More deaths in Caucausus as marchers protest violence

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Hundreds of people marched in Nazran, in Russia's unstable Caucasus republic Ingushetia on Saturday, to protest the violence there, as security forces in the region reported fresh clashes.

More than 500 people led by President Yunus-bek Yevkurov gathered in Nazran, while three other protests took place in other towns in the small republic, which neighbours Chechnya.

"We say no to terrorism," Yevkurov, who was seriously injured by a bomb in 2009, told the rally.

"In the last five years, more than 400 members of the security forces have been killed, more than 3,000 civilians injured and 3,000 children made orphans," he added.

Officials in nearby Dagestan, another Caucasus republic, said security forces had killed five suspected rebels.

Four people from "a group of terrorists" had been fatally wounded, and a fifth in the Dagestan capital Makhachkala, the national anti-terrorist committee (NAK) said in a statement cited by Russian news agencies.

Two of those killed were women, the committee said.

In a separate incident in the city a police officer from the economic crimes unit was shot dead after gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, Russian news agencies reported, cited Dagestan's interior ministry.

Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, is along with Ingushetia, the republic worst hit by the Islamist violence in the region.

Russia has in recent years been fighting an increasingly deadly Islamist-fuelled insurgency in the North Caucasus regions of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia which has claimed scores of lives annually.

Human rights groups have said that Russian security forces have also been responsible for abuses.

They argue that the excesses of the security forces and the high levels of poverty in the region have only fed the unrest.

© 2010 AFP

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