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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

7 Suspects Killed in 5-Hour Shootout

APPolice officers patrolling the area near the Nalchik apartment building on Thursday.
ROSTOV-ON-DON -- Hundreds of police and federal troops stormed an apartment building in Kabardino-Balkaria on Thursday, killing seven suspected Islamic extremists after a two-day standoff.

Black smoke billowed from the building in Nalchik, the North Caucasus republic's capital, as police and Interior Ministry troops fired automatic weapons and hurled grenades. The gunmen, believed to be in the building, returned fire, wounding two police officers, the local branch of the Interior Ministry said.

After a five-hour shootout, authorities found seven bodies, Interior Ministry spokesman Alexei Polyansky said.

Other police officials said that bodies of three men and four women were found, and emergency officials who inspected the bodies said on condition of anonymity that it was unlikely that the women had taken part in the fighting.

Itar-Tass said that the wife of one of the militants and their 8-month-old child were among those killed in the building.

Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel denied that a child's body had been found. He said that Muslim Atayev, the leader of Yarmuk, a local Islamic extremist group affiliated with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, was among the militants who were killed.

Arkady Yedelev, the republic's deputy interior minister, said that women were among the militants who had fired on police.

Officials said the suspects, who had been holed up in two apartments, had been seeking safe passage out of Nalchik. It was unclear if there were other demands.

About 600 residents of the building and adjacent blocks had been evacuated.

Federal forces converged on the area on Tuesday, after local residents reported that a group of armed men had entered the building.

Security officials claimed that some of the militants had taken part in last month's attack on an office belonging to the Federal Anti-Drug Agency in Nalchik, when raiders killed four of the agency's employees, looted its arsenal and set the office ablaze.