MOSCOW : Russian police on Wednesday detained 15 heavily-armed militants in Moscow who allegedly belong to a banned offshoot of the Al-Qaeda terror network and were preparing suicide strikes.

The interior ministry said members of Takfir wal-Hijra - a group formed in Egypt in the late 1960s and outlawed in Russia in 2010 - had been discovered hiding weapons and suicide belts along with extremist literature.

Footage aired on Russian national news channels showed helmeted riot police burst into a high-rise apartment in a pre-dawn raid and throw several men face down on the floor.

Police were shown opening plastic bags holding grenades and pistols as well as a heavy black object identified by one unnamed officer as an explosive belt.

The interior ministry said the group had been funding its activities by “conducting general crime” in and around Moscow.

Russia remains on heightened security alert ahead of the February 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that lies near the volatile North Caucasus.

A top North Caucasus guerrilla commander who has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly suicide bombings in Moscow has threatened to target the Sochi Games.