MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Nine Chechen policemen sent to crush an insurgency in the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia have been gunned down, Interfax reported, intensifying the cycle of violence now unfolding in the region.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov ordered his troops across the border into Ingushetia to avenge a suicide bomb attack against fellow Kremlin appointee in the region, Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who is fighting for his life
The militants ambushed a convoy of Kadyrov's troops on July 4, firing automatic weapons and grenade launchers in one of the deadliest attacks in the volatile North Caucasus region in recent years.
The head of Chechnya's Interior Ministry, Ruslan Alkhanov, vowed retribution for the ambush.
"We will take all measures to hunt down and destroy these bandits," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying.
The Chechen death toll may rise as 10 other policemen are being treated for severe injuries. The cars in the convoy, which was carrying 35 troops, were left burning as the Chechen troops scrambled to return fire into the surrounding forests, ITAR-TASS reported. 'Take No Captives'
The June 22 suicide attack on the Ingush leader prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to order Kadyrov to hunt down militants in Ingushetia, giving him a free hand to carry out military operations outside of Chechnya for the first time.
Both regions are in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus region in southern Russia, where the Kremlin is facing an insurgency that has intensified in recent months, striking at local officials and security personnel.
"We will take no captives, we will destroy them. As long as they exist there will be blood," Kadyrov told Reuters after receiving permission for crossborder operations.
Kadyrov's harsh tactics have brought relative stability to Chechnya since he took power in 2007 after more than a decade of war. But fellow Kremlin appointees have failed to stem violence in neighboring Daghestan and Ingushetia.