Three militants killed identified

Three militants who were killed in a weekend shootout with security forces in southern Russia have been identified, police said Monday.

The three were killed Sunday morning when security forces stormed the apartment where they had barricaded themselves in Nalchik, the capital of the mostly Muslim Kabardino-Balkariya region in the Caucasus Mountains.

Authorities had previously said that the militants were Islamic extremists, but it was unclear whether the two Russians were adherents of Islam or simply mercenaries, Polyansky said.

Investigators found a Makarov pistol in the ruins of the apartment that bore the serial number of a weapon that went missing during a June militant raid on the Ingushetia region, Polyansky said, tying the dead militants to a longer series of rebel attacks that have rocked southern Russia.

On Sunday, Arkady Edelev, a deputy federal interior minister, said the confrontation with the three militants came during a three-day sweep in Nalchik to root out what he called "terrorist-sabotage groups." He said the groups were preparing terrorist attacks in Kabardino-Balkariya and other Northern Caucasus regions.

Three people were detained and police searching a house on Saturday confiscated one gun, four grenades and Islamic literature produced by the conservative Wahhabi sect, according to a duty officer for the southern district office of the federal Interior Ministry.

Edelev said investigators also found a laboratory where homemade bombs were being manufactured in Nalchik, some 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) south of Moscow.

Russia's southern provinces have been plagued by violence including the September school hostage-taking in the city of Beslan in which some 330 people were killed some of it spilling over from war-shattered Chechnya.

Photo: Security forces stand outside an apartment building in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, in this image made from television broadcast Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005. Security forces stormed an apartment building in southern Russia Sunday, killing three suspected Islamic militants who had barricaded themselves inside, law enforcement officials said

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