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Three killed in gun battle in Russia's Dagestan

Written by: Staff
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MAKHACHKALA, Russia, May 16 (Reuters) A policeman and two rebels were killed today in a gun battle in the southern Russian region of Dagestan, police said.

At least nine other people were injured, including a civilian, they said.

The rebels had blockaded themselves in an apartment in Kizilyurt, a town northwest of the local capital, Makhachkala. Special forces surrounded the block of flats and stormed the building.

State television showed armed soldiers in masks and gunfire could be heard in the background.

The poor and mainly Muslim North Caucasus is a hotbed of violence and instability.

Gun battles are common in Dagestan, a patchwork of ethnic groups and powerful clans that neighbours Chechnya, where separatist guerrillas have fought Russian rule for more than a decade.

Rebels, often acting on a host of local and religious grievances, have increasingly taken up arms against local officials in Dagestan.

Russian officials blame the violence on Islamic militants and organised criminals.

REUTERS SI RN1406

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