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Suspected Militants Attack Chechen Parliament

  • RFE/RL

WATCH: Gunmen and suicide bombers attacked Chechnya's parliament, killing several people and setting off a gun battle with police.

At least six people were killed when insurgents attacked the parliament in Russia's restive southern republic of Chechnya, their most brazen attack on the province in months.

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, who happened to be visiting the Chechen capital of Grozny, said the attack was quashed and all assailants were killed.

"At 8:45 this morning, militants made an attempt to enter the parliament building," Nurgaliyev said. "As always, they failed. They were stopped by the police. As a result of this attempt the militants were destroyed."

Russian media reports said at least one suicide bomber blew himself up outside parliament and two gunmen were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces.

Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov (left) talks with Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev.
At least two police officers and one parliamentary official were reported killed. Police say another 17 people were wounded in the incident, including 11 civilians.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax that the operation to kill the militants had lasted 20 minutes. He said all the deputies who were in parliament at the time of the attack had been taken to safety.

Igor Danilov, a member of a delegation for the Sverdlovsk region currently visiting Chechnya, was inside the parliament building at the time of the attack.

"The parliament started being fired at with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. The parliament's security fired back, and a real battle unfolded," he told RFE/RL.

"We quickly left our offices, stayed away from windows, and gathered in the corridors. We were then evacuated by the OMON [special forces]."

Federal authorities were quick to present the incident as a success for pro-Russian forces in the republic.

Nurgaliyev praised the local police force for their quick reaction and stressed that such attacks were "extremely rare" in Chechnya, which he described as "stable and safe."

'Demonstrative Operation'

Chechen political analyst Timur Muzayev said the attack was aimed at challenging Kadyrov's claims that the insurgency has been stamped out of Chechnya.

"It was a demonstrative operation that aimed to show the insurgency's strength, its influence, and its ability to deal a blow to pro-Russian authorities in the Caucasus, including in Chechnya," Muzayev said.

Despite the casualties, Muzayev said the attack could have been much more destructive.

"Judging from the first reports coming out of Grozny, the organizers planned to seize deputies, take them hostage, and enter political negotiations with federal authorities or with Kadyrov's government," he said.

Special security units control the area neighboring the site of the suicide attack near the parliament in Grozny.
The center of Grozny was locked down in the wake of the attack.

Growing Insurgency

Moscow fought two wars in the 1990s with separatists in Chechnya, part of the North Caucasus region.

Russia is struggling to contain a growing Islamist insurgency in the strip of ethnically mixed provinces along its southern border.

Observers say the insurgency is fueled by desperate poverty, clan rivalries, rampant corruption, and heavy-handed tactics by law enforcement agencies.

Although the Kremlin has declared victory in its battle with the Chechen rebels and despite the iron rule of the Moscow-backed Kadyrov, Chechnya has been the scene a wave of shootings and bombings over recent months.

In August, at least 12 people were killed in a shoot-out between Kadyrov's security officers and suspected insurgents in Kadyrov's home village of Tsentoroi.

Unrest has been spreading into other areas of the Northern Caucasus such as Daghestan and Ingushetia.

Outside the region, a double bombing carried out by two female suicide bombers from Daghestan on the Moscow subway in March killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 others.

with reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service and news agencies
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