About 700 militants still active in North Caucasus : Russia

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Moscow, Jan 11 (UNI) About 700 Islamic militants are still operating in Russia's troubled North Caucasus region, including Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia, Russian Commander of the Interior Troops Gen Nikolai Rogozhkin said today.

''About 700 militants are operating in the North Caucasus at present and they are constantly on the move,'' Mr Rogozhkin said in a press conference.

He added that there may be at least 70 foreign mercenaries among the active militants.

Although the active phase of the anti-terrorism campaign by Russian troops in the North Caucasus officially ended in 2001, periodic bombings and clashes between militants and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and the nearby regions, including Daghestan, and Ingushetia.

Mr Rogozhkin said at least 10 militants, including several notorious Chechen warlords, had been killed in special operations in the region since the beginning of the year.

According to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), over 500 militants were killed or arrested and at least 200 arms caches were discovered and destroyed in the North Caucasus last year.

Mr Rogozhkin added that police and interior troops had full control over the situation in the region and that the militants were unable to conduct any major terrorist operations there.

''We do not expect any increased terrorist activity in the North Caucasus in 2008,'' he stressed.

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