Militants attack southern Russia city

Last Updated: Saturday, February 26, 2011 - 21:01

Moscow: Up to a dozen militants have
staged a daring attack on the capital of a southern Russian
republic popular with downhill skiers and budget tourists,
news reports said on Saturday.

The overnight attack on Kabardino-Balkaria came a week
after three Moscow tourists were gunned down in the area while
travelling to the Elbrus mountain resort, which is one of
Russia`s most popular winter tourist destinations.
No one was reported killed in the last night`s strike
on the republic`s capital Nalchik, which witnessed grenades
tossed at a local Federal Security Service (FSB) building and
police posts come under repeated machine gun fire.

But the incident prompted a late night telephone
conversation between President Dmitry Medvedev and FSB chief
Alexander Bortnikov, the Kremlin said.
Highlighting the Kremlin`s concern over the latest
incident, news reports said that Medvedev`s North Caucasus
envoy Alexander Khloponin had taken personal charge of the
investigation.

The Nalchik attack culminates a restless month in a
region that until now has been largely able to avoid the
deadly violence raging in nearby mostly Muslim republics such
as Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Kabardino-Balkaria has been a popular destination with
both skiers and mountain climbers, with its budget boosted by
tourism revenues that continued to climb despite violence
wrecking other parts of the Caucasus range.

But its ski slopes went empty on February 18 after two
masked attackers stopped a minibus carrying six people on
Friday evening and opened fire, killing three passengers
instantly and wounding others.

A few hours later, an explosion targeted a ski lift
in one of the Elbrus mountain resort areas. No one was
reported hurt in that incident.

A message on Islamist website Islamdin.com linked to
the militant group Caucasus Emirate said the tourists were
killed for entering "the war zone".

Military officials initially claimed killing three
militants responsible for attacking the tourists. But
subsequent reports said the suspected Islamists had escaped
into the region`s mountains, which Russian forces have been
pelting with artillery and aerial fire for much of the week.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, February 26, 2011 - 21:01
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