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MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian security forces have killed a group of Muslim rebels in the southern region of Kabardino-Balkaria, news agencies said, a rare operation in one of the North Caucasus least violent regions.

An early morning raid on a house in a regional town by special forces killed three or four rebels, Interfax news agency quoted a security service force as saying.

Kabardino-Balkaria lies about 170 kilometers west of Chechnya, the focus of violence in the North Caucasus after two wars between federal forces and rebels since 1994.

Islamist radicalism has spread from Chechnya across the region over the last few years, but major operations in Kabardino-Balkaria have been relatively rare since a raid in 2005 by Islamist extremists in the capital, Nalchik, killed more than 100 people.