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Russian forces in ‘deadly’ raid against Caucasus militants

Heavily-armed Russian special forces on Wednesday raided an apartment building in Saint Petersburg in an operation targeting North Caucasus militants, reportedly killing two suspects.

The FSB security service said in a statement quoted by Russian agencies that the raid was part of an operation to detain “wanted persons accused of participating in illegal armed groups in the North Caucasus”.

“Criminals were destroyed by return fire when they attempted to resist,” the FSB said, without specifying how many suspects were killed. Local online newspaper Fontanka.ru reported that two alleged militants were killed and three arrested.

TV footage showed heavily-armed men in balaclavas cordoning off the multistorey apartment block on the outskirts of the northwestern city famed for its tsarist-era palaces.

“I heard several explosions and then a series of what sounded like gunshots,” a man who said he was a resident of a neighbouring apartment building told Rossiya 24 television.

Special operations against suspected Islamists are frequent in Russia’s North Caucasus region but have been rare in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in recent years.

Russia has battled a simmering insurgency in the Caucasus ever since fighting two brutal separatist conflicts with Chechnya. Many Islamists have left for Syria and there has been little violence linked to the North Caucasus spilling out of the region in recent years, with the last such attacks in the southern city of Volgograd in 2013. 

4 suspected militants killed in St Petersburg
Russia's top investigative body said four suspected militants have been killed in a shoot-out with intelligence officers in St Petersburg. The Investigative Committee said in a statement today FSB officers were raiding apartments in Russia's second-largest city looking for suspected Islamic insurgents who have fought in Russia's North Caucasus. The investigators said the suspects holed up in an apartment block on the outskirts of St Petersburg and opened fire when the officers tried to detain them. No civilian or FSB casualties have been reported. Television footage from the scene showed FSB officers in riot gear surrounding the sprawling apartment block. Shootouts between police and suspected Islamic militants are common in Dagestan, Russia's hotbed of Islamic insurgency, but the violence rarely spills outside the North Caucasus. 

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