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Six police die in rebel shootout in Chechnya: officials

Six police officers died in a shootout with Islamist insurgents who attacked the home village of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in the Russian Caucasus, officials said Monday, raising the initial toll.

Chechnya’s maverick president Ramzan Kadyrov led his personal security force in an operation against the rebels early Sunday and was shown on television striding around a pile of their uncovered bodies.

“There are six dead and 18 wounded,” police officers, said Maryam Nalayeva, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Commitee in Chechnya.

Seven civilians also received injuries in the latest skirmish between the authorities and militants, spokesman for the Chechen interior ministry, Magomed Deniyev, told AFP.

Kadyrov’s office initially put the toll among the law enforcement troops as one policeman and one member of the presidential security force, while saying that 12 rebels were killed.

Security forces opened fire on up to 15 suspected militants as they entered Kadyrov’s home village of Tsentoroi in northeast Chechnya, Kadyrov’s office has said.

Kadyrov, 33, a pro-Kremlin strongman, has been accused by human rights groups of using torture and his personal security forces to crack down on critics in his half-decade in power in Chechnya.

In a separate incident, two policemen were shot dead and one wounded as they drove through the nearby region of Dagestan earlier Monday, the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor’s office said in a separate statement.

Shootings and bomb attacks are a near-daily occurrence in the North Caucacus, where pro-Russian authorities are battling an Islamist insurgency.