An extremist Islamist organization active in southern Russia claimed responsibility for downing a Russian military helicopter Monday, with the loss of 11 men, a Russian television channel said Wednesday.
Alsanbek Kelekhsayev, head of North Ossetia's economic and public security service, said it was yet another attempt by militants to use an accident to discredit the republic.
"There is absolutely not objective evidence to show that the so-called Ossetian Jamaat actually exists," he said.
The Mi-8 Hip transport helicopter, with a three-man crew and 12 senior officers from the Defense Ministry and the headquarters of the North Caucasus military district on board, crashed Monday near the capital of the Republic of North Ossetia, Vladikavkaz, at 5:33 p.m. Moscow time (1:33 p.m. GMT) Monday. At least two generals died.
The NTV channel, citing an unnamed "extremist Web site," said militants with the Kataib al-Khoul Jamaat group said they shot down the aircraft with a missile.
Kataib al-Khoul Jamaat has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on government targets, including a September 6 bomb attack on a Russian convoy in North Ossetia that left four servicemen dead, and four others wounded.
Kataib al-Khoul said in a statement published September 7 by the Kavkaz Center Web Site, a source often used by militants and extremists in Chechnya, that it planned to hit aerial targets as well as conduct land operations.