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Regional government chief says rebel resistance in Nalchik completely put down - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Russian officer walks a man down the street in Nalchik, Russia Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005 in this image taken from television (AP)

A Russian officer walks a man down the street in Nalchik, Russia Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005 in this image taken from television (AP)

NALCHIK, Russia (AP)-All rebel resistance in the southern Russian city of Nalchik has been put down, a day after militants launched a series of attacks in which at least 98 people died, the head of the regional government said Friday, according to the news agency Interfax.

Gennady Gubin was quoted as saying that all hostages had been freed. At least 98 people, including 72 attackers, had been killed in the fighting, according to a tally of accounts by officials, news reports and an Associated Press reporter.

Chechen rebels claimed involvement in the near-simultaneous attacks on police and security facilities that terrified the city of 235,000 and left corpses lying on the streets.

&#34All points of rebel resistance have been suppressed and hostages freed. Now the security forces are conducting a sweep of the city to find rebels who are hiding,&#34 Interfax quoted Gubin, the prime minister of the Kabardino-Balkariya republic, as saying.

Kabardino-Balkariya is near Chechnya, where rebels have been fighting Russian forces for most of the past decade, and the assault on Nalchik raised fears that a new front was opening in the troubled Russian Caucasus. Dagestan, another Caucasus republic, has suffered a sharp rise in violence this year, with bomb attacks and clashes between police and fighters of uncertain affiliation reported almost daily.

Earlier Friday, rounds of heavy weapons fire broke out around a gift shop in the center of Nalchik, the regional capital, where several fighters were holed up with two hostages. Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov said the hostages were freed and three rebels killed. Television station NTV said an armored personnel carrier was used to ram the store.

Zaur Makhsiyev, who said his 20-year-old sister Leyla had been inside the store, said she was uninjured but suffering the aftereffects of an unspecified gas presumably used to incapacitate the militants. The use of gas could not be independently confirmed.

Kolesnikov also said five police officers had been freed from a precinct station where they had been held by militants, and that eight militants had been killed there.

Seventeen rebels were detained, the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev as saying.

In the chaos, a definitive casualty toll was not available, but officials on Thursday said at least 85 people, including 61 attackers, had been killed and 103 people injured, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Outside the city, in the suburb of Khasanya, rebels shelled a police car on Friday morning, killing two riot police officers.

Bloodied bodies from Thursday”s fighting still lay in the streets on Friday. A man”s body lay near the entrance to police station No. 2 and the regional anti-terrorist center, where most of the windows had been blown out and even tramway lines outside had been brought down.

Across the street sprawled seven more bodies, most with horrific head injuries. Heavily armed police poked and kicked at the bodies, presumably those of militants, all dressed in tracksuits and running shoes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, beleaguered by attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians and underscored his failure to bring the turbulent Caucasus under control, ordered a total blockade of Nalchik to prevent militants from slipping out and ordered security forces to shoot any armed resisters.

ITAR-Tass said that some rebels tried to escape the city in a van but crashed into a tree and were surrounded and killed. RIA-Novosti said there had been seven militants and an unknown number of hostages in the vehicle. The hostages were rescued, it said.

Estimates of the number of militants involved ranged from 60 to 300, and Interfax quoted an aide to the president of Kabardino-Balkariya as saying late Thursday that 17 had been detained.

The region has suffered growing violence apparently connected to Islamic extremists and the Chechen rebels” fight against Russian forces, which has devastated Chechnya and destabilized the entire Russian Caucasus since the early 1990s.

Police and security forces have fought battles with militants across the region, and the rebels have employed terrorist methods including suicide bombings and the seizure of more than 1,000 hostages last year in a school in Beslan, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Nalchik.

The Kavkaz-Center Web site, seen as a voice for rebels loyal to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, said it had received a message claiming responsibility for Thursday”s attack on behalf of the Caucasus Front. It said the group is part of the Chechen rebel forces and includes Yarmuk, an alleged militant Islamic group based in Kabardino-Balkariya.

The strategy of launching simultaneous attacks on police facilities was similar to last year”s siege in another Caucasus republic, Ingushetia, in which 92 people died and police armories were looted. Basayev claimed responsibility for those attacks and the Beslan raid. Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin said Thursday”s fighting began after police tried to capture about 10 militants in a Nalchik suburb, and that the attacks were aimed at diverting police. All 10 suspects were killed, he said.

In this image taken from television a police officer embraces his colleague, who has been held hostage, in Nalchik, southern Russia Friday, Oct. 14, 2005 (AP)

In this image taken from television a police officer embraces his colleague, who has been held hostage, in Nalchik, southern Russia Friday, Oct. 14, 2005 (AP)

Members of Russian special armed forces storm a shop in the southern city of Nalchik, 14 October 2005, where gunmen were holed-out following a deadly rampage the previous day (AFP)

Members of Russian special armed forces storm a shop in the southern city of Nalchik, 14 October 2005, where gunmen were holed-out following a deadly rampage the previous day (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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