Hundreds demand border shutdown after Caucasus blast

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Hundreds of protestors in Russia's mainly Christian North Ossetia called Monday for the closure of the border with Ingushetia after the deadliest militant strike for months.

The protest, organized through social networking sites and attracting between 300 and 500 mainly young Ossetians, demanded the closure of the administrative border with the Muslim region of Ingushetia with which North Ossetia has a history of uneasy relations.

A deadly suicide bombing rocked the regional capital Vladikavkaz last week, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 150.

The suicide bomber, who detonated his car bomb at an entrance to the city's main market, is believed to have arrived from Ingushetia, and locals accused authorities of failing to check the vehicle on the border.

After marching through the city shouting slogans including "No to terror," the demonstrators headed for the border post just outside Vladikavkaz.

Troops however stopped the demonstration as it approached an ethnic Ingush village on North Ossetian territory, and several officials, including the regional interior minister, implored them to return home.

No violence was used against the unarmed protesters, who eventually turned round, an AFP correspondent reported.

The demonstration follows a similar protest on Saturday when around 300 mainly young people gathered outside the main government building in Vladikavkaz to shout slogans against Ingushetia.

Last week's attack carried out as Russia's Muslims were preparing to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, risks reigniting tensions between the Ossetians and Ingush.

They fought a brief but deadly conflict in the 1990s over the Prigorodny Raion, a district which became part of North Ossetia under the Soviet Union and has been disputed by the Ingush ever since.

The 1992 conflict claimed hundreds of lives and created tens of thousands of Ingush refugees.

North Ossetia was the site of one of Russia's most shocking tragedies in 2004 when more than 330 people died after armed Chechen rebels took more than 1,000 people hostage at a school in the town of Beslan.

© 2010 AFP

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