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Six Russian Troops, Six Militants Killed In Chechnya Fighting


Viktor Zolotov, the commander of the Russian National Guard

Six Russian National Guard troops and six assailants have been killed in an attack on a military unit in Chechnya, one of the deadliest incidents in the region in months.

The commander of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, said that a group of militants attempted to gain access to the unit in thick fog in the early morning hours of March 24.

Six servicemen were killed and three were wounded in the ensuing gunbattle, Zolotov said.

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said he believes that the goal of the attack was to obtain weapons at the military unit.

Kadyrov said that three of the attackers who were killed were identified as natives of Chechnya, while the other three were from the Rostov and Volgograd regions further north.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization that monitors militant activity worldwide, said a Caucasus branch of the extremist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for what it called a "suicide raid."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting in the Kremlin with French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, called the attack "a grave incident" and said that Russia and the rest of the world "must unite their efforts against terrorism."

Kadyrov vowed to do everything possible to "provide residents in the region with security, despite provocations."

Chechnya was devastated by two post-Soviet wars between government forces and separatists.

Most of the large-scale fighting ended more than 15 years ago, but an Islamist insurgency persists in Chechnya and other provinces in Russia's North Caucasus.

Kadyrov, first appointed by Putin in 2007, has kept a lid on separatism with what opponents and rights activists say are repressive measures and a climate of impunity for security forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that Kadyrov controls the situation in Chechnya, and that Russia is not alone in being challenged by extremists.

"No country in the world is immune to terrorist attacks, whether it happens in the Chechen Republic or the capital of the United Kingdom," Peskov said, alluding to the March 22 attack in London that killed five people, including the assailant.

With reporting by TASS, Interfax, and RIA
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