Russian special forces kill seven militants, lose officer in Dagestan

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday it had killed seven members of an armed group responsible for attacks on police, civilians and for what it said were terrorist acts, in a special operation in the volatile Dagestan region in the south of the country.

Russia’s anti-terrorist committee said one security officer had been killed and another three wounded during the operation against the so-called “Makhachkala gang” which was still going on. There were no civilian casualties, it said.

A mopping up operation is underway in a nearby area of forests and mountains in central Dagestan to root out the possibly remaining “accomplices of the destroyed bandits”, the committee said.

Kremlin critics say that poverty and corruption help feed Islamist militancy in Dagestan. The tiny region borders Chechnya, where Moscow has led two wars against separatists and religious extremists since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Writing by Dmitry Solovyov