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Russia's Southern Stavropol Region On Alert After Bodies Found

In an indication of Russia's unease over security ahead of the Olympics, Federal Security Service officers have joined the investigation and classified it as a counter-terrorist operation.

Russian security forces are on combat alert in the region near Sochi after a handful of unexplained killings using booby-trapped bombs were discovered. Six bodies were found in four abandoned cars with explosive devices nearby. The victims had been shot, and luckily only one of the bombs detonated and no one was hurt. The region just north of the Caucus Mountains is the site of widespread unrest in Islamic communities.

CBC News:

"Explosive devices had been placed near three of the cars, although only one of the bombs went off and no one was hurt. The victims had been shot, according to investigators.

Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency, said in a statement that no motive had yet been found for the killings on the outskirts of Pyatigorsk, the centre of a Russian administrative district created in 2010 to combat the insurgency. In late December, a car bomb exploded outside traffic police offices there, killing three people.

Pyatigorsk is less than 300 kilometres by air from Sochi, host site for the 2014 Olympics, although nearly twice as far by road.

In an indication of Russia's unease over security ahead of the Olympics, Markin said Federal Security Service officers had joined the investigation and classified it as a counter-terrorist operation.

The shootings of local residents — at least a few of them taxi drivers — is more typical of criminal behaviour, perhaps score-settling by organized gangs. But the use of explosives was suggestive of the kinds of terror attacks that take place nearly daily in the Caucasus."

Russia remains on edge following two suicide bombings in late December in Volgograd, also in southern Russia, which left 34 people dead and many more wounded. There has been no claim of responsibility made for those bombings, but they took place several months after the leader of the Islamic insurgency called for attacks specifically aimed at undermining the Olympic games, which run Feb. 7 to 23.

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