Militant leader is reported killed in Dagestan shootout

Man identified as head of 2 violent Muslim groups

July 07, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

MOSCOW - The leader of a violent Islamic militant group believed to be responsible for a wave of shootings and bombings in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan was killed yesterday in a four-hour shootout with police, authorities said.

The apparent death of Rasul Makasharipov, a former interpreter for Chechen separatist leader Shamil Basayev, was seen as a significant development for authorities who have been virtually under siege in the republic, which borders the war-torn republic of Chechnya.

In recent months, the violence in Dagestan has exceeded even that of Chechnya, prompting one senior Kremlin official to warn recently that the entire northern Caucasus could be slipping out of Russia's control.

Makasharipov, twice before reported killed in clashes with police only to turn up alive, is identified as the leader of the Jennet and Shariat jamaats, or Islamic militant groups. Over the past several months, the groups have been responsible for blowing up a cargo train, killing 29 police officers; and assassinating a local government minister, a regional legislator and a prominent journalist.

Only Tuesday, two police officers were killed and several others were wounded when a bomb blast tore through a police post in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, where yesterday's shootout occurred. Eleven Russian servicemen were killed and 27 people were injured when a roadside bomb exploded July 1.

"Relief and gratitude are emotions. We still have a lot of very serious, painstaking work ahead of us," Dagestan Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Abdul Musayev said in a telephone interview after the reports of the rebel leader's death.

The Shariat group took responsibility for the latest rebel attacks, along with the shooting death three days earlier of prominent local journalist Magomed-Zagid Varisov outside his home in Makhachkala.

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