Shooting breaks out again in Russian city

Shooting broke out on Tuesday morning in three districts of the southern Russian city of Nalchik, as police and security forces said they were launching special operations to detain suspected militants.

Alleged Islamic extremists conducted a coordinated series of attacks on police and other government buildings in the city last Thursday, and about 137 people were killed in the fighting, according to official data.

Local television urged city residents not to leave their homes if possible, and the local schools administration advised parents to take their children home from schools and nursery schools.

Shooting was heard in the suburb of Dubki, where the city’s main morgue is located and where security forces were conducting a sweep for suspected rebels. Gunfire also broke out on the south-western edge of town and in the city centre, near police precinct number three.

The Interfax news agency reported that police killed a man early on Tuesday when he allegedly put up resistance during a document check. Two other men who resisted managed to escape, Interfax said.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, the author of modern Russia’s most-horrifying terrorist attacks, claimed he was behind last week’s attacks in Nalchik, according to a statement posted on a Chechen rebel-connected website.

Basayev said the attacks were carried out by militants affiliated with the Chechen rebels, but that Chechen fighters were not involved, indicating an increasingly organised effort to set up militant cells throughout the region that take direction from Basayev.

“I carried out the general operative management,” Basayev said, according to the statement published on Monday by the website of Kavkaz Centre, seen as a mouthpiece for Chechnya’s Islamist separatist rebels.

Previously, authorities had suspected much of the violence in the Caucasus region was a spillover from the long-running war in Chechnya between the rebels and Russian forces.

Basayev said last week’s attacks on police and government buildings in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkariya republic, were launched by the republic’s section of the so-called Caucasus Front, believed to include militant cells throughout the restive Caucasus region.

The leader of the Kabardino-Balkariya front is “busy preparing other work that I have assigned him”, Basayev was quoted as saying, apparently referring to new terrorist actions he has often threatened.

Basayev has claimed responsibility for organising last year’s hostage-taking at a school in the North Ossetia town of Beslan, about 100km south-east of Nalchik, which ended in the deaths of more than 330 people.
He also said he planned the 2002 seizure of about 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre in which at least 129 hostages died, mostly from the effects of a narcotic gas used by Russian forces to subdue the attackers, and 41 Chechen fighters were killed.

Among the dead in the Nalchik attacks, Basayev said, was the Caucasus Front’s “emir” in the republic of Ingushetia, Ilyas Gorchkhanov, whom Basayev called “my naib [assistant]”. Militants in Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya, last year launched a wave of coordinated attacks on police arsenals and security facilities similar to the Nalchik siege.

Basayev said he also organised the Ingushetia attacks, which killed 92 people. A video that later surfaced showed a man who appeared to be Basayev supervising men loading crates of weapons at an arsenal.

Those attackers in Ingushetia reportedly included a substantial number of Chechens, unlike the Nalchik raids.—Sapa-AP

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