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Suicide Bombing Kills Five Near Chechen Concert Hall

GROZNY, Russia (Reuters) -- At least five people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd next to a concert hall in the capital of Russia's province of Chechnya, news agencies have said.

"The suicide bomber triggered his explosive device when he was stopped by policemen outside the Grozny concert hall at a security checkpoint," a senior city official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. He was not able to say how many victims there were from the July 26 blast.

The area around the concert hall was immediately sealed off by police and journalists were not allowed beyond the police line.

ITAR-TASS news agency quoted a senior security official in Grozny as saying four policemen who tried to stop the suicide bomber were killed on the spot and one more person died on the way to hospital.

The source told Tass that four more people were taken to the local hospital, one of them in a serious condition.

RIA news agency quoted another security source as saying up to 10 people may have been injured.

Officials said there were few casualties among civilians due to the fact the explosion occurred at 5 p.m. local time, when spectators were only starting to arrive at the concert hall.

Chechnya, the scene of two separatist wars since 1994 and now controlled by a government loyal to Russia, and neighboring Daghestan and Ingushetia have seen a surge in rebel activities in the past few months.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered sweeping operations against the rebels after Ingushi leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was badly injured in an assassination attempt on June 22.

"This [Grozny explosion] was an attempt to...force us to give up our active attempts to destroy [rebel] fighters," Interfax quoted Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov as saying. "But this attempt is in vain."