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IS claims deadly shooting in Russia's Caucasus: SITE

Moscow is fighting an insurgency against rebels in the largely Muslim North Caucasus, with unrest particularly intense in Dagestan
Special forces guard the site of two blasts in Dagestan's capital Makhachkala in May 2012 (AFP)

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a shooting at an ancient citadel in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan that killed one and injured 11, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

"With the help of Allah, the warriors of the Khalifate were able to attack a group of Russian special service officers in the city of Derbent in southern Dagestan, killing one officer and injuring the others," the militant monitoring organisation SITE quoted IS as saying on Wednesday. 

The deadly attack took place on Tuesday night near the citadel of Derbent, which claims to be Russia's oldest city, and which this year celebrated its 2,000th anniversary. 

Russia has faced an insurgency in the North Caucasus since 1994, fighting two brutal wars against Chechen separatists, which were originally nationalist rather than religious in character. The insurgency in the region has continued, despite Russia declaring an end to anti-terrorist operations in April 2009, and establishing a pro-Moscow government in Grozny responsible for gross human rights violations and suspected of involvement in assassinations of leading  Russian critics of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Before his death, the leader of the Chechen insurgency Dokka Umarov, who claimed responsibility for bombing the Moscow metro in 2010 and one of Moscow's airports a year later, declared a Caucasus Emirate and called himself the Emir. He renounced Chechen nationalism along with the title of president of the unrecognised Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. In June IS declared it had established a franchise in neighbouring Dagestan. 

Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front had called on militants from the Caucasus to perpetrate attacks in Russia in response to Moscow's bombing campaign to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

The shooting took place as Russian warplanes wrapped up two days of intensive bombing raids over Syria, carrying out 121 sorties in which they hit 424 targets, the military announced on Wednesday. 

The attack targeted Russian security forces, with an unnamed source telling RIA Novosti state news agency that a member of the Federal Security Service (FSB) had been killed and another injured in the shooting. 

Derbent, is a UNESCO protected site and claims to be Russia's oldest city. It celebrated its 2,000th anniversary this year (Flicker / Allie)

The gunmen, who were reportedly in the forest, opened fire at people standing by the fortress, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003.

Located on the southeastern shore of the Caspian Sea, Derbent served as a strategic port city at the crossroads of empires and was incorporated into the Russian empire in the 19th century. 

The Kremlin is currently fighting a deadly insurgency against rebels in the largely Muslim North Caucasus, with unrest particularly intense in Dagestan.

At least 118 people were killed there between January and November as a result of the conflict, according to the Caucasian Knot news portal, which monitors militancy in the North Caucasus. 

Moscow has said part of the reason why it began operating over Syria was to prevent IS militants and what it calls other "terrorist groups" from perpetrating attacks on Russian soil. 

According to FSB figures released earlier this month, nearly 2,900 Russians are fighting or have fought with militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

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