A counter-terrorist operation has been launched in parts of the Republic of Ingushetia due to the threat of an imminent large-scale terrorist attack, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Friday.
The FSB said it had received information indicating that "terrorists had been preparing a series of attacks on administrative buildings, police and citizens in public places on the territory of Ingushetia."
Ingushetia is located in the Russian North Caucasus, and neighbors the troubled Chechen Republic, site of two devastating separatist wars since the break up of the U.S.S.R in 1991. While both republics have been plagued by attacks on police and authorities, as well as militant raids, violence has steadily escalated in recent months in Ingushetia.
"Recent attacks on power lines and communications facilities point to the possibility of a large-scale terrorist act in Ingushetia," an FSB official said.
The main districts included in the "counter-terrorist operation zone" include Ingushetia's largest city Nazran and the capital Magas. The operation began at 10:00 a.m. local time (7:00 a.m. GMT).
In line with the law on counter-terrorist operations, a number of heightened security measures, including ID checks and restricted public and transport movement, have been introduced in the zone.
On January 9, in Ingushetia, gunmen opened automatic gunfire and launched grenades at two police cars carrying six police officers, killing one senior officer and wounding another. A police officer was later killed by unknown gunmen in the republic on January 16.
On January 17, a gun and grenade attack in Nazran reportedly targeted the home of republic's prime minister. Russia's FSB director Nikolai Patrushev was attending a meeting of the National Antiterrorism Committee in Magas at the time of the attack.
The government of the volatile republic has repeatedly said the attacks were linked to a crackdown on criminal groups and were an attempt to destabilize the region in the run up to the March 2 Russian presidential elections.