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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Dead, 10 Injured in Chechen Ambush

Rebels in Chechnya ambushed a convoy of Interior Ministry troops, killing four people and wounding 10 others, police and prosecutors said Monday.

The attack was one of the deadliest in recent months and comes after repeated assurances from the Kremlin and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov that life is returning to normal in Chechnya.

Three police cars came under fire at around 8:30 a.m. Sunday on the road between the villages of Dargo and Vedeno, leaving three Interior Ministry officers and one Chechen policeman dead, police and prosecutors said.

Another eight Interior Ministry officers and two policemen were wounded, Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Magomed Deniyev said by telephone from Grozny.

The unidentified assailants attacked the convoy with automatic weapons from a nearby forest, said Oleg Surikov, a spokesman for the Chechen branch of the newly formed Investigative Committee.

Chechen separatists claimed on the Kavkaz Center web site that 10 to 15 troops had been killed and that military equipment had been destroyed in the attack.

A group of rebels led by Usman Muntsigov had been operating in the area, Deniyev said.

"This gang has been affiliated with numerous serious crimes against law enforcement officers," Deniyev said.

Law enforcers are combing the forest in search of the assailants, Deniyev said.

"In all likelihood, [the attackers] also have their wounded and dead there," Deniyev said.

The Interior Ministry officers killed in the attack were serving in the Yug, or South, battalion, Deniyev said. He identified the slain police officer as Sergei Narvatov, head of the call center at the Vedeno district police station.

Insurgents have been carrying out regular attacks in Chechnya since the spring, while hit-and-run attacks by small groups were adopted as a rebel tactic around 18 months ago, said Andrei Soldatov, a security expert and editor of the web site

The recent rise in attacks "is connected to a large influx of young men into the mountains this spring" and, in the long term, to "a change in tactics of small groups," Soldatov said.

Soldatov said it was difficult to predict whether an increase in such attacks could be expected. "The forecast here depends on many outside factors," Soldatov said.

Should the situation in neighboring Ingushetia -- which has seen a spike in violence in recent months -- remain volatile, insurgents based in Chechnya could focus their energy on carrying out operations there rather than in Chechnya, Soldatov said.