Russian police free child hostage, kill seven militants in Dagestan

MOSCOW Sat Dec 29, 2012 6:31am GMT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian security forces killed seven militants and freed a 6-year-old girl taken hostage in the restive Dagestan region of Russia's volatile North Caucasus on Saturday, a national anti-terrorism committee official told Interfax news agency.

The incident took place in an apartment building in the provincial capital of Makhachkala, according to the Interfax report. The militants broke through a wall, entered an apartment and took the girl hostage, according to the report.

"However, as a result of coordinated and professional actions of the special forces, the child was set free and the remaining bandits were neutralised," an anti-terrorism committee representative was quoted as saying.

The Interfax report identified the leader of the militants involved in the incident as Gadzhimurat Dolgatov and said he was among the seven killed. The report said those killed had previously served sentences for crimes including murder, extortion, theft and robbery.

During the incident, the militants opened fire and threw a grenade at the special forces personnel while trying to flee, but no security forces were hurt, Interfax reported.

Rebels who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in the strip of North Caucasus provinces often target police and security forces as well as government officials and mainstream Muslim leaders in attacks.

Rights activists say the insurgency is also driven by poverty and anger at the heavy-handed tactics of the Russian security forces.

(Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Will Dunham)

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