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Officials in Chechnya have vowed to avenge the deaths of at least nine members of the Chechen police force who were killed in neighboring Ingushetia this weekend amid a surge in violence in Russia's North Caucasus republics.

Militants firing machine guns and grenades ambushed a police convoy in Ingushetia's Sundja district on July 4, killing nine officers and wounding 10 others.

"All necessary material help will be provided on behalf of the leadership of [Chechnya's] republic and Russia's Interior Ministry to the families of those killed," Chechnya Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said. "Once again we can see that there is only one way to speak with the militants: They must be punished to the fullest extent, which is either eliminating or bringing them to justice."

RFE/RL's Russian Service reports that it is unclear if there were any casualties among the attackers.

Concerns have grown in the last weeks about the stability of the North Caucasus after Ingushetia's president was seriously wounded in a bombing.

Russian news agencies quote Chechnya's Kremlin-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov, as characterizing the latest attack as a final act of desperation by militants.

The Chechen officers targeted in Sundja had traveled to Ingushetia to take part in operations conducted jointly by Chechen and Ingushetian security forces.

The joint crackdown followed a June 22 suicide bombing that left Ingushetia's president, Yunus Bek Yevkurov, seriously injured and three of his bodyguards dead.

Officials said on July 3 that Yevkurov had regained consciousness after almost two weeks in a coma.

Kadyrov, who claimed the Kremlin asked him to oversee the security operation in Chechnya and Ingushetia, had already vowed a "cruel" revenge on those who tried to kill Yevkurov.

Earlier this year, Russian authorities officially closed a decade-long, republic-wide counterterrorism campaign in Chechnya.

But attacks against pro-Kremlin authorities and Russian security forces have continued in that republic, as well as in neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan.

In a separate incident on July 4, Vakha Aushev, a former head of police in Ingushetia's largest city, Nazran, was wounded when assailants opened fire on his car.

Last month, Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgirey Magomedtagirov was shot dead in the regional capital, Makhachkala.

written by Antoine Blua with RFE/RL Russian Service and wire reports