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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nalchik Apartment Stormed, 3 Dead

Itar-TassSmoke billowing out of the apartment that security forces stormed Sunday in Nalchik.
ROSTOV-ON-DON -- Security forces stormed an apartment building in Kabardino-Balkaria on Sunday, killing three suspected Islamic militants who had barricaded themselves inside, law enforcement officials said.

A fierce gun battle broke out early Sunday morning, said an officer in the Interior Ministry department in Nalchik, the capital of the North Caucasus republic, where the one-day standoff came to an end.

Security forces used grenade launchers to lob canisters of tear gas into the building before entering, he said. The officers broke down a metal door to the second-floor apartment but retreated due to a high concentration of gas as well as smoke from a fire that had broken out.

Authorities eventually entered the apartment after the blaze was extinguished, finding three bodies. One of the dead was identified as a resident of the Rostov region and another as from Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Interfax reported, citing an unnamed official in the Interior Ministry department. The third body was in fragments and unrecognizable.

Footage broadcast on NTV showed thick smoke billowing from the apartment building, while heavily armed soldiers rushed to enter.

The incident is the latest in a series of confrontations between law enforcement authorities and alleged extremists in the volatile North Caucasus, which includes Chechnya.

Last month, security forces killed seven alleged Islamic extremists in the same city in a two-day battle with members of the so-called Yarmuk group.

Arkady Edelev, a deputy federal interior minister, said the standoff came during a three-day sweep in Nalchik to root out what he called "terrorist-sabotage groups." He said the groups were preparing terrorist attacks in Kabardino-Balkaria and other North Caucasus republics.

On Saturday, three people were detained, and police searching a house confiscated one gun, four grenades and Islamic literature produced by the conservative Wahhabi sect, according to a duty officer for the southern district office of the federal Interior Ministry. Edelev said investigators also found a laboratory where homemade bombs were being manufactured in Nalchik.

Yarmuk is a radical Islamic group affiliated with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. It was blamed for a December 2004 attack on a Federal Drug Control Service office in Nalchik, when raiders killed four of the agency's employees, looted its arsenal and set the office ablaze. Russia's southern regions have been plagued by a spillover of violence from Chechnya, including the September school hostage-taking in Beslan.