-time sweep in a suburb of Nazran, the spokesman for local investigators said.
The wife and child of one of them left the house before the firefight, he said. NAK said the men were armed with hand grenades and Kalashnikov assault rifles.
NAK had once before pronounced Mutaliyev dead, in January 2012, but later said it had misidentified the body of a man killed in a shootout with security forces.
Russia is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus President and Vladimir Putin has ordered authorities to ensure militants do not attack the 2014 Winter Olympics in the nearby Black Sea resort of Sochi.
More than a decade after troops defeated a rebellion in Chechnya, insurgents stage frequent attacks in nearby regions.
Two car bombs killed at least four people and wounded dozens on Monday, in one of the bloodiest attacks this year, in capital of Dagestan, a province bordering Chechnya to the east.
The Kremlin is worried about the spread of violence outside the region. In a suburb of Moscow on Monday, security forces killed two suspected militants alleged to have been plotting an attack in the capital.
The Caucasus Emirate group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37 people in January 2011 and twin bombings that killed 40 people in the Moscow metro in 2010.