Gunmen storm Chechen government buildings

Gunmen storm Chechen government buildings

Groncy: Insurgents stormed the parliament complex in Russia’s volatile Chechnya region on Tuesday, killing at least two police officers and one parliamentary official, and injuring 17 others, authorities said. At least three insurgents were also killed, officials said, ending one of the most brazen attacks on the province’s capital in months.

One insurgent set off a bomb at the gates of the parliament complex in Grozny, killing himself and wounding others, Chechen police spokesman Ramzan Bekkhoyev told The Associated Press.

At least two other gunmen ran into the building shouting “Allahu Akbar!" “God is great!" in Arabic as they opened fire on the people inside, Bekkhoyev said. The attackers were killed in an ensuing gunfight with police, said Chechen presidential spokesman Alvi Kerimov.

Police said it believes that all the attackers were dead. A spokesman for investigators told The Associated Press that 17 people had been wounded; Russian news agencies said 6 police and 11 civilians were among them.

The agencies reported earlier that insurgents had also attacked the Agriculture Ministry building. The building is in the same complex as the parliament, and that incident appeared to be part of the same attack.

Restive Chechnya in the Russian North Caucasus has been battling an Islamist insurgency for years despite the iron rule of its Moscow-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov. Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev is in Grozny and holding talks with Kadyrov about the violence.

Interior Ministry special forces paced the area in camouflage fatigues, wielding grenade-launching Kalashnikov rifles. Shots were earlier reported inside the office of the parliament’s speaker, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, but Interfax later reported that he had been safely evacuated.

Russia fought two wars with Chechen separatists in the 1990s before finally installing a loyal government there in 2000.

Since then, most of the Islamist insurgents have moved over into the neighboring Russian republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia, with terrorist attacks seldom striking at the heart of Grozny in recent years.

But in August a shootout in Kadyrov’s home village between his guards and suspected insurgents left 19 people dead, including 5 civilians, raising fears of a reviving insurgency.

The provinces make up Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, which separatists strive to turn into an independent emirate that adheres to Sharia law.

Kadyrov in recent years has boasted of peace returning to Grozny, but human rights activists say the price has been too high. They say extra-judicial killings, kidnappings and torture _ administered under the pretext of fighting extremism _ maintain the quiet.