4 policemen killed,8 injured in anti-terrorist op in southern Russia

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Moscow, Sep 15 (UNI) Four policemen were killed and eight injured in a special operation in Russia's republic of Ingushetia, near Chechnya in North Caucasus.

Two gunmen were also killed in the operation in village Verkhniye Achaluki of the Malgobek region, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry of Ingushetia told ITAR-TASS today.

''The operation to neutralise gunmen hiding in a private house in Zarechnaya Street began yesterday and ended today. The gunmen were asked to lay down their arms, however, they offered armed resistance,'' the spokesman said.

Attacks on police, troops, officials and clashes with militants have remained frequent in Muslim-dominated Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan republics, although major fighting with separatists officially ended in 2001.

Between 400 and 500 militants are currently active in the North Caucasus, the commander of Russian Interior Ministry's troops General Nikolai Rogozhkin said.

''A surge in militant activity has been registered in Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. We are taking a range of swift measures to avert terrorist attacks,'' Gen Rogozhkin said.

He said Russia was deploying about 30,000 interior troops in the North Caucasus region, including 23,000 in Chechnya and 6,000-7,000 in other North Caucasus republics where a surge in militant activity was registered recently.

''The situation in the region is controllable and we do not expect any extreme circumstances,'' the commander said.

''We have sufficient experience accumulated over the past few years to combat terrorist threats in the North Caucasus, for example in Chechnya, where we ensured security at the parliamentary and presidential elections. We will prevent any serious manifestations of terrorism,'' he added.

UNI XC RJ HT1522

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