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Russia: 'Active Phase' of Chechen Anti-Terror Operation Completed


The burned-out 'Press House' is seen in central Grozny, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014.

Russia said the "active phase" of an anti-terrorism operation in the Chechen capital, Grozny, ended Thursday with the recovery of the bodies of eight suspected militants who attacked police at a traffic checkpoint in the city.

Russia's state-controlled Tass news agency said the gunmen stormed the checkpoint early in the day, then occupied the 10-story Press House and a nearby school. Ten policemen were killed, and nearly 30 others were wounded.

A statement from the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said that all the attackers were killed and that efforts to identify them were underway. Authorities also reported the recovery of 24 homemade explosive devices, as well as grenades and other munitions.

Chechnya and its capital endured two wars in the past two decades between Russian forces and largely Muslim Chechen rebels seeking independence from Moscow.

The region experienced an extended period of relative calm until October, when police confronted a suicide bomber trying to attack a concert hall in Grozny. Five police were killed in that blast.

Noted Russia security affairs expert Mark Galeotti told VOA he thought Thursday's attack was political and symbolic by design, while lacking any enduring military significance.

The New York University professor of global affairs characterized the assault as a suicide attack and said the attackers had "little chance of escape and didn't seriously try to flee."

He called the attack "showy" and said it might have been timed to coincide with an extended national television address later in the day by President Vladimir Putin, in a push to embarrass the Russian leader and stoke further unrest.

There were uncomfirmed reports on social media of sightings of Putin's motorcade heading to the Kremlin in the middle of the night as the unrest in Grozny unfolded.

Blaming the West

A prominent Chechen lawmaker accused U.S. and NATO intelligence services of being behind the attack in Grozny, saying it was part of efforts “to weaken Russia both economically and politically,” Russian media reported.

“They have not succeeded and they will never succeed in their plans," Dukuvakh Abdurakhmanov, the Chechen parliament speaker, told an emergency meeting of the legislature Thursday, Tass reported.

"The dreams of [U.S. President Barack] Obama and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and their accomplices will never come true so long as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest ally and our national hero Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya and the hero of Russia, defend Russia’s interests,” Abdurakhmanov said.

He also blasted videos of intense military activity in and around Grozny that circulated on social media the night of the attack as “fake.”

“The fake videos that are being distributed in social networks were shot far away from Grozny and long before [the incident],” Abdurakhmanov said.