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Parliament is attacked in volatile Chechnya

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Parliament is attacked in volatile Chechnya
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Authorities say four gunmen who attacked the parliament building in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya have been killed.

A suicide bomber set off an explosive device outside the building and the remaining gunmen were shot dead. Earlier reports saying they had taken hostages have been denied.

But the reports are conflicting, as another source said the parliament building was breached and two suicide bombers set off their devices inside.

The gunmen went on the rampage, spraying bullets around as they screamed “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Greatest”), according to a Reuters source who spoke to a witness at the parliament building.

A gun battle raged for some time and at least two members of the Chechen security forces were killed. Another report says three soldiers and a civilian died.

The attack was timed to coincide with the arrival of members of parliament for the start of the daily session and debate on the state budget. Cars rammed their convoy and then the attackers jumped out and began shooting.

Parliament was evacuated during the attack and, according to the press agency Ria Novosti, a special operation led by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was launched to hunt down the attackers.

Russia’s leaders are struggling to contain a growing Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, a strip of impoverished, mainly Muslim provinces along predominantly Orthodox Christian Russia’s southern border.

President Dmitry Medvedev said last November that strife in the North Caucasus was Russia’s biggest domestic problem.