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Russian news agencies quoted a police spokesman as saying the armed men were killed in a shootout during an attempt to detain them as they drove away in a car.

“The rebels had taken part in a number of serious crimes … including the attack on the Baksanskaya power plant on July 21,” the agencies quoted the spokesman as saying.

The Kremlin is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in Chechnya, site of two separatist wars since the mid-1990s, and in Dagestan and Ingushetia, where poverty and official abuse of force push some youths right into the hands of the rebels.

FRANCE

Nuns seek chart run after record deal

PARIS | Benedictine nuns from a secluded convent in southern France have had their prayers answered after beating 70 other religious orders to a deal with Universal Music and aim to create a chart-topping album.

“We never sought this, it came looking for us,” said the Rev. Mother Abbess at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation near Avignon. “At first, we were worried it would affect our cloistered life, so we asked St. Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered.”

The nuns, whose album of Gregorian chants is set to be released in November, belong to an order that dates back to the sixth century.

The sisters are not allowed to leave the convent or receive guests, and only communicate with visitors through a grill. “I passed the contract through the grill, they signed it and passed it back,” said Dickon Stainer, chief of Decca Records, a unit of Universal, in a statement.

To keep their privacy the sisters also will film their own television ad and photograph the album cover.

The nuns, who beat convents from North America and Africa, join a label that includes the likes of Elton John, the Rolling Stones and convent-educated chart topper Lady Gaga.

The abbess said the nuns decided to record the album hoping it would touch people’s lives.

From wire dispatches and staff reports