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18 Sep, 2007 07:13

Top militant leader killed in southern Russia

The body of Rappani Khalilov, one of the most wanted militants in Russia, was found under the debris of a house, attacked by special police forces on Monday. The operation took place in the suburbs of the town of Kizilyurt in the North Caucasian republic

Russia's Federal Security Service says the militant field commander had strong ties with international terrorist organisations, and was known as the leader of Dagestan's militants. Several of his alleged accomplices have been detained.    

At least two militants were killed as a result of the special operation on Monday.

The fight went on throughout the day as the militants showed fierce resistance. The house where the bandits had been hiding was destroyed during the fight.

As the site was being cleared of rubble, the police found two bodies. One of them was identified as the militant commander.

“Approximately at 2 a.m. local time the body of the second militant was found in the debris of the house that was stormed. He was identified as Rappani Halilov. The body of the first bandit was found earlier, at about 11 pm. The search in the debris continues. We assume that there can be at least one more militant killed in the house,” explained Mark Tolchinsky from the Dagestan Interior Ministry.

Khalilov is believed to have been the mastermind and a participant in several dozen terror acts across Russia, including the blast during the Victory Day military parade in the town of Kaspiysk in 2002, which killed more than 40 people and wounded another 130.

Authorities say the operation was the work of many months preparation.

“His accomplices and messengers were also detained. After the operation was finished and Khalilov and his aide were killed, an identification was carried out,” said Vyacheslav Shanshin, head of Dagestan’s Security Service.

Aleksey Malashenko, an analyst from the Carnegie Moscow Center says the commander had a great influence on his followers.

“He was the most powerful figure among Islamic radicals of North Caucasus and he had very high authority among the people who were around him. That is why approximately two-three years ago he became the main target of the Russian security services,” pointed out Aleksey Malashenko.

Authorities believe the death of the commander to be a significant success. They say it will drastically reduce the number of terrorist acts in the country.