MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian security forces killed three gunmen suspected of involvement in attacks on senior Muslim leaders in the Tatarstan region, where outbursts of violence have raised fears of a rise of militant Islam, security officials said on Wednesday.
In July, Tatarstan’s top Islamic official, mufti Ildis Faizov, was wounded in a car-bomb attack and his deputy was shot dead the same day. President Vladimir Putin traveled to Tatarstan in August to call for an end to religious violence.
The Investigative Committee, which handles criminal investigations, said in a statement that security forces attempted to arrest three suspects in an apartment building in Tatarstan’s capital Kazan, some 720 km (450 miles) east of Moscow.
The committee said the suspects fought back, killing a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer with grenade. Security forces subsequently stormed the building, killing all three suspects who were hiding on the first floor.
Tatarstan’s Interior Ministry said one of those killed had an explosive device which looked similar to a suicide bomber’s belt. Russian news agencies cited law enforcement sources as saying the gunmen were “adherents of radical Islam”.
Unlike Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, where clashes between police and Islamist insurgents are regular events, oil-producing Tatarstan has until recently been relatively peaceful.
Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Michael Roddy