KAZAN, Russia -- Interior Ministry officials in Tatarstan say three armed men have been killed in a shootout in the Russian republic, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.
The Interior Ministry's press service said on November 25 that the small group had tried two weeks ago to attack the Interior Ministry's chief counterterrorism unit in the northern Tatar town of Chistopol. They escaped then but a search operation was begun.
The Interior Ministry press service said more than 500 members of the ministry participated in the search, which took place in the Nurlat area of Tatarstan. It said OMON special forces, armored personnel carriers, and one MI-8 helicopter were involved in the operation.
The armed men reportedly shot at a hunter on November 24 in the village of Selengushi and later opened fire on the car of a private security company.
Security forces engaged the group in a firefight for several hours but it managed to escape.
The next day the group was discovered in the village of Elmet. The group again resisted arrest and were shot dead by security forces. They were armed with machine guns, a grenade launcher, and plenty of ammunition.
The killed men were identified as Ruslan Spiridonov (34), Albert Khusnutdinov (30), and Almaz Davletshin (26).
Irina Nizhelsky, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman, said after the operation that "there is a 90 percent chance the liquidated terrorists belong to a banned Islamist organization, which could be Hizb ut-Tahrir."
Sergei Kalaida, a deputy spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Kazan, said that FSB officers also took part in the special operation.
With regard to the involvement of the three men with Hizb ut-Tahrir, Kalaida said, "we do not specify these details in order to avoid undesirable consequences."
Russian authorities consider Hizb ut-Tahrir to be a terrorist organization. Several court cases against alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members have been held in some of Russia's mainly Muslim-populated regions such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Daghestan.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international Islamic organization whose goal is to unite all Muslim countries into a caliphate that would be ruled by Islamic law. It denies using violence or terrorist means in pursuing its goal.Read more in Tatar here