Rebels attack security, police in Russia's Caucasus

  • Rebels launch "coordinated" attack in N. Caucasus

* Kremlin failing to contain a swelling Islamist insurgency

(Changes dateline, previous MOSCOW, sourcing, quotes)

NALCHIK, Russia, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Militants simultaneously attacked several strategic points on Friday in Russia's North Caucasus, where Moscow is battling an Islamist insurgency, but killed no one, security sources said.

Rebels in Kabardino-Balkaria's capital Nalchik took aim at the regional headquarters of the federal security services, the FSB, with a grenade launcher, set off an explosion in a hotel courtyard and opened fire on two police checkpoints.

"The building and a nearby car received some damage but no one was hurt," a source with the regional FSB, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters.

The attack was "coordinated" by three groups of rebels at around 8 p.m. (1700 GMT), said a separate police source, also speaking on condition of anonymity. He added that one officer had been injured when rebels shot at his checkpoint.

He said that security was being beefed up across Nalchik late on Friday.

Russian media said up to 12 militants had been injured when law enforcement officers fought against them.

The attacks are the latest blow to Kremlin efforts to contain a swelling insurgency in its mainly Muslim North Caucasus, a decade after federal forces threw separatists out of power in the second separatist war in Chechnya.

Rebels angry about poverty and fueled by religious fervour want to carve out a separate Islamic state and install sharia law. They said they ordered the attack on Moscow's busiest airport last month that killed 37.

They also claimed responsibility for shooting dead three Moscow tourists a week ago in Kabardino-Balkaria, who were going to ski on Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest peak.

Violence in Kabardino-Balkaria has increased over the last year, leading analysts to say the insurgency is expanding beyond its usual centres of violence, such as Dagestan and Chechnya.

Though the Kremlin continues to pour billions of dollars into the North Caucasus, analysts say this has little affect and violence will continue to rise. (Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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