A militant leader who was the top representative of Al Qaeda in Russia's North Caucasus has been killed in Chechnya, the National Antiterrorism Committee said on Friday.
The committee said three militants, including a Saudi national known as Mohanad, were killed in a shootout with Interior Ministry troops after a group of up to six militants was found during a search operation in the Shali district.
"Along with Doku Umarov, Mohanad was the most well-known figure among the bandits," the committee said. "He was seen as an unquestioned 'religious authority' and a powerful 'field commander.'"
It said that intelligence from detainees in recent years identified Moganned as a rival to Umarov as the main leader of Islamic militants in the North Caucasus.
Umarov has claimed responsibility for all the main terror attacks in Russia in recent years, including the bombing at Domodedovo Airport in January that killed 37 people and last March's twin suicide attacks on the Moscow Metro in which 40 people died.
Earlier on Friday, a law enforcement source told RIA Novosti that two militants, including an Al Qaeda operative, were killed in a shootout with police in the Kurchaloi district of Chechnya.
The source identified the dead men as gang leader Khaled Youssef Mohammed Al-Emirate, born in Jordan in 1969 and a Grozny resident named Sultygov.
Russian security forces have been battling Islamic militants groups in the North Caucasus for two decades. The violence was centered in Chechnya, the site of two bloody separatist wars in the 1990s and early 2000s, but has spread to neighboring republics, where there are now more attacks than in Chechnya itself.
MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti)