MAKHACHKALA, Russia – Four police and security officers were killed Saturday in clashes with armed militants in southern Russia, officials said.
Gunmen shot and killed three police officers as authorities stormed a house in Kaspiisk, a port on the Caspian Sea in the Russian province of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, said Abdul Musayev, a regional police spokesman. Among the dead was the chief of a local riot police unit.
Musayev said one suspect was killed and another captured. A third suspect escaped. The gunmen belonged to illegal armed groups and were suspected in terror attacks, he said.
Also, riot police and other security forces besieged a house in the provincial capital, Makhachkala, where gunmen were hiding. In the ensuing gun battle, two officers of an elite anti-terror commando unit were wounded and one later died, Musayev said.
Police and security forces, backed by armored vehicles, burned the house, but the gunmen remained in the concrete basement Saturday night, still firing at officers.
The gunmen were suspected in attacks against police in Dagestan.
An ethnically diverse region, Dagestan has seen a steady stream of shootings, bombings and other violence, some spilling over from neighboring Chechnya and some committed by local criminal gangs.
Kaspiisk was the site of a bomb explosion that killed 43 people including 12 children during a Victory Day military parade in May 2002. Authorities blamed adherents of the conservative Wahhabi strain of Islam, accusing them of trying to instill fear in the regional police and political leadership and fuel instability in the region.