Top Chechen militant killed, taking 2 policemen with him

Two policemen have died in Chechnya during an operation in which a militant leader was killed. Although Chechnya has been slowly returning to stability, sporadic outbursts of violence continue to plague the republic.

A construction boom, an ecumenical religious conference, and even attempts to attract tourism have recently characterised life in this once war-torn republic. As many militants laid down their arms in Chechnya, and the local economy started to revive, a fragile stability began to take hold. However, there are troubling signs of renewed violence.

“This killer cruelly murdered policemen who merely performed their duty of protecting the people in our republic. He also killed civilians. We know that he killed his victims without any remorse,” Ruslan Alkhanov, Chechen Interior Minister commented.

Though the long-hunted militant Rustam Basaev was killed, he took two policemen with him. On a day that also saw an arson attack by militants on the houses of two other local law-enforcement officials.

The number of attacks and clashes has been creeping up in the North Caucasus. Russia's Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk, said that in the first half of 2007, 45 police were killed and another 55 wounded in Chechnya and Dagestan. Mr Sydoruk said the number of extremist crimes was up 20% over the same period last year.

A recent gathering of religious leaders in Chechnya gave hope of peace. But it remains fragile in the republic.