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Russia Strikes at Militants in North Caucasus

Russian security forces say they killed seven terrorist suspects Saturday in a sweep through southern Russia, three weeks before the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi.

Authorities in Moscow said the seven people died when police stormed a house where they had been hiding in Makhachkala, the capital of Russia's Dagestan republic.

All seven were suspects in an attack late Friday that injured 16 people at a restaurant in the regional capital. A spokesman for Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the dead included a senior local militant and a young woman described as a suicide-bomber-in-training.

Many police officers were wounded in the restaurant attack, which began when militants fired on the restaurant, drawing security forces to the scene. A subsequent car bomb explosion sprayed shrapnel over those nearby.

Twin attacks are a signature tactic of militants in the North Caucasus region who are fighting to break away from Russian rule and establish an independent Islamic state. They have pledged to strike the Winter Games in Sochi, which begin on February 7.



Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to ensure full security at the Sochi Games, which will feature 6,000 athletes from 85 countries and large crowds of foreign visitors. A security force of 30,000 is already in place in and around the Black Sea resort, where security rules said to be unprecedented at an international sporting event are already in place.

Portions of a prerecorded interview with Mr. Putin on Russian television Friday showed the Kremlin leader pledging he would do "everything" possible to keep Sochi safe. Speaking firmly, he said: "If we betray weakness, betray fear -- display our fear -- then we will be helping terrorists achieve their goals."

Makhachkala, the scene of the violence Friday night and Saturday, is about 620 kilometers east of Sochi - closer than Volgograd, the southern Russian city where bomb attacks on a rail station and a trolley-bus last month killed 34 people and injured more than 100 others.

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