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Russian Interior Ministry: At Least 50 Dead In Nalchik

Moscow, 13 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A top Russian interior ministry official said at least 50 armed militants were killed today in clashes with security forces in Nalchik, the capital of the Russian Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

The official, First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin, did not say how many civilians and troops died. Earlier reports said some 12 troops and 12 civilians were killed. Militants earlier today attacked several police and government sites in Nalchik.

Chekalin said the city was cordoned off by Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry troops. "The city has been sealed off. In fact, no car, no bus, no suburban train will leave the city without being searched. Ambushes and patrols have been set up off the roads, too. The Defense Ministry is actively involved in this, but mainly it is Interior Ministry troops [that are involved in the operation]."

Chekalin said two pockets of resistance remained in the city in the afternoon (1700 Prague time). He said militants were holding several hostages.

Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks. Akhmad Zakayev, deputy prime minister of the Chechen separatist government, told RFE/RL that the attack was carried out by an armed group connected to the separatist leadership.

The State Department condemned the attacks expressing its sympathy with the wounded and the families of those killed.

(RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, ITAR-TASS, AP)

See also: Kabardino-Balkaria: A Deteriorating Situation and Situation Remains Tense In Kabardino-Balkaria