updated 5/15/2005 10:25:20 PM ET 2005-05-16T02:25:20

Security forces and police killed six suspected militants, including two female would-be suicide bombers, who had holed up in an apartment in southern Russia, officials said Sunday.

The four men and two women killed in the operation beginning Saturday in Cherkessk were subordinate to the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and another alleged rebel, Achimez Gochiyayev, said Anna Lyzina, a Federal Security Service spokeswoman in Cherkessk, a city in Russia’s southern Caucasus region.

Gochiyayev was implicated in the series of 1999 apartment-house explosions in Moscow and other cities that became one of the Kremlin’s arguments for launching a new war in Chechnya.

Meanwhile, Russian forces in Chechnya killed four rebels, including a man believed to be the republic’s former separatist vice president Vakha Arsanov.

The four rebels were killed in a village outside the capital Grozny after Interior Ministry forces surrounded a house and demanded that fighters surrender, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing Chechen deputy Interior Minister Sultan Satuyev.

The report quoted him as saying that Arsanov’s body was identified by local residents who knew him well. However, other news reports suggested the bodies were badly disfigured by fire that broke out in the house.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Ruslan Atzayev, told The Associated Press that the identity of those killed could be confirmed only after examination by experts.

In Cherkessk, police and paramilitary troops have moved forcefully against suspected extremists in several cities of the region, which includes Chechnya.

Citing an unnamed law enforcement source in Cherkessk, the Interfax news agency reported that one of the females killed was born in 1988, meaning she could not have been older than 17.

Both had been reported missing by their parents, according to the report, which cited other unnamed sources who claimed they had undergone terrorist training in Chechnya.

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