One of three suspected rebels killed in fighting in the North Caucasus was trained by "terrorists" in Syria, Russian authorities said December 24.
The rebels were killed on December 22 in the Kabardino-Balkaria region, near Georgia, the national antiterrorist committee said. Troops had tried to stop a suspicious car for a routine check when the occupants opened fire, triggering a gunfight.
One of those killed was Nazir Tokhov, whom the committee said travelled to Syria for "terrorist training" before returning to Kabardino-Balkaria to form an armed group of former detainees and "perpetrate terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus."
Kabardino-Balkaria is usually peaceful, but it is close to the republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan, where armed Islamist rebels regularly battle Russian security forces.
North Caucasus islamists previously were united under a local Caucasus Emirate organization, but they are now increasingly flocking to Islamic State (IS). In June, they swore allegiance to IS at the same time IS established a franchise in the North Caucasus.
Russia estimates some 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, are battling alongside IS in Syria and Iraq.