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Russian police death toll in N.Caucasus shootout rises to four


ROSTOV-ON-DON, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Four police officers are now known to have died in a clash on Thursday with militants in Nazran, the largest city in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, a police spokesman said.

The incident occurred on Thursday morning after the police officers had surrounded the gunmen in a house in southwest Nazran. The subsequent shootout lasted for an hour and a half before the house was blown up from inside by the terrorists, the spokesman said. Three other police officers were wounded in the incident.

Earlier reports said that one police officer had died.

Preliminary reports said three militants, including one woman, died in the explosion, which had the force of the equivalent of 70 grams of TNT. Three nearby houses and a number of cars were damaged.

There were no immediate reports of injuries among civilians, a police source said. A clean-up operation is underway.

The Russia-based human rights group, the Moscow Helsinki Group, said in September that the republic was on the verge of civil war as fighting between militants and authorities intensified. It also accused federal authorities of torture and abductions.

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