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Russia says top al-Qaeda militant in North Caucasus killed

The Kremlin has announced the killing of al-Qaeda's top militant in the Caucasus following a security operation in Chechnya. "Moganned" is known as a religious authority and top coordinator of the Islamist insurgency.

Russian soldiers stationed in the North Caucasus

Russian security forces had been hunting 'Moganned' for years

Russian federal authorities said on Friday that a top emissary of al Qaeda's Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus had been killed in a security operation in Chechnya.

The National Anti-terror Committee said Khaled Yusef Mukhammed al Emirat - known as "Moganned" - was among its most wanted insurgents and had participated in the planning of several suicide bomb attacks in Russia in recent years.

"Almost all acts of terror using suicide bombers in the last years were prepared with [Moganned's] involvement," a spokesman for the committee said in a televised statement.

A website linked to the insurgency, kavkazcenter.com, confirmed that the militant had been killed on Thursday in a clash with security forces in southern Chechnya that also claimed the lives of at least two other militants.

Power struggle

Russian officials said Moganned had been operating in the northern Caucasus since 1999 and by 2005 had emerged as the main "coordinator" for handling money that was coming in from abroad to support the militant underground.

"The rats have started coming out of the woodwork," the war-torn republic's Kremlin-appointed leader Ramzan Kadyrov told news agencies after the death was confirmed.

Flowers at Moscow's Domodedovo airport

A terror attack rocked Russia's busiest airport in January

"Each one of them will be either arrested or destroyed," he added.

Moganned's death marks a particularly important victory for the regional authorities of Chechnya, because the rebel had made it his mission to oust Kadyrov from power.

Neighboring Russia has frequently pointed to the role played by al Qaeda in the 15-year-old North Caucasus insurgency. The first North Caucasus conflict began at the end of 1994 in Chechnya when local fighters - almost all of them former members of the Soviet armed forces - stood up against Kremlin rule.

The past year has seen a surge in terrorist violence in Russia, with a bombing at the country's busiest airport killing 37 people in January and a twin suicide attack that claimed 40 lives during morning rush hour on the metro in March 2010.

Both of those attacks were claimed by Chechen rebel groups.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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