MOSCOW - Russian security forces killed five militants in the restive North Caucasus province of Ingushetia, the federal Anti-Terrorist Committee said on Wednesday.

Police and Federal Security Service (FSB) officers stopped a car carrying suspected militants on Tuesday and killed all five occupants in a brief gun battle that ensued, the committee said in a statement.

It said three of the men were wanted on suspicion of terrorism and had belts with explosives on them.

The account was similar to many issued by authorities about incidents of violence in the North Caucasus and could not be independently verified.

Ingushetia is plagued by frequent attacks targeting police or officials linked to an Islamist insurgency stemming from years of conflict in neighboring Chechnya, where federal forces drove out a separatist government more than a decade ago.

Militants in the North Caucasus say they are fighting for an Islamic state in the strip of provinces along Russia's southern border. Rights activists say the insurgency is fuelled by poverty and anger at the tactics of the security forces.

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