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Deadly Clashes Erupt in Region Near Chechnya - 2004-06-22

Heavy fighting in southern Russia has left at least 48 people dead and scores injured in the republic which borders the breakaway region, Chechnya. Authorities are blaming the attack on separatist fighters from Chechnya.

Fighting raged through much of the night in the region of Ingushetia, in a series of coordinated attacks against government and police buildings. Officials say more than a dozen policemen are among the dead in the assault on the police headquarters in Nazran, Ingushetia's capital city.

Border guard posts and arms depots were other targets in the attack, which authorities are blaming on Chechens and foreign fighters. Russian news agencies say Ingushetia's acting internal security minister was killed in an attack on the Interior Ministry.

The attack appears to be an effort to demonstrate that the long-running war in Chechnya is far from over. Russian troops have been battling separatist fighters for most of the last decade, in what President Putin calls an anti-terrorist operation.

The Kremlin says life is now returning to normal in Chechnya, but troops and police are killed almost every day in rebel attacks there.

Ingushetia is also home to thousands of Chechen refugees who have fled their homeland because of the war in the breakaway region.