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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Government Launches Raids in Southern Russia City

18 October 2005

Security forces have launched raids against suspected Islamic militants in the southern Russian city, Nalchik, where militants attacked government buildings and police station, last week. More than 100 people were killed in clashes between troops and militants last week.

Russian security forces in Nalchik say they are searching for suspected militants who may still be in hiding after last week's deadly attacks.

Gunfire has been heard in various parts of the city and local media have broadcast announcements for people to stay in their homes. City schools have been closed.

One man was reported killed, early Tuesday, when he refused a policeman's order to show documents and tried to raise a rifle from under his jacket.

Troops and police are searching various buildings where they think other gunmen may be hiding.

Officials say at least 137 people, including dozens of civilians, were killed after militants launched coordinated attacks on government buildings and police stations last Thursday.

The deputy prosecutor-general in the North Caucasus region, Nikolai Shepel, says work is underway to corroborate the extent of casualties.

Mr. Shepel says it is hard to get precise figures, especially given the new operation now underway in Nalchik, but his office is seeking to finalize information soon.

Nalchik is the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, one of seven ethnically-diverse regions that include Chechnya.

The militants are reported to belong to a local group that has links with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who has claimed responsibility for coordinating last week's attacks.

In a statement on a rebel website, Mr. Basayev says the attacks were carried out by local militants and not by Chechens.

His statement cannot be independently verified. But analysts say there have long been indications that separate militant cells have been created throughout the turbulent Caucasus Mountain region.

Many blame the rise of militancy on the strict policies of Kabardinos former governor, who closed almost all of mosques in the region and banned Islamic organizations.

A new governor took power in September. Monday he pledged to take measure to address grievances that may have contributed to the violence.

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