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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

7 Dead in Police-OMON Battle

A shootout between Ingush and Chechen policemen Wednesday left seven dead and 21 wounded, news agencies reported.

Five Chechen OMON special forces officers died in the skirmish, along with two Ingush policemen. Eleven Chechen officers were wounded, including Buvadi Dukhiyev, a deputy commander in the Chechen OMON, or riot police. Ten Ingush policemen were also injured.

The gun battle broke out after a Chechen OMON convoy entered Ingushetia in pursuit of a suspect without alerting Ingush authorities, a Chechen Interior Ministry official told Interfax. The Chechens feared that their Ingush counterparts might leak the information, he said.

Ingush policemen ordered the convoy to halt at a checkpoint on the border with Chechnya, the Ingushetia.ru web site reported. The Ingush officers asked the Chechen officers to present their identification papers, but they refused.

The Ingush policemen then spotted the suspect in one of the cars in handcuffs with a bag over his head. They ordered the Chechens to freeze and called for backup, Ingushetia.ru reported. The Chechen OMON officers responded by opening fire.

An official at the Joint Staff of Forces Operating in the North Caucasus told Interfax that the Ingush policemen began shooting first.

Senior police officials from both Chechnya and Ingushetia rushed to the site of the shootout Wednesday afternoon, and both sides said they would investigate the incident before making any comment on the cause of the incident.

Ingush President Murat Zyazikov said only that the exchange of gunfire resulted from a "fatal mistake," Interfax reported.

Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said the incident was the result of a "misunderstanding," Interfax reported.

Both Zyazikov and Kadyrov called for restraint Wednesday, reminding people in both regions that the Ingush and Chechens are ethnic cousins.

But a prominent Ingush politician, Issa Kostoyev, called for people in his region to resist Chechen police that venture into Ingushetia. Kostoyev, formerly a senior federal prosecutor and member of the Federation Council, told Ekho Moskvy radio that Ingush civilians should use force to turn back Chechen policemen that attempted to search their homes.

Law enforcement agencies in regions surrounding Chechnya have often entered into conflict with Chechen police and paramilitary units, most of which are loyal to Kadyrov.

On Sept. 7, a fistfight broke out when Chechen police tried to check the documents of Ingush officers in Ingushetia's Sunzhensky district.

Two Ingush policemen were severely injured.

In January 2005, Kadyrov and law enforcement units loyal to him, known as kadyrovtsy, employed force to wrest his sister from a police station in Dagestan, where she had been detained along with her bodyguards for failing to produce permits for weapons they were carrying. Several Dagestani officers were badly beaten.