Russia claims to have killed top al-Qaida figure

Russian officials say a topregional al-Qaida figure was one of two gunmen killed by police in thevolatile Caucasus region of Dagestan.

The two men were killed Tuesday night after they opened fire on officers who had stopped their car, police said.

OnWednesday, the regional office of the Federal Security Serviceidentified one of those killed Mokhmad Mokhamad Shakhban of Egypt andsaid he was a founder of al-Qaida's local network, Russian newsagencies reported.

The southern Russian region of Dagestan, aswell as neighboring Chechnya and Ingushetia, are plagued by violenceconnected to Islamic separatist insurgents. Many are apparently looselygrouped under the Caucasus Emirate movement, which Russian officialssay has al-Qaida connections.