Russia troops ready to storm rebels in Dagestan

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MOSCOW, Sep 20 (Reuters) Russian special forces today were preparing to storm a house where two suspected rebels were holed up in the southern republic of Dagestan, Russian news agencies reported.

Special services had encircled the house in the regional capital, Makhachkala, and aimed to flush out the fighters from the basement.

''At the present time special forces are preparing for the final storming of the basement ...,'' Itar-Tass quoted an unidentified local law enforcement official as saying.

State television showed families being evacuated and armoured personnel carriers driving into position. Special forces were shown firing automatic weapons.

Dagestan neighbours Chechnya, which has endured two wars between separatist rebels and Russian soldiers since 1994. The violence has spilled over into Dagestan and Ingushetia, another province in Russia's North Caucasus region.

Analysts say the violence in Dagestan is linked to clan rivalries, organised crime and a militant Islamist insurgency that has links to the long-running separatist war in Chechnya.

Russian forces have faced an upsurge in violence in the North Caucasus this year with attacks and shootouts between rebels and federal forces on a daily basis.

REUTERS GT BD2207

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