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Russian security forces battle militants before Olympics - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A torch bearer carries an Olympic torch during the Olympic torch relay at a stadium in Yelets, some 237.5 miles (380 kilometers) south of Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Olympictorch2014.com)

A torch bearer carries an Olympic torch during the Olympic torch relay at a stadium in Yelets, some 237.5 miles (380 kilometers) south of Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Olympictorch2014.com)

Moscow, Reuters—Three Russian servicemen and four gunmen were killed in a shoot-out in southern Russia on Wednesday during a sweep for militants ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Russia’s National Anti-terrorism Committee (NAC) said the dead gunmen included a man accused of carrying out a car bomb attack in the city of Pyatigorsk late last year which killed three people.

Russia is on high alert following two suicide bombings in southern Russia last month. Islamist militants waging an insurgency in the North Caucasus have threatened to attack the Olympics, which open on February 7.

President Vladimir Putin has staked personal and political prestige on the success of the Games and has put security forces on combat alert in Sochi.

The NAC said in a statement that a group of militants had been trapped in a house in the village of Karlanyurt in the Dagestan region of the North Caucasus. Five officers were also wounded in what a spokesman called a special operation.

Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala, is about 385 miles (620 km) east of Sochi. The mostly Muslim region is plagued by bombings and shootings that mainly target police and state officials as part of the militants’ fight to create an Islamist state.

At least 34 people were killed last month in the suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd. Putin ordered safety measures to be beefed up nationwide after the attacks.

About 37,000 personnel are now in place to provide security in Sochi, which is on the Black Sea and on the western edge of the Caucasus mountains, and the International Olympic Committee has expressed confidence the Games will be safe.

Meanwhile, security forces said on Saturday they had arrested five members of a banned militant group in southern Russia and defused a home-made bomb packed with shrapnel.

The main spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee, whose responsibilities include investigating bombings and other threats to the state, appealed to civilians on Tuesday to be more vigilant to help avert the threat of terrorist attacks.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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