Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Chechnya militants kill five Russian soldiers

Chechnya map

Militants have killed five Russian soldiers in the troubled North Caucasus region of Chechnya, officials say.

The gunfight broke out on Thursday night in forested mountains south-west of the region's capital Grozny, Russia's interior ministry said.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said six more soldiers were wounded in the skirmish against some 15 militants.

Unrest continues in Chechnya despite Russia saying last year normality had returned after a decade-long campaign.

The troops' platoon commander, the section commander and a sniper were among those killed, in one of the worst single incident death tolls suffered by Russian security forces in recent months.

Five insurgents were also killed in Thursday night's gunfight, according to pro-Moscow officials in Chechnya.

Russian forces have fought two wars against separatists in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya since 1994. The conflicts claimed more than 100,000 lives and left the region in ruins.

Although Chechnya has in recent years been more peaceful, sporadic violence continues, and President Dmitry Medvedev says violence in the North Caucasus remains Russia's biggest domestic problem.

In recent years the fighting has spread to nearby Dagestan and Ingushetia, where correspondents say a violent Islamist insurgency is growing.

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