NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) - Blasts and shootings on Friday killed five people and injured at least 26 in Russia’s North Caucasus where the Kremlin is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency.
Near the town of Malgobek in Ingushetia, a policeman was killed and 25 people injured when a second bomb exploded in a shop bombed earlier in the day, a police spokesman told Reuters.
Police at the scene told Reuters an insurgent was also killed in a gunfight that ensued between officers and militants.
In a separate incident, a woman selling vodka from a kiosk was shot dead in Malgobek by unidentified gunmen, sources close to the police said.
The mainly Muslim North Caucasus is plagued by violence. Youths, driven by poverty and the ideology of global jihad, stage attacks almost daily. Many want to carve out a separate sharia state where strict Islam is practiced.
Kiosk sellers have been targeted in the past for selling alcohol by Islamist militants wanting to enforce sharia law in Ingushetia.
In nearby Dagestan, a witness who did not wish to be identified told Reuters that a gunman killed spiritual leader Magomed Kazakbiyev outside a mosque in a village, injuring one other person. He had mentored ethnic Russian converts to Islam.
Interfax reported that the district chief in Dagestan’s Magaramkent region, about 167 km (103 miles) southeast of the regional capital Makhachkala, was shot dead as he drove his car.
The deaths were praised by Islamist militants on website kavkazcenter.com, who said that “infidels” had been killed.
Twin suicide bomb attacks on the Moscow metro in March which killed 40 turned the global spotlight on the North Caucasus. Authorities blamed the attacks on two women from Dagestan.
Friday the head of the FSB security service, the main successor to the KGB, said militants involved in the metro bombings had been killed in armed raids in Dagestan.
“Bandits, who are suspected of participating in terrorist attacks against members of law enforcement agencies and the authorities, were destroyed while attempting to resist arrest,” Russian news agencies quoted Alexander Bortnikov as saying.
He did not say how many militants had been killed, but added that raids were continuing Friday in the province.
Though the Kremlin is pouring billions of dollars into the North Caucasus, where unemployment is as high as 50 percent in some regions, religious and government leaders say many youths are turning to extremism.
Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Louise Ireland