MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police shot dead three suspected militants on Thursday evening in the Dagestan province of Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, local media said.
Russia is struggling to contain a persistent Islamist insurgency in the patchwork of small, mostly Muslim regions along the country's southern border more than a decade after federal forces ousted a separatist government in Chechnya.
Interfax news agency quoted the Interior Affairs Ministry as saying militants opened fire on a police car in the provincial capital of Makhachkala, but that no law enforcement officials suffered injuries.
"The shooters were trying to flee the assault site. A chase was organized. As a result three attackers were cut off in a house and killed following brief fighting," Interfax quoted the ministry as saying.
Rebels, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in the strip of North Caucasus provinces, target police and security forces as well as government officials and mainstream Muslim leaders in frequent attacks.
Rights activists say the insurgency is also driven by poverty and anger at the heavy-handed tactics of the security forces.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska