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© RIA Novosti. Tatiana Sviridеnko

Troops lay siege to Caucasus militants

by Lidia Okorokova at 24/02/2011 20:46

Interior troops were battling up to 10 armed militants in the North-Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria on Thursday, where terrorists shot three Moscow tourists last week.


A group of between seven and 10 well-equipped guerillas broke out of the area of the siege in the foothills of Mount Elbrus, Interfax reported, two days after being surrounded by federal troops.


The standoff, which began on Tuesday after troops found a hideout with ammunition, explosives, an AK-47 and stashes of food has already claimed one soldier, Interfax reported, quoting a source in the armed forces. Five were injured.


Violence escalated in the region after a group of well-armed guerillas attacked a car with tourists from Moscow and killed three of them on February 18. Later that day the Azau-Stary Krugozor ski lift in the Elbrus ski resort area was bombed. No one was injured, but up to 40 ski lift cars were damaged.

The bombed ski lift at Mount Elbrus

© RIA Novosti. / Tatiana Sviridеnko

The bombed ski lift at Mount Elbrus

 

Two days later, explosives specialists defused three bombs with an equivalent of over 70 kg of TNT found in cars near a resort hotel in the Elbrus area.


Alexander Khloponin, presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, announced on Tuesday a suspension of any tourist activities in the region due to the violence.


There are currently 5,000 tourists on vacation in and around Mount Elbrus, RIA Novosti reported, citing Irina Turina, a spokeswoman for the Russian Tourism Union.


Travel agencies said vacationers were still going to the Elbrus ski resorts despite the risks.


People with a taste for North Caucasus ski resorts are well aware of the dangers there, but they still come in large numbers, RIA Novosti quoted Sergei Merkulenko, a representative of the Goryachiye Tury travel agency, as saying.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #13"
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