Two police, four 'radical Islamists' killed in Azerbaijan raid

Mainly Muslim Azerbaijan is wedged between Iran and Russia (AFP Photo/Tofik Babayev)

Baku (AFP) - Two policemen and four alleged members of a radical Islamist group have been killed in a shootout during a raid in Azerbaijan, the interior ministry said Thursday.

The suspects opened fire when police attempted to arrest "leaders of an unregistered radical Islamist group," the ministry said in a statement.

The group, called the Movement for Muslim Unity, "resisted the police officers, who were attacked with a grenade and automatic fire," the statement said, without specifying when the incident in the village of Nardaran north of Baku took place.

"As a result, four group members were liquidated and several more injured. Two policemen died in the clash." Fourteen people were arrested, including the leader of the group Tale Bagirzade, authorities said.

The raid on the organisation was ordered following an "investigation" that showed that "this group is planning provocations, mass unrest and acts of terror in order to disrupt the socio-political stability in the country."

The ministry said the group's goal was to establish a sharia state in Azerbaijan, a majority Shia Muslim but secular country headed by strongman President Ilham Aliyev.

The Movement for Muslim Unity earlier this month organised a protest near Baku against the detention of another group leader Elchin Gasymov. Police arrested but later released several people.