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Though Russia claimed victory over insurgents there after two wars in the 1990s, “this attack shows the battle is far from over, and Chechnya is far from being in the secure situation the Russian government would like to see,” said the BBC’s Tom Esselmon.
At least three armed men, who may have also used a suicide bomb, managed to carry out the attack by following the car of a high-level official into the parliament building in the regional capital of Grozny.
Members of parliament were evacuated while a special police unit moved in to battle the gunmen, reports RIA Novosti. The death toll varied in media reports, but all agreed that no parliamentarians were harmed. At least four other people were killed and 17 people were injured in the attack, reports Reuters:
One blew himself up and two others went on the rampage inside, spraying bullets around as they screamed "Allah Akbar" ("God is Greatest"), a Reuters source who spoke to a witness at the parliament building said.
The remaining two attackers holed themselves up on the ground floor and then blew themselves up when forces loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stormed the building.
President Kadyrov denied initial reports that the gunmen had taken hostages. According to the president, all government deputies are “alive and safe,” reports the Guardian.
“As a result of coordinated actions, a special operation lasting 15-20 minutes was carried out to eliminate the militants and free the MPs and technical staff who were inside,” said Mr. Kadyrov in the Guardian article.
“There could have been five or six [gunmen],” an anonymous security source told Itar-Tass News Agency, explaining fears that there could have been additional attackers. “[W]e must search the whole neighborhood looking for accomplices or explosive devices.”
Attacks on security officials in Chechnya and throughout the southern Russian territories are relatively common, if not daily events, but The New York Times reports that an attack of this magnitude is rare. The last comparable attack took place in the president’s hometown of Tsenteroi in August that killed more than dozen people.
Kadyrov has tried to cast himself as a “strongman” and worked to put an end to the militancy, reports The Wall Street Journal. Still, the Islamic group has persisted and even claimed responsibility for carrying out the Moscow subway bombings in March.
Kadyrov has made some progress in reducing violence in the troubled region and he enjoys Moscow’s backing. However, violence may have also moved into the neighboring territories of North Ossetia and Ingusheti.
Russia has struggled to bring an end to the continued uprisings in its southern territories, known as the North Caucasus. The Christian Science Monitor has reported that the insurgency is growing because it has taken on jihadist overtones. But Al Jazeera reports that the continued problems largely stem from “desperate poverty, clan rivalries, rampant corruption, and heavy-handed tactics by law enforcement agencies.”