- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 19, 2010

GROZNY, Russia | Islamic insurgents including a suicide bomber stormed Chechnya’s parliament on Tuesday, leaving six people dead and 17 injured in one of the most brazen attacks on the provincial capital in months, officials said.

Ten years after the latest separatist war in the volatile region in southern Russia and after a decade of roundups and disappearances of Islamic suspects, it appears that Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed administration still can’t stop separatists from trying to blow up parliament.

Tuesday’s attack left a grim scene around the parliament building, with body parts and a decapitated corpse lying on the ground near shattered window glass. Interior Ministry special forces paced the area in camouflage fatigues, wielding grenade-launching Kalashnikov rifles.

Chechnya, part of Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, has been battling an Islamist insurgency for years despite the iron rule of its Moscow-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov. The exact motive for Tuesday’s attack was not known, but Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev was in Grozny for talks with Mr. Kadyrov about recent violence.

Mr. Kadyrov sought to play down the attack, saying the assailants were quickly killed. His office said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev called him to offer assistance. Mr. Medvedev, on a visit to France, was briefed about the attack by Russian security officials.

The White House condemned the attack and offered condolences to the families of the dead and wounded.

“Terrorism is unacceptable in any form,” said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council. He added the U.S. was working with Russia to fight terrorism and protect “the innocent who always suffer from its brutal tactics.”

Chechen police spokesman Ramzan Bekkhoyev told the Associated Press that one militant set off a bomb at the gates of the parliament complex in Grozny, the Chechen capital, killing himself and wounding others,

At least two other gunmen ran into the building shouting “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great!” in Arabic — as they opened fire on the people inside, he said.

Two police officers and one parliamentary official were killed in the attack and at least two insurgents were slain in an ensuing firefight, officials said.

Mr. Nurgaliyev said the insurgents had tried to get into the main parliamentary hall.

“As always, they failed. Unfortunately, we were not able to avoid loss of life,” he said in a televised speech. “The situation we saw today is extremely rare. Here, there is stability and security.”

Russian news agencies said six of the wounded were police and 11 were civilians.

An AP reporter at parliament saw ambulances take away two bodies, along with the severed head of an insurgent.

The storming of parliament appeared to be part of a larger, coordinated attack. Russian media reported that insurgents also attacked the Agriculture Ministry building in the same complex and shots were fired inside the office of the parliament’s speaker, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov. The Interfax news agency said the speaker had been safely evacuated.

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