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Homeland Security

Russian police kill al-Qaeda's 'sword of Islam'

RIA Novosti


MAKHACHKALA, February 3 (RIA Novosti) - A militant shot dead by police in the south Russian republic of Dagestan was one of the co-founders of al-Qaeda in the North Caucasus, a security service spokesman said on Wednesday.

Egyptian national Mohamad Shaaban, 49, was killed during a shootout with police in the tiny republic's mountainous Botlikhsky District on Tuesday. A Dagestani militant and a police officer also died.

An FSB spokesman said Shaaban, who went by the name of Seif Islam (the sword of Islam), had seen action in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and "was also in Sudan, Somali, Libya and Georgia."

"In 1992, he arrived in Chechnya to take part in operations against federal forces," the spokesman said, adding that Shaaban had organized the North Caucasus branch of al-Qaeda with Saudi-born Islamic radical Ibn Al-Khattab.

The mainly Muslim regions in Russia's North Caucasus have been plagued by militant violence, with almost daily attacks on security forces and officials.

Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev said on January 16 that 235 police officers and interior troops died in the region in 2009, with 686 injured as recorded terrorist acts, including suicide bombings, rose sharply.

Following a January 6 suicide bomb attack on a police compound in Dagestan that killed five and wounded up to 19 people, Russian President Medvedev ordered the Federal Security Service to tighten security across the North Caucasus.

The president has also established the North Caucasus Federal District and appointed Krasnoyarsk governor and former business executive Alexander Khloponin as deputy prime minister and presidential envoy to the volatile region.

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