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Top al Qaeda militant dies in Chechnya

By Maxim Tkachenko, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two al Qaeda militants die on Thursday after Chechen security forces confront them
  • Chechen's president says one of the militants was responsible for supplying armed groups in the region
  • Yusef Muhammed al Emirat is accused of being involved in nearly every suicide attack in the Russian Federation in recent years
  • Rebels in Chechnya started out fighting for independence
RELATED TOPICS
  • Al Qaeda
  • Chechnya
  • Terrorism

(CNN) -- Chechen security agents have killed a top al Qaeda militant believed to responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Russia's Northern Caucasus region, officials announced Friday.

Chechnya's Interior Ministry said Yusef Muhammed al Emirat, a native of Saudi Arabia, died Thursday during a sting operation in the mountainous district of south Chechnya. He also operated under the name "Mohanned."

"Mohanned was one of the most notorious warlords," Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told reporters in the Chechen capital, Grozny. "For a long period of time, he was responsible for supplying armed groups with money, training militants and devising plans to commit terrorist acts."

Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee said Mohanned was"directly involved in virtually every suicide terrorist attack committed in the Russian Federation over the past few years," according to intelligence information gained from captured Chechen rebels.

According to the Interior Ministry, Mohanned and another rebel, Chechen Ilez Sultygov, were killed on Thursday after security forces approached the men and ordered them to surrender.

Police said they responded with machine-gun fire and were killed. No security officers were killed or wounded.

Rebels in Chechnya started out fighting for independence in the 1990s, but in recent years, the fight has been aimed more at imposing Islamist rule and asserting their authority in the area.

The fight has exacted a heavy toll in the North Caucasus region where Chechnya is located, and has now spread to other regions of Russia.

The standard of living in the southwestern republic is poor compared with the rest of Russia. Unemployment is rampant and infant mortality is high.

In addition, the Chechen population of about 1 million is mostly made up of Sunni Muslims, who maintain a distinctly different cultural and linguistic identity from Russian Orthodox Christians.

The conflict dates back some 20 years, with Chechens having laid claim to land in the Caucasus Mountains region. Thousands have been killed and 500,000 Chechen people have been displaced from the fighting.

A Chechen rebel leader took the responsibility for the deadly bombings that rocked two subway stations in central Moscow in March 2010.

Russian security forces killed 17 suspected militants in the southern Russian region of Ingushetia last month, after a January 24 airport suicide bombing in Moscow this year.

In addition, Chechen rebels held 700 audience-members hostage in a Moscow theater in 2002. A Russian effort to free them resulted in the deaths of 120 hostages.

Chechen rebels also were accused of downing two Russian airplanes in 2004. And they took over a school in Beslan in the North Ossetia region in 2004. When the siege ended, more than 330 people had died -- half of them children.

In recent years, the insurgency has moved to the east and the west -- to the republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia, where rebels are fighting troops to destabilize the region.

 
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