Russia's special forces killed nine suspected Islamist militants in the restive Dagestan region, including several implicated in attacks on religious leaders and suicide bombings, officials said Tuesday.
Special forces and police units attacked "members of the (Islamist) underground" hiding in a residential house in Buinaksk, a city about 30 kilometres from the regional centre Makhachkala, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) said.
Among those killed was an "infamous militant leader" named Bammatkhan Sheikhov, it added, without making clear when the attack took place.
The Buinaksk group was behind a 2010 suicide bombing attack on a local military base, NAK said in a statement. That attack killed four people and wounded thirty more as a car loaded with explosives ran into a military truck near the entrance to the camp.
The group also killed the imam of Buinaksk central mosque last year, NAK told Russian agencies. Imam Gitinomagomed Abdulgapurov and his guard were killed instantly when a bomb exploded on the street where they were walking.
Russia is trying to control a simmering deadly insurgency in its mountainous North Caucasus, and Dagestan has become the most violent region with near daily killings of police, government officials, religious leaders and journalists.
However locals and rights activists have also accused the Russian authorities of a heavy-handed approach to counterterrorist operations including of blasting residential houses and extrajudicial arrests.