At least seven Islamist militants were reported dead on Saturday by Russian authorities after a late—night stand—off with anti—terrorism units in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan.

The group reportedly fled to a house after allegedly detonating a car bomb in front of a restaurant in the city of Makhachkala Friday night, injuring several people. Police said the bombers wanted to punish the restaurant owner for not paying protection money.

They were reported dead after special Russian anti—terror units stormed the building. A 26—year—old woman who had received training as a suicide bomber was among the dead, anti—terrorism officials said in reports by Russian news agencies.

Dagestan has been at the centre of a violent insurgency that has plagued the mainly Muslim North Caucasus for years.

The ongoing violence and recent suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd has heightened security fears in the run—up to the Winter Olympics. The Games open February 7 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, located on the Caucasus’ western flank.

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