October 13, 2005

Chechen Gunmen Attack in North Caucasus

Simultaneous attacks on government installations in the Russian city of Nalchik have resulted in at least 60 deaths with scores wounded. Chechen rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria province, is about 50 miles northwest of Beslan where Chechen gunmen killed hundreds last year, half of them schoolchildren.

From the BBC:

Kabardino-Balkaria, a Muslim region, lies close to war-ravaged Chechnya.

A regional leader told Itar-Tass news agency that a third of the 150 rebels that took part in attacks had been killed.

President Arsen Kanokov also said 12 civilians had been killed, although this figure has not been confirmed.

A source at Nalchik's Republican Hospital told Ekho Moskvy radio that the dead who had been brought in were "all people in uniform".

At least 40 injured people had been taken to the hospital, with more arriving all the time, the source added.

One unidentified security official has told Russian news agency RIA that the reason for the attack was the arrest on Wednesday of at least one radical extremist.

Local sources stated the attacks were "carefully planned" and targeted police stations, the Russian FSB security agency, military and drug-control offices, and the airport. Children were seen fleeing a school building in a scene reminiscent of last year's Beslan massacre.

From ABC News Online:

One girl who ran out of the school said armed men were firing inside the building but security officials later made clear that armed police had entered the school to ensure its emergency evacuation due to its close proximity to the site of one of the buildings under attack.

Russian media said gun battles occurred at a number of locations in Nalchik and the city centre was saturated with security forces, while gunfire could be heard nearby.

A local journalist quoted by RIA-Novosti news agency said the gunmen were dressed in civilian clothing and took advantage of panic to blend in with the local population, hiding weapons under their clothes as they changed locations, before opening fire again on security forces.

President Vladimir Putin has sent his special envoy for the North Caucasus, Dmitry Kozak, to Nalchik to assess the situation. According to Arsen Kanokov, the President of the Kabardino-Balkaria province, the twelve local civilians who have died so far may have been local law enforcers or innocent bystanders.

[Update 0750 EDT, 10/13/05]

According to a senior Russian official, President Putin has ordered the city of Nalchik sealed and has given shoot-to-kill instructions for any person who puts up armed resistance.

[Update 1050 EDT, 10/13/05] by Rusty Shackleford:

This will not end well. Gateway Pundit also following crisis.

Companion post at Interested-Participant.

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