MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) – The bodyguard of Russia’s most wanted terrorist whose group pledged to attack the 2014 Winter Olympics was killed in the restive Caucasus region in a clash with federal troops, officials said Saturday.
Mikail Musikhanov, 30, was one of two Islamic militants killed by federal forces Friday in the southern province of Ingushetia, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said. The militants were shot dead during a raid on the Nesterovskaya village in the eastern Sundhza district that borders war-scarred Chechnya, it said.
Musikhanov joined the Caucasus Emirate – a group of jihadists that want to establish an independent Islamic state in the Caucasus and parts of southern Russia with a sizeable Muslim population – in 2008, the Committee said in a statement. In 2011, he became part of the inner circle of Doku Umarov, a seasoned Chechen separatist who has headed the embattled group since 2007, it said.
Cells of the loosely organized group are hiding in the densely forested mountains of several provinces of the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region. The group is rooted in an Islamic militancy that spread over the region from Chechnya after two separatist wars of mid-1990s and early 2000s.
Umarov claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Russia’s recent history, including a twin suicide bombing on the Moscow metro in 2010 that killed 40 and left scores injured.
Umarov has often been dubbed as “Russia’s Osama bin Laden,” but experts and anti-terror officials say his group has been weakened by constant clashes with federal forces and police.
In a video released earlier this month, Umarov - bearded and clad in a khaki uniform - sits in front of a black flag with an Arabic inscription and declares that his group would carry out attacks on what he called the “satanic” Olympic Games that will be held next year at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Although Chechnya was pacified by a Kremlin-backed strongman, several other Caucasus provinces are plagued by frequent attacks of Islamic militants on law enforcement officers, officials and moderate Muslim clerics opposed to jihadists.