Russia claims six militants killed in St Petersburg, Moscow

2016-08-18 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Russian authorities say six suspected militants have been killed by security forces in two separate incidents in the city of St. Petersburg and near Moscow, the capital. Those killed reportedly included gunmen who were described as Islamic insurgents fighting in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report: 

Confused residents were seen standing behind masked security forces in front of an apartment complex on the outskirts in St. Petersburg. It is here where officials said four suspected militants were killed in a shoot-out with intelligence officers in what is Russia's second largest city.

The spokesperson of the Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee later told reporters that the suspects holed up in this apartment block and opened fire when the officers tried to detain them. "A group of people involved in activities of militant underground [groups] operating in the North Caucasus region were discovered in St. Petersburg as a result of operational and search activities carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSB), said spokesman Dmitri Pavlov.

He added that the apartment in which the militants were hidden, "was surrounded" by special FSB forces. When asked to they lay down their arms and surrender, "the gunmen opened fire on personnel of the special forces," Pavlov explained. "As a result of a brief firefight four militants received fatal injuries."

GUNMEN IDENTIFIED

He identified three of the gunmen as "Zalim Shebzukhov born in 1986, Astemir Sheriev born in 1991, and Vyacheslav Nyrov born in 1982."

All three were described as terrorist leaders operating in the Kabardino-Balkaria area. They had been on a Russian wanted list on charges that included attempts to assassinate law enforcement personnel and prosecutors.

Automatic weapons, ammunition and several improvised explosive devices were reportedly found at the site of the special operation, but authorities said there we were no casualties among the civilian population and security forces.

Yet it is rare that raids against suspected Islamist militants are carried out in St Petersburg.

MORE VIOLENCE

In a separate incident which also rocked Russia Wednesday, two gunmen wielding firearms and axes reportedly attacked traffic police on the Shchelkovskoye highway in Balashikha, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Moscow.

The men, reportedly from Central Asia, were shot dead but wounded two policemen.

Both incidents have underscored concerns that the insurgency in the North Caucasus, which followed two bitter separatist conflicts in Russia's Chechnya republic, are spilling over into violence in other parts of Russia. It remains a major challenge for Russia's hardline President Vladimir Putin.

(from Vatican Radio)