MOSCOW, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Russia says it has killed the mastermind behind the March suicide bombings in Moscow's underground railway system.
Smoke was billowing from a badly damaged stone housing complex in a Caucasus valley that Moscow said was the final hideout of top Chechen militant leader Magomedali Vagabov.
Camouflaged security forces Saturday stormed the building in the city of Gunib in the mountains of Dagestan, killing five militants, including the No. 2 man of the Islamist insurgency destabilizing the region, officials said Monday. There were no civilian or police casualties, they added.
"In total, five militants were killed, among them the self-proclaimed Amir of Dagestan, Magomedali Vagabov," Vyacheslav Shanshin, of the Russian Federal Security Service, told Russian television. "This man has committed a lot of crimes, including organizing the bombings in the Moscow subway and several murder attempts on police officers."
Russia's anti-terror committee said Vagabov was second-in-command to Doku Umarov, the leader of the insurgency in the North Caucasus. They added he was actively involved in recruiting and training the suicide bombers that struck on two Moscow metro trains on March 29, killing 40 people and injuring more than 100. The explosions rocked the Lubjanka and Park Kultury stations and were the deadliest terrorist attacks in years.
Russian officials claim Vagabov was the husband of Maryam Sharipova, who detonated the bomb in the Lubyanka metro station. Sharipova's family denies that she was married to Vagabov, Radio Free Europe reports.
Meanwhile, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that a Russian border police officer and his off-road vehicle are missing in Dagestan, adding that his driver was found dead, his throat cut.
Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus republics Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia have seen an upsurge of violence recently, with frequent attacks by militants on police and political buildings. Russia has been fighting the insurgency for many years following two bloody conflicts in Chechnya in the 1990s.
The Dagestan insurgents aim to create an Islamic state based on Shariah law stretching across the North Caucasus. Yet human rights groups have also criticized Russia's police for cracking down violently on the local population under the pretext of fighting terrorism.