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Russian security forces kill 4 suspected militants, including rebel leader in North Caucasus

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MOSCOW — Russian security forces have killed four suspected militants, including the top leader of Islamic rebels in North Caucasus, the nation's counterterrorism agency said Tuesday.

The Anti-Terrorist Committee said the suspects were killed in a raid in the province of Dagestan. It identified one of them as Magomed Suleimanov, the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, a loose group embracing Islamic militants in the Caucasus. Suleimanov's deputy was also among those killed.

The committee said Suleimanov was suspected of staging the 2012 killing of Said Afandi, the powerful leader of Dagestan's Sufi Muslim brotherhood. The warlord was also accused of numerous killings of police officers and civilians in the region.

Dagestan has been the epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spread across North Caucasus after two separatist wars in Chechnya. The insurgents want to carve out a separate state governed by their strict interpretation of Islamic law, and some have links to the Islamic State group.

Suleimanov was the third Caucasus rebel chief killed in as many years. He became the leader of the Caucasus Emirate in April, after the Russian forces killed his predecessor Aliaskhab Kebekov. Kebekov, who pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, succeeded Doku Umarov, who had claimed responsibility for major terror attacks in Russia.

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