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Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Russian blast kills six policemen

Aftermath of the explosion near Nazran (5 March 2009)
The men had found what appeared to be an artillery shell on a road

At least six members of the Russian security forces have been killed in a bomb blast in the troubled republic of Ingushetia, local officials have said.

The bomb exploded as the men tried to disarm another in a village near the Ingush capital, Nazran. Amongst the dead was a senior police officer.

It is not known if the device was set off accidentally or by remote control.

Ingushetia has for several years experienced conflict between the authorities and separatist militants.

Last month, four police and three suspected rebels were killed when a landmine was detonated inside a house during a raid in Nazran.

The Federal Security Service said the militants had been planning "large scale terrorist attacks" against the republic's leadership.

'Artillery shell'

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry in Ingushetia told the BBC that on Thursday, police had discovered what appeared to be an artillery shell on a road.

Map

As they were using special equipment to diffuse it, another powerful bomb exploded, causing heavy casualties, she said.

Two of the men are said to be in a serious condition in hospital.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow says it is clear evidence of just how unstable Ingushetia still is despite the change of leadership ordered by the Kremlin last October.

President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was brought in to stem the violence which had been getting steadily worse under his predecessor, our correspondent says.

Analysts say that in recent years a small group of separatists fighting for an independent Muslim state in the region managed to win the support of the local population thanks to the brutal methods used by the security forces to try to crush them.

Mr Yevkurov, a former soldier, therefore has an extremely difficult task in front of him to try to regain the confidence of the Ingush people, our correspondent adds.

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