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Four Russian Soldiers Shot Dead In North Caucasus

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Four Russian soldiers have been shot dead in the southern region of Ingushetia, Russian news agencies reported, in the latest attack on federal forces in the increasingly unstable North Caucasus republic.

The bodies of the four Interior Ministry servicemen were found with gunshot wounds by an armed patrol near the village of Galashki, Vasily Panchenkov, the aide to Russia's interior troops commander, told Interfax news agency.

A source in the investigative department of the Ingush Prosecutor's Office told Interfax later that the soldiers had probably been shot from a nearby forest.

Four servicemen and three gunmen were killed in a clash in Ingushetia on September 16.

Ingushetia, an impoverished region of about 400,000 people, has become the scene of a low-level insurgency that pits Moscow-backed forces against rebels who include some Islamist militants.

Gunfights, bomb explosions and ambushes are frequent in the region, which is now more violent than neighbouring Chechnya, where Moscow has largely quelled a separatist rebellion.

Last month the owner of an opposition Internet news site was shot dead while in police custody in Ingushetia, drawing international condemnation and provoking a protest dispersed by police.

Local officials said the journalist's death was an accident.

Murat Zyazikov, the region's Kremlin-backed leader, has accused outside forces of stoking unrest in his region as part of a campaign to weaken Russia.