The Russian hostage crisis appears to be over. Security forces have mounted a dramatic rescue of the final group of hostages and killed their Chechen captors who had held them overnight in Nalchick in the Caucasus, effectively ending a huge rebel raid that killed dozens of people.
The military operation was launched to dislodge a handful of rebels who were holding a small group of civilians in a shop in the centre of the southern town.
Some soldiers were injured in cross-fire.
Justice officials say eight rebels were killed, and their five captives freed, after they tried to drive away in a mini-bus from the police station in the town centre where they had been holed-up overnight.
Nalchik is the main city of the Muslim Kabardino-Balkaria region, near rebel Chechnya. The region borders North Ossetia, where Chechen fighters attacked a school in Beslan last year.
Chechen separatists have claimed responsibility for what the authorities say was a “carefully planned” simultaneous attack on police, army and Federal Security Service buildings.
The exact number killed and injured remains unclear.
Calm has now been restored to Nalchik, but though the Kremlin claims it has the Caucasus under control, events on the ground have painted a very different picture.