Russia's special counterterrorism security force on Sunday in the North Caucasus province of Kabardino-Balkaria killed three radical Islamists suspected of planning attacks on Russian Orthodox Catholic churches during the Orthodox Christmas holiday on Jan. 7, 2013, an Israeli counterterrorism expert and former U.S. police commander told Law Enforcement Examiner.
Russia's security force attempted to stop an SUV in Kabardino-Balkaria, but the suspects in the vehicle opened fire and were eventually killed during the deadly gunfight.
During the security officers and suspected terrorists exchange of gunfire, the Islamist's SUV caught fire, according to a statement by the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee.
The anti-terrorism committee's statement said that explosives, guns and ammunition were found in the van and that the men who were killed had been planning attacks on churches during services marking Russian Orthodox Christmas, which is on Monday.
Intense battles between police and suspected militants at security checkpoints are common in the North Caucasus region, which contains several provinces with active Islamist insurgencies rooted in two separatist wars in Chechnya, according to the Israeli source.
Kabardino-Balkaria, just west of Chechnya, is mostly Muslim, but has a sizable Christian minority who must endure frequent terrorist attacks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's 13-year-regime has experienced a great deal of violence in the North Caucasus as well as attacks by the terrorists in other parts of the country.
Putin has urged Islamists to seek ethnic and religious peace during his new term that started in May 2012.
What troubles the Russian government most is the fact that the 2014 Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in 2014 in the vicinity of these terrorist attacks, said the Israeli counterterrorist.