Alleged IS militants in Russia’s North Caucasus killed in shootout with security services

Six alleged members of the Islamic State group were killed in a shootout in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, in what the country’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAC) described Sunday as a “counterterrorism operation.”

According to a statement by the NAC, late on Saturday the six men barricaded themselves in a third-floor apartment in Karabulak, a town of about 30,000 in Russia’s semi-autonomous Republic of Ingushetia. A shootout with security services followed, as surrounding streets were blocked off and residents of the apartment block evacuated to a nearby school, according to Russia’s Interfax agency.

Heavy gunfire and blasts appearing to come from inside an apartment block could be heard in videos posted by Karabulak residents on social media.

The NAC did not immediately name the alleged militants, but said three of them were on Russia’s wanted list and all six had been involved in violent acts, including an attack on a traffic police unit last March that killed three officers.

The local branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the country’s main security agency, announced at 7:30 p.m. local time on Saturday that emergency measures were being brought in the vicinity of the building due to an ongoing “counterterrorism” operation. The restrictions were lifted shortly after midday on Sunday.

The NAC claimed that security services found automatic weapons, ammunition, hand grenades and homemade explosives inside the apartment where the men were hiding out.

The agency said that no local residents were hurt, while Baza — a Russian Telegram channel set up by journalists critical of the Kremlin — reported that a man walking by was killed in the shootout. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.

Islamic rebels have fought two full-scale wars with Russian troops in Chechnya, a region neighboring Ingushetia, over the past 20 years. Although the insurgency has been largely suppressed, sporadic attacks persist.

Ingushetia also suffers frequent violence attributed to insurgents, and both regions have seen unrest following Russia’s military action in Ukraine and a deeply unpopular mobilization order in September 2022.

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Elida Latson