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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dagestani Rebel Leader Killed in Long Gunfight

MAKHACHKALA -- A rebel leader and two other gunmen were killed Thursday in Dagestan after a 14-hour gunfight, police said.

Police shootouts and attacks by rebels against federal forces in the North Caucasus have become more frequent in recent months, fueling worries that the Chechen conflict has taken root in neighboring provinces.

"As a result of the operation, three armed rebels were killed. The operation is complete," Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev told reporters outside the apartment block where the gun battle took place.

"One of the bandits was Shamil Gasanov, who is said to be leading this group and who is involved with killing at least five policemen in the last few months," Yedelev said.

Neither Gasanov's death nor his leadership influence within Dagestan's rebel network could be independently confirmed.

Federal authorities have in the past described ordinary rebels they have killed as leaders, and also claimed many times over the deaths of different genuine leaders.

Security analysts said Gasanov had risen to prominence this year, and they believe he was in a group who appeared on an Internet video in October taunting Dagestani officials and police.

In November, federal forces killed five men in a shootout at another town in Dagestan. One of the dead was Abu Havs, whom authorities said was an Arab rebel leader with al-Qaida links.

Television footage on Thursday showed two spotlights illuminating a 10-story building in a scruffy apartment block in Makhachkala, from which a gunman sprayed automatic machine gun fire.

In other footage, heavily armed soldiers checked their weapons, maneuvered behind vehicles and crouched behind walls.