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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 11:34 GMT
Ten die in North Caucasus clashes
Debris of the house razed in Makhachkala (Russian NTV channel)
A tank razed the building when it caught fire (Russian NTV)
Police have recovered five bodies from the debris of a house razed by a tank during a gun battle in the Russian southern region of Dagestan.

Officials say that the men killed in the regional capital, Makhachkala, were rebels who had planned an attack similar to the Beslan school siege.

One security officer died and two were injured in the Saturday night clash.

There was also fighting in nearby Kaspiysk which left three policemen were and a terror suspect dead.

At least one other rebel was captured by security forces during the battle which took place at the same time as the fighting in Makhachkala.

Chechen connection

The Makhachkala house was besieged for 15 hours by hundreds of police and special service troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships.

Two more houses, where security forces believed rebels could have been hiding, were heavily damaged.

The authorities say the militants belonged to a group headed by Dagestani field commander Rasul Makasharipov who supports rebels in neighbouring Chechnya.

But the Russian newspaper Kommersant says allegations about the rebels planning an attack similar to Beslan is "an attempt to justify the incompetence of security forces".

The Chechen rebel incursion into Dagestan in 1999 was repulsed by Russian troops and the Dagestani militia and prompted Moscow to start the second Chechen war.

Since the early 1990s, ethnically diverse Dagestan has endured bombings and kidnappings, some of which the authorities link to the struggle between local criminal groups, while many others are blamed on local members of the Wahhabi branch of Islam linked to Chechen rebels.


SEE ALSO:
Regions and territories: Dagestan
21 Sep 04 |  Country profiles
Russia accused over kidnappings
10 Mar 04 |  Europe


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