A new study by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights says terrorist attacks are increasingly spreading from Russia's Southern Republic of Chechnya to neighboring regions in the northern Caucasus. The study's release comes as Russia launches large-scale military exercises aimed at countering potential terrorist attacks.

According to the report that is based on law enforcement agency information, terrorist attacks in Russia's southern Dagestan region have more than doubled to 70 since last year.

The attacks claimed the lives of Dagestan's nationalities minister and deputy interior minister among others. But report author Igor Dobayev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, tells VOA the most alarming thing is the new trends and characteristics in the region that the report highlights.

Mr. Dobayev says the terrorist networks operating in this region of the world are adapting the characteristics of terror networks seen in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including not having a set location or base and using extremist ideology to energize and hold disparate groups together.

In the case of Chechnya, where Russian federal forces have been fighting rebel separatists for more than a decade, Mr. Dobayev says several extremist and terrorist groups have formed in nearby provinces. He says they then use the territory to prepare attacks inside and outside Chechnya and even to store explosives.

According to Mr. Dobayev, at least half of the terrorist attacks staged are aimed at leading government officials, with the rest targeting law enforcement, as well as innocent individuals.

The most popular method of attack is to place bombs and shrapnel-packed explosives in cars, buses, and by the road-side to attack official convoys. Mr. Dobayev says another feature of the growing terrorist movements is that they mainly involve young people.

In the latest incident Tuesday, 14 people were killed and at least 24 others injured, when a police jeep was blown up in a village northwest of Chechnya's regional capital, Grozny. Initial reports from investigators on the scene say the shrapnel-filled bomb was equivalent to 10-kilograms of TNT.

Chechnya's Moscow-backed president, Alu Alkhanov, has accused Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev of ordering the attack, but he insists the situation is under control. Mr. Alkhanov has declared Thursday a day or mourning in Chechnya.

Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered the government to provide the necessary funds for stepping up security and military protection on Russia's southern border.

Earlier this week, Russia launched large-scale military exercises aimed at countering potential terrorist attacks. The maneuvers, in Russia's Far East, are designed to prepare the military to fight against international terrorism in all forms. More than 5,000 soldiers are taking part in the drill, which also includes air-force, railway, and interior ministry troops.