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Russia kills senior militant leader ahead of Sochi Olympics, officials say

Abdula Magomedov / AP

Russian special force soldiers take part in an anti-terrorist operation in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan on Monday.

A senior militant leader was killed during a gun battle with Russian security forces as they hunted three Muslim women dubbed “black widows” and other terror suspects ahead of the Winter Olympics, officials said. 

Wanted posters are being distributed to Russian police stations alerting them about young Muslim women suspected to be militants targeting the upcoming Winter Olympics. NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reports.

As the leader of the so called “Babayurtovskiy” gang, Eldar Magatov was suspected of bombings, attacks on law enforcement officials and extorting money from businessmen, the  National Anti-Terror Committee (NAK) said in a statement. They operated in the restive region of Dagestan. 

Officers managed to negotiate the release of two women and two children who were holed up with Magatov before he engaged them in the fatal firefight, the NAK added. 

In a separate incident, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Fatina Ubaidatova told the Associated Press that troops elsewhere in Dagestan had defused an explosive device placed near a village administration building and engaged in a firefight with militants holed up in a house. 

Meanwhile, officers continued to hunt for the so called "black widow" terror suspects who they believe are planning to target the final stages of the Olympic torch relay with suicide bomb attacks.

Wanted posters distributed by police say that Jhannet Tsakhaeva, 34, and 26-year-old Zaira Alieva, who also hail from Dagestan and Turkmenistan native Oksana Aslanova, 26, have been dispatched by underground groups to attack between Tuesday and Thursday.

It's thought they are planning to strike in Rostov-on-Don, where the torch is expected to arrive Wednesday, before making its way to the Olympic city of Sochi.

In addition, wanted posters seen by NBC News on Tuesday identify two men — Ruslan Saufutdinov, 21, and Murad Musaev, 25 — who the posters say are planning attacks in southern Russia.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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