Andrew Osborn

 

 

Chief Russia Correspondent

 

Deputy Bureau Chief Russia/CIS

 

Reuters

 

 

Six dead in Islamist suicide attack on Chechen parliament in Grozny

www.telegraph.co.uk, 19th October 2010 08:35

By Andrew Osborn, Moscow

Russian special forces have repelled a suicide attack by Islamist militants on the Chechen parliament that left six people dead.

Government officials said three Islamist militants died in the attack in Grozny, the Chechen capital, while two policemen guarding the parliament were killed along with one civilian. Up to 17 people were also reported wounded.

Initial reports said a small group of three or four gunmen burst into government buildings, opening fire with automatic weapons.

The incident occurred as Rashid Nurgaliyev, the Russian interior minister, was visiting the Chechen capital though he was reported to be nowhere near the scene at the time of the attack.

Mr Nurgaliyev said after the attack: "As always, they (the militants) failed. They were intercepted by interior ministry troops.

"Situations like today occur very rarely. Here (in Chechnya) it is stable and safe. The militant underground has been practically decapitated."

Russian news agencies reported that automatic weapons fire could still be heard inside the parliament complex late on Tuesday morning and that Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, was personally leading the operation to “neutralise” the militants.

The brazen attack will undermine the Kremlin’s oft-repeated claim that stability has been brought to Chechnya thanks to Mr Kadyrov who human rights groups accuse of heading a brutal local regime that has only served to inflame Islamist extremism.

Though lone suicide bombers have sometimes struck Grozny in recent years they have not been able to mount organised attacks such as this and Mr Kadyrov has repeatedly claimed that they are a defeated force on their last legs.

Russia has fought two wars in Chechnya since the collapse of the Soviet Union to crush separatist rebels who later became into Islamist extremists. But it has now scaled back much of its forces and left governing the republic to loyalist Chechens such as Mr Kadyrov.

The militants say their aim is to establish an Islamic caliphate across the entire North Caucasus region of southern Russia. There have been signs that they have been getting more radical and in March two female suicide bombers from neighbouring Dagestan blew themselves up on the Moscow metro, killing forty people.