WASHINGTON – The leader of a North Caucasus ISIS branch was killed in a special operation conducted by Russian Federal Security Service forces in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, the security service said in a statement Sunday.
Rustam Magomedovich Aselderov, known as Abu Muhammad, and four militants close to him were killed in an exchange of fire with government forces Saturday near Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, the statement from the FSB said.
Security forces surrounded a residence where the militants were hiding. During negotiations to surrender, the militants fired automatic weapons and government forces fired back.
Officials seized automatic weapons, large quantities of ammunition and explosives from the site, the FSB said.
Aselderov pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014 before becoming the leader of the so-called “Vilayat Caucasus” in 2015, according to the FSB.
The US State Department designated Aselderov a foreign terrorist fighter in September 2015.
Aselderov managed criminal activity and organized terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, in the North Caucasus region and central Russia.
He was wanted in connection with the 2013 terrorist attacks in the city of Volgograd, where suspected suicide bombers detonated explosives at a rail station and a trolley bus, killing more than 30 people.
Russian citizens, mostly Chechens or Dagestanis from the largely Muslim North Caucasus region, comprise the largest group of ISIS fighters from a non-Muslim majority country, and they have played key roles in the group, according to CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and David Sterman, an international security analyst with the New America think tank.
CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the Russian operation.