Former Guantanamo prisoner shot dead in Southern Russia

Two militants have been killed in a special police operation in the Russian North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. One of the dead men is a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, who was allegedly involved in a series of attacks in Moscow and two other R

The country’s Federal Security Service has named the man as Ruslan Odizhev.  

The 33-year-old is thought to be connected to bombings in apartment blocks in Moscow and Volgodonsk.  He's also been linked to a 2005 attack on the city of Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria.

Wednesday's shootout between FSB officers and two militants began early in the morning in the centre of Nalchik.  The suspects were in a car with St. Petersburg license plates when the police operation began.  Several bullets hit an apartment building but no civilians were harmed.

Both local police and Special Forces say the operation was planned in advance.

“On June 27, the Federal Security Service in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic carried out a special operation aimed at detaining two members of the underground groups operating in the North Caucasus area.  One was the group's leader , Ruslan Odizhev, and the other an active member of the group – Anzor Tengizov. During the operation, the suspects fought back with weapons and were killed.  As has already been confirmed, Ruslan Odizhev played an active role in the activity of a republican religious extremist group and was the spiritual leader of the so-called Jamaat Yarmuk.  He helped mastermind a foiled armed rebellion in Kabardino-Balkaria in 2001. He is known to have taken part in an attack in Nalchik in 2005, and was involved in incidents at apartments in Moscow and Volgodonsk. According to our U.S. partners, Ruslan Odizhev was a supporter of the Taliban. He took part in military operations for them in Afghanistan and was later held at the Guantanamo Bay military base,” Federal Security Service spokesman Sergey Ignatchenko said.

According to police reports, Ruslan Odizhev was a well-known militant leader.  

In 1999 he took part in terrorist attacks in Moscow and Volgodonsk.  Nearly 250 people were killed and 300 injured when powerful bombs destroyed several apartment buildings in both cities.

Three years later, Odizhev was arrested in Afghanistan and transferred to Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.   He was allegedly involved in Taliban activities.  Authorities in the U.S. later agreed to transfer him to Russia.

In 2005, Ruslan Odizhev took part in an attack on several government buildings in Nalchik. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, the terrorists involved in the assault were closely connected with foreign intelligence agencies. The police say the aim of the terrorists was to destabilise the republic.  Fifteen civilians, 30 police officers and more than 90 militants were killed. But once again, Ruslan Odizhev got away.

The Federal Security Service is not disclosing any further details about Wednesday's special operation.  But judging by what could be seen in a police video shot after the incident, the suspects had weapons, maps and other things that could have been used in terrorist attacks.