Attack on Chechen parliament in Grozny leaves six dead

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg describes the battle between gunmen and police

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Six people were killed and 17 others injured when a small group of militants stormed parliament in the restive Russian republic of Chechnya.

Shouting Islamist slogans, three fighters launched a bomb and gun attack as deputies arrived for work, killing two guards and an official.

All three attackers were killed, the Chechen and Russian authorities say.

Deputies inside the building managed to escape by moving to an upper floor. The attack was condemned by the EU and US.

They both pledged to work together with Russia to defeat "terrorism".

Correspondents say the incident in the capital Grozny is a reminder that the region is far from stable.

Last year Moscow declared victory against Chechen separatists and there has been a relative lull in the violence under Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader.

But the whole North Caucasus is seeing an insurgency led by Islamist rebels, correspondents say.

Map of central Grozny
'Allahu Akbar'

Militants struck at about 0845 (0445 GMT), attacking policemen guarding the parliament building, Mr Kadyrov told Russian news agency Interfax.


Chechnya has suffered a decade and a half of violence. Last year, Moscow officially ended its "counter-terrorism operation" in Chechnya and withdrew thousands of federal troops. The Kremlin has been relying increasingly on the pro-Moscow Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, to take on the rebels. Human rights groups have accused his forces of committing widespread abuses, including abduction and extra-judicial execution.

The Russian authorities like to give the impression that Chechnya has become more peaceful, more secure. The attack on the highly fortified parliament building in Grozny shows that the insurgency continues.

It is not just Chechnya. This year has seen a rise in violence across the entire North Caucasus region. In the last 24 hours alone, explosives have been discovered and defused near a bus station in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkariya. And the director of a children's rehabilitation centre in Dagestan has been shot dead.

It is believed they arrived at the parliament by car, tailgating vehicles belonging to deputies.

At least one attacker appears to have set off a suicide bomb just before the other two rushed inside, exchanging fire with security guards.

They could be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" - Arabic for "God is great" - as they ran inside, according to Chechen security sources.

Photos of the aftermath of the attack show heavy damage to at least several rooms at the parliament and bloodstains on the street outside.

A spokesman for the Chechen parliament, Zelim Yakhikhanov, said deputies had feared they would be taken hostage when they heard shooting outside the building.

"We managed to take refuge on the third floor where we stayed until the end of the operation," he told AFP news agency.

Mr Kadyrov said the operation to suppress the attack took between 15 and 20 minutes. The official killed was reportedly the parliamentary bursar.

Six police officers and 11 civilians were wounded, according to Russian prosecutors.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the family of each of the people killed by the attackers would receive compensation of 1m roubles (£21,000, $33,000) while those wounded would receive up to 400,000 roubles.

It is unclear how such a small group of armed men could have penetrated the government building, which is usually heavily guarded.

The pro-rebel news website Kavkaz-Tsentr quoted its own unnamed sources in Grozny as saying they had heard a "powerful" explosion, followed by heavy gunfire for more than 30 minutes.

The city has been sealed off and armoured vehicles were patrolling the streets, it added.

There has been no confirmation of the identity of the attackers.

History of violence

Key Chechnya events

  • 1991: Separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev declares independence from Russia
  • Dec 1994-Apr 1996: First Russo-Chechen war - some 100,000 people killed as Russia attempts to regain control of Chechnya
  • May 1997: Peace treaty leaves independence issue unresolved
  • 1999-2000: Second Chechen war sees Moscow reassert control over region
  • Oct 2002: Chechen rebels hold 800 hostage in a Moscow theatre - some 120 are killed as Russia troops storm the building
  • Sept 2004: Chechen separatists seize school in Beslan - hundreds die in ensuing military raid
  • April 2009: Russia says Chechen "counter-terrorism operation" is over
  • March 2010: Chechen suicide bombers kill 39 people on the Moscow Metro

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, who was visiting Chechnya when the attack happened, held an emergency meeting with Mr Kadyrov.

He commended the Chechen security forces' response to the attack, saying they had acted "professionally and competently", and describing the attack as "untypical".

The BBC's Tom Esselmont in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, says this attack is highly reminiscent of those which peaked in the 1990s and then again some five or six years ago.

It shows the battle is far from over and Chechnya is far from being in the secure situation the Russian government would like to see, our correspondent adds

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow, described the attack as "a slap in the face for Ramzan Kadyrov".

"The war is not finished if you can seize the parliament in the centre of the city - all Ramzan's claims of victory over rebels are worthless," the analyst told AFP.

The EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "No circumstances can justify the use of terrorist violence and suicide attacks."

US National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer offered condolences to the families of those who were killed and to those who were wounded.

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