GROZNY , Russia, April 21 (UPI) -- The leader of an al-Qaida-affiliated group in Russia's North Caucasus region was killed in a counterterrorism operation. Aliaskhab Kebekov, 43, head of the Caucasus Emirate, regarded as Russia's most militant insurgent group, was "neutralized" in an assault in Buinaksk, Dagestan, Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee announced Monday. Kebekov's death was confirmed by rebel websites.
Under Kebekov's leadership of about a year, his group organized an attack on the heavily fortified city of Grozny, Chechnya, in which 15 police officers were killed. The violence was regarded as an challenge to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who regards the end of conflict in Chechnya, adjacent to Dagestan, as a singular achievement of his administration.
Moscow also said Kebekov was involved in suicide bombings in Volgograd in 2013 in which 34 people were killed.
Kebekov pledged allegiance to al-Qaida last year, and in March 2015 was added to the U.S. list of global terrorists. He took over the Caucasus Emirate after the presumed death of leader Doku Umarov, under whose direction the group engaged in terrorist bombings across Russia. Russian authorities said Kebekov died when the government's Federal Security Service surrounded a building in Buinaksk, where rebels were hiding. After negotiations broke down the building was fired upon, and collapsed. Five people, including Kebekov, were killed.