Clashes, sniper shootings in Russia’s North Caucasus kill 3 police, 5 gunmen

By Sergei Venyavsky, AP
Monday, July 13, 2009

5 militants, 3 police killed in Russia’s Caucasus

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Gunmen ambushed police in Russia’s troubled North Caucasus Monday, officials said, killing two of the officers in the latest spate of violence in the southern region. A sniper shot dead a third officer in another incident.

In Chechnya, meanwhile, police said five militants were killed in two separate gunbattles.

Russia’s North Caucasus region has been dogged by daily shootings, blasts and other violence linked to criminal gangs, ethnic feuds, separatist insurgents and Islamic radicals. The violence comes despite the end of a large-scale insurgency and two bloody wars in Chechnya in the past 15 years.

In Dagestan, a region located east of Chechnya, two Interior Ministry troops were killed and five were wounded when their trucks were ambushed by unidentified gunmen who opened fire and then fled into the forest, police said.

Later Monday, a special police unit officer was shot dead by a sniper in western Dagestan as he exited a police precinct building, Interior Ministry spokesman Mark Tolchinsky said.

In Chechnya, two pedestrians opened fire on police who had stopped them to check their documents in a central district. Police returned fire, killing them both, authorities said. Later, in another part of Chechnya, a riot police patrol shot and killed three people after trying to stop the car they were riding in.

On Sunday, in the region of Ingushetia, to the west of Chechnya, gunmen wielding submachine guns and grenade launchers attacked a police investigator’s house, news agencies reported. ITAR-Tass said there were no casualties in the attack.

Ingushetia is one of Russia’s poorest regions and has seen the worst of the spiking North Caucasus violence in recent months. Its president is recovering in a Moscow clinic after a suicide bomb assassination attempt last month.

In April, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the end of a decade-long “counterterrorism operation” in Chechnya that was supposed to pave the way for the withdrawal of tens of thousands of federal troops. The order was met with celebrations in Chechnya, and was held up by the Kremlin as a sign that calm had indeed returned to the region.

Yet isolated attacks have continued.

Associated Press writer Arsen Mollayev contributed from Makhachkala, Russia.

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