MAKHACHKALA, Russia – MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP) — The partly decapitated bodies of two Russian border guards and a forest worker have been found in the country's volatile south, officials said Monday.
The border guards were serving in Dagestan, a republic in the North Caucasus where law enforcement officers and other officials come under daily attack from militants. Authorities were working under the assumption that militants attacked the border guards.
At least three people were wounded in other attacks carried out Monday, while four suspected militants died when explosives they were transporting by car unexpectedly blew up, police said.
Some have linked the upsurge in violence to the killing in Dagestan over the weekend of an Islamic militant leader accused of organizing twin suicide bombings that killed 40 people on the Moscow subway in March.
On Monday, the deputy major of the Dagestani city of Kizlyar was badly wounded when he was attacked by unknown gunmen outside the city administration building, police said.
A 5-year-old girl and 19-year-old woman were wounded in the city of Derbent when a nearby police post came under automatic weapons fire. Several stray bullets flew through the window of their house, police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said.
Four people died when two cars exploded in separate parts of Dagestan. The victims in both cases were suspected of transporting explosives for use in terror attacks, Gasanov said.
The two border guards were last seen late Saturday when they drove away from their post's headquarters. One was found dead Sunday, and the other, a lieutenant colonel who commanded the local post, was discovered Monday, according to separate accounts from the border guards service and local police.
The civilian, also found dead Monday, had a job in the forestry sector, police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said. The three had been almost decapitated, he said.
The border guard service said a second civilian had disappeared with them, and the party of four had been traveling in two cars. His fate was unclear.
Russia has been fighting an insurgency in the North Caucasus following two wars in Chechnya in the past 15 years. The militants seek an Islamic emirate across the North Caucasus that adheres to Shariah law.
Rights activists say the attacks are in part provoked by extrajudicial killings, torture and kidnappings by police under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
Dagestan's leader appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month to bolster security forces in the republic.
"We have seen an upsurge in terrorist activity," Magomedsalam Magomedov told the president during a televised meeting. "Their aim is to disrupt the work of the organs of power, they try to sow panic among the population."
Ten days later, special forces killed Madomedali Vagabov and four other suspected militants. Vagabov was considered to have been second in command in the insurgency.