Russian news reports say security forces in Russia’s North Caucasus region have killed a rebel chieftain with ties to Islamic State extremists.
The RIA Novosti news agency identified the suspect as Rustam Aselderov, also known as Abu Muhammad, and said he was one of five militants killed near Makhachkala, the capital of the Republic of Dagestan. The Tass news agency described the Russian security sweep as ongoing and said it was to resume Sunday morning.
In a statement from the Federal Security Service, once known as the KGB, authorities described Aselderov as the ringleader of provincial Islamic State operations. It also linked the group to two separate suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd that killed more than 30 people in December 2013.
The reports offered no further details.
Islamist rebels from Dagestan, which lies immediately east of the Republic of Chechnya, are known to have traveled to join Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. Last year the jihadist organization declared it had established a “franchise” in the North Caucasus.
Russia fought two wars against Muslim separatists in Chechnya in the first two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. An uneasy calm has largely prevailed in the region since the end of the second conflict in 2009.
However, Al-Qaida-linked terrorists continue to call on jihadists from the largely Muslim North Caucasus to attack targets in Russia in response to Moscow’s bombing campaign in the Syrian civil war, in support of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.