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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Putin pledges ruthless fight against Caucasus militants

RIA Novosti

18:40 03/12/2009 MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged radical measures to end a surge of militant violence in the North Caucasus, but said a new war is not expected in the region.

"No new war is in the air in the North Caucasus, but the situation is difficult... illegally armed groups are still active there. We will wage a ruthless fight against them until they are totally destroyed," Putin said in his annual question-and-answer session broadcast live on television and radio on Thursday.

Skirmishes between troops and separatists, and attacks on police and other officials have been reported daily in the mainly Muslim regions in Russia's Caucasus, including Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya, the last of which saw two brutal wars in the late 1990s-early 2000s.

Islamists also claimed responsibility for last week's bomb attack which derailed a luxury express train en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg killing 26 people and injuring over 90.

In a statement posted on a website Islamists pledged to continue acts of sabotage in Russia in a bid to end the Russian "occupation" of the North Caucasus.

Putin, however, also acknowledged a need to tackle unemployment, organized crime, clan rivalry and corruption as causes of the ongoing violence.

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