Russia: Ten killed in clashes with militants

Ten people were reported killed yesterday in clashes between security forces and suspected militants in Russia's mainly Muslim North Caucasus.

The Interfax news agency said five insurgents and three policemen were killed in a gun battle on the border between the Christian-majority region of Stavropol and the mainly Muslim Karachay-Cherkessia province.

In Chechnya, the site of two separatist wars since the 1991 Soviet collapse, two militants about to be captured by police blew themselves up with explosives strapped to their belts, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax. No police were injured, he said.

A decade after separatists were driven from power in Chechnya, the North Caucasus is wracked by violence and the Kremlin faces a growing challenge from rebels who want to establish an Islamic state.

On Monday two suicide bombers killed four and injured 27 in Dagestan, which borders Chechnya and is considered the heart of the insurgency.

President Dmitry Medvedev, citing Islamist attacks, has said terrorism is Russia's top threat.

Earlier this month Islamist leader Doku Umarov, a Chechen, said he ordered the suicide bomb attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 36 people on 24 January.