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Militants Attack Police in Chechnya

Michael Johnson

Militants launched a coordinated attack on the Russian city of Grozny early Thursday morning, leaving 10 members of the security forces dead and many more wounded. Government officials said the gunmen had links to Islamist extremists in the North Caucasus.

Fighting broke out about 1 am when three cars carrying the fighters entered the city. Militants first shot and killed three police officers at a traffic checkpoint. The gunmen then separated into two groups, entering a publishing house and an unoccupied school nearby, according to Russian news sources. Security forces confronted the fighters at both locations, killing all 10 insurgents. A video published to YouTube shows Russian forces firing high caliber machine guns from armored vehicles, launching rocket propelled grenades, and indiscriminately shooting automatic weapons at the school. Pictures also surfaced of the publishing house engulfed in flames.

A man looks into a burnt-out car near the Press House building, a local media agency, in the Chechen capital Grozny on Dec. 4, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

During a meeting with reporters, Chechnya’s governor and Kremlin appointee Ramzan Kadyrov suggested the gunmen could be linked to Doku Umarov, a separatist leader killed last year. He also sought to downplay the confrontation by saying repairs to damaged buildings had already begun. But sporadic conflict continues outside urban areas in the North Caucasus. According to Caucasian Knot, a website that tracks violence in the region, 290 people have been killed in fighting so far this year. In October, a suicide bomber outside a Chechen theater killed five police officers.

Ultimately, militants sought to undermine Moscow’s authority with the timing of Thursday’s attacks. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his state of the nation speech later in the day as scheduled. The President’s tone remained defiant, blaming the West for many of Russia’s problems. After two wars in Chechnya, the President has staked his reputation on fighting violent Jihadists across the region.