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A Dagestani cell of the Caucasus Emirate claimed that a recent government raid against fighters in Chontaul killed civilians instead; the group also threatened further attacks. The Caucasus Emirate acknowledged the death of Eldar Magatov, one of its officials, in a government raid. The State Duma passed a bill increasing penalties for terrorism convictions.

Moscow's top immigration official said security forces detained an Egyptian member of al Qaeda in October who was seeking asylum; 15 members of the al Qaeda-linked At Takfir Wal Hijra were detained in November. Russian authorities are looking for potential 'black widow' suicide bombers Jhannet Tsakhaeva, from Dagestan, and Oksana Aslanova, from Turkmenistan, as well as two men, Ruslan Saufutdinov and Murad Musaev, who are thought to be planning attacks in southern Russia. Security forces identified one of the suicide bombers in last month's attacks in Volgograd as Pavel Pechenkin, an ethnic Russian who joined a Dagestani terrorist cell in 2010. An email threatening attacks at the Sochi Olympics was sent to a several countries, including Hungary, Italy, and Germany, but officials believe it is not credible. Russia plans to continue providing humanitarian aid to Syrians displaced by the conflict.

Syria Talks Open with Acrimony and Testy Exchanges

US Offers Russia High-Tech Aid to Thwart Sochi Terror

Police killed Eldar Magatov a.k.a. Saifullakh, a wanted senior Islamist militant, in shootout during a raid on a home in Dagestan. Security forces also conducted two other simultaneous raids in the districts of Kizlyarsk and Khazavyurt in Dagestan.

Is Doku Umarov Really Dead? Assessing The Circumstantial Evidence

A militant Islamist group released a video threatening attacks at the Sochi Olympics and claiming two suicide bombings in Volgograd last month. Russian authorities are reportedly looking for as many as four 'black widow' suicide bombers, three of whom are from Dagestan, who may be targeting the Sochi Olympics, including Ruzanna (Salima) Ibragimova, who has been missing from Dagestan since last month. Umedjon Tojiev, a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party who was in custody on extremism charges, died in a prison hospital in Tajikistan. Speculation mounted that Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov is dead, after the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) issued a condolence message to jihadists for his death.

Islamic Caucasus Emirate claims suicide bombings in southern Russia

Seven Islamist militants suspected in yesterday's bomb attack on a Makhachkala restaurant were killed in a shootout with security forces. Among those killed were Makhmud Aliyev, the recently named head of the Makhachkala cell, and Zaira Aliyeva, the widow of a previously killed militant, who may have been preparing to conduct a suicide bombing. A video purporting to indicate that Dagestan's former First Deputy Prime Minister Rizvan Kurbanov is linked to the Caucasus insurgency was released on Jan. 14.

A car bombing at a Makhachkala restaurant injured nine people in Dagestan, including two police officers. Sources claim that Russia has stepped up deliveries of military equipment to Syria to help the Assad regime capitalize on recent rebel infighting. Speaking in Moscow, Syria's foreign minister said his government was ready to cooperate with the Syrian opposition in combating terrorism and would consider prisoner exchanges, and that Russia's foreign minister would help facilitate the establishment of "a zero hour for a ceasefire and the cessation of military operations" in Aleppo city.

Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov is dead, and said intercepted communications between militant Islamist leaders in Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan mentioned the election of a new "emir." Authorities placed Aleksandr Sokolov, a convicted criminal, in pretrial detention; he has admitted to appearing in a Koran-burning video.

During a raid in Dagestan's Khasavyurt, four suspected Islamist militants and three security force members were killed in a shootout; five security force members were wounded in the operation. Investigators said one of the dead militants was Marat Idrisov, who is thought to have planned the car bombing in Pyatigorsk that killed three people in late December.

Fighting Among Rebels Boosts Syrian Regime

Foreign Minister Lavrov said there is "no clear front" between the Syrian opposition and the terrorists, and claimed that terrorists in Syria, including the Islamic Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, and the Al Nusrah Front, continue to grow in strength. Security forces killed two men in a shootout in Dagestan's Kizilyurt district yesterday. A prominent businessman was killed by gunmen in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, on Oct. 11. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov offered a $1,000 cash reward to anyone who names their child born on Jan. 13 after the Prophet Mohammed or members of his family.

Security forces arrested five suspected members of an international terrorist group in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya in the North Caucasus. Ammunition, grenades, and a homemade bomb packed with shrapnel were seized during the raid in Nalchik, which lies about 185 miles west of Sochi, the site of next month's Olympics.

How Syria's chemical weapons are being destroyed

Police launched an investigation after six corpses were found with gunshot wounds in or near four cars outside the North Caucasus gateway city of Stavropol; at least two of the cars were booby-trapped. Three suspects have been named, two of whom are Islamist militants. A Russian woman wearing a suicide belt was reportedly arrested on a Stavropol bus. Authorities are investigating a video that surfaced on the Internet a few days ago showing Russian men burning the Koran and taunting an injured young man on a Moscow subway. The Chechnya prosecutor's office charged Shakhid Temirbulatov, a Chechen man, in absentia with fighting for Islamist insurgents in Syria.

In a massive security crackdown ahead of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia has deployed 50,000 police, intelligence officers, and soldiers, along with submarines and drones to monitor the region from the sea and the air, and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. Cell phone and email traffic will also be monitored. The Interior Ministry believes that some 600 militants are organized in about 40 gangs in the North Caucasus. In September, Russian intelligence said up to 400 Caucasus militants were fighting for Islamist groups in Syria.

Securing Sochi: Nostalgic for Stalin

Authorities have detained over 700 people in Volgograd following two suicide bombings in the city at the end of December. Officials have said that the two bombers were men from the North Caucasus; other reports alleged that one was an ethnic Russian who had converted to Islam. No group has claimed the attack.