Police killed four suspected members of a Chechen suicide bombing squad overnight and the republic’s leader warned militants he would kill them unless they surrendered, news agencies reported on Saturday.
The men were shot dead in separate incidents after two suicide bombers blew themselves up on Friday outside the Interior Ministry headquarters in the regional capital Grozny, killing two policemen, Itar-Tass news agency reported.
Russia has fought two wars in Chechnya against Muslim rebels since 1994 but Moscow last month lifted decade-long security restrictions in Chechnya, saying the region had returned to normal.
Russian media have reported sporadic fighting since then and Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, warned on Saturday that any remaining rebels would be killed if they continued to fight.
“If anyone remains in the forests, then we shall have no ceremonies with them. There will be only special operations, only the destruction of those who show resistance,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
“Either turn yourself in to the law enforcement agencies and sit out your sentence … or you will find yourself three metres under the ground,” Kadyrov, a former rebel, was quoted as saying.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the former president, trumpets the calming of Chechen violence as one of his big achievements and the Kremlin has poured money into rebuilding Grozny’s shattered buildings.
Moscow’s unwavering support of Kadyrov has alarmed liberals and human rights activists, who accuse the Chechen leader of waging a campaign of forced Islamisation in his republic and committing numerous human rights abuses.