Chechnya: Gun battle in Grozny leaves several dead

Video: According to officials, gunmen are still hiding in a school in the Chechen capital

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The Independent Online

A gun battle in Chechnya on Thursday killed at least three traffic police officers and six gunmen, according to authorities in the region.

Security officials claimed that militants entered the Chechen capital, Grozny, in three cars at 1 a.m. local time and killed three traffic police at a checkpoint.

The Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee said militants took over the Press House, a large block in central Grozny, which was later destroyed by a fire that killed six gunmen.

However, the Committee said there were more gunmen in a nearby school and there was now an operation to deal with the militants. According to local reports, there were no students or teachers in the school when it was seized.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 when Chechnya declared its independence from, the Russian Federation has fought two wars in Chechnya: between 1994 and 1996 under President Boris Yeltsin, and then between 1999 and 2000. However, there has been constant unrest in the region in the 21st century, and frequently that violence has spilled over into Russia itself.

In October 2002, Chechen rebels took over a Moscow theatre and held several hundred civilians hostage. Two years later, Chechen separatists held over 1,000 people hostage in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia. Over 300 people died, including nearly 200 children.

The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has implemented strong security measures that have largely kept violence away from Grozny for a number of years. He was in Moscow on Thursday to hear Russian President Vladimir Putin's address to the Kremlin.

In the statement, Putin said he was confident that local Chechen leaders could deal with the rebels, who he said were being aided by foreign support.

On his Instagram account , Kadyrov said the three police officers were shot dead as they attempted to stop the cars with the gunmen. 

He added that public services were operating and the situation was calm but that residents should still be cautious. 

"I ask residents in areas where (security) operations are being carried out to abide by safety measures, and not to go out onto the streets without cause or to go near their windows," he wrote. "All the talk about the city being under the control of the military is absolutely false." 

Additional reporting by the AP.