Shooting breaks out in Russian city targeted by militants

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NALCHIK, Russia -- Security forces sealed off parts of this southern Russian city after shooting erupted during their search for suspected militants Tuesday. A suspect in last week's attacks here by alleged Islamic extremists was reported killed in a clash with police.

Residents were advised not to leave their homes if possible, and parents were told to take their children home from school. The regional Interior Ministry told people to carry their identity documents, to submit to body searches by authorities and to obey police commands to stop their cars immediately.

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, rights activist Luiza Orazayeva said.

An Associated Press reporter heard gunfire on the southwestern edge of town and in another district, near a police precinct.

Militants conducted a coordinated series of attacks on police and other government buildings in Nalchik on Thursday. Some 137 people were killed in the fighting, according to official data.

Two other people, a civilian and a militant, died of wounds in a Nalchik hospital Tuesday, said the hospital's chief doctor, Askar Zhigunov.

Claiming responsibility

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, the purported author of modern Russia's worst terrorist attacks, claimed he was behind the attacks, according to a statement posted on a Chechen rebel-connected Web site.

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

Police on Tuesday cordoned off streets blocks away from the precinct and allowed neither cars nor pedestrians to enter the zone. Armored personnel carriers were parked in the streets.

By midafternoon, security forces had ended their searches in two districts, opening them up to traffic. The third, around the police precinct near the city's airport, remained blocked off.

Russian news agencies reported that police killed a man early Tuesday during a document check. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unidentified source in the regional Interior Ministry as saying the suspect was killed after he refused police demands to stop and tried to take a rifle from under his jacket.

The suspect had taken part in last week's attacks, the Interfax news agency quoted Interior Ministry spokeswoman Marina Kyasova as saying. She said he had spent the last few days in a forest outside town and tried to sneak home overnight.

Two others arrested

Two other men who resisted managed to escape, Interfax reported, but ITAR-Tass quoted the regional Interior Ministry as saying only one man was involved.

Outside the regional prosecutor's office, authorities read the names on four lists of people who had either been preliminarily identified as among the dead or had been reported missing by relatives after last week's attack. In all, the lists contained 177 names.

They told a crowd of about 100 men and women, all dressed in mourning black, that they would be invited to try to identify their relatives' bodies only after being questioned by investigators.

Police in a nearby province of Ingushetia on Tuesday found a cache of explosives outside the provincial capital, Nazran, said Nazir Yevloyev, a spokesman for the local branch of the Interior Ministry. Police also killed a suspected militant Tuesday, he said.

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