Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is ordering his security forces to crush Islamic insurgents in the Caucasus, saying their criminal activities must be wiped out.
The president met with security officials Tuesday as Russian authorities announced that airstrikes and an attack on a rebel base in Ingushetia killed 17 militants Monday.
The authorities say Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, who has been charged in the January Moscow airport suicide bombing, may be among the dead. Officials are carrying out DNA tests for confirmation.
Russian officials say the militants killed in Monday's operation were training suicide bombers.
Mr. Medvedev said all those he calls bandits and scoundrels must realize that they can either give up or stay and be destroyed.
Umarov claimed responsibility for the suicide attack at Domodedovo airport in January that killed 37 people and last year's double suicide blast in the Moscow subway. He has vowed to keep up his campaign of terror in a drive to set up an Islamic state in the Caucasus.
Authorities also say a pair of brothers, Islam and Ilev Yandiev, were arrested in Ingushetia on charges that they drove the 20-year-old suicide bomber to the Moscow airport to carry out the January attack. Security agents say they seized explosive devices - including a suicide belt - belonging to the brothers.
Chechen separatists fought two wars against Russia in the past 20 years. Violence continues to plague the North Caucasus region, as authorities try to contain an Islamist insurgency that has spread across several provinces.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.