Reports are coming out of a major raid – presumably by Chechen militants – on Nalchik, a Southern Russian city. It looks like the raid, by approximately 150 gunmen according to reports, has been beaten back and up to 60 people – mostly militants, according to government reports – are believed to have been killed. There are also reports that some hostages have been taken at one of the city’s police stations.
The BBC has a report on this which is being updated as and when news comes in. Right now, they are saying that:
Russia’s Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin said Mr Putin ordered the city to be completely sealed off to ensure not a single fighter can escape.
“Those who resist will be eliminated,” he said.
He was also quoted as saying he knew of no civilians killed in the fighting. Earlier, regional President Arsen Kanokov said 12 civilians had died.
Mr Kanokov also told Itar-Tass news agency that a third of the 150 rebels who took part in attacks had been killed.
I have to say, I’d be very very surprised if the civilian casualties remain low.
I’m going to be working through the rest of today, but I’ll try to update with the latest information later on this evening.
Update 4:40pm: While I’m still at work, Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit has been busy putting together an excellent roundup of all the latest information coming out of Nalchik.
Update 5pm: Just time for one quick update before I leave – Mosnews is reporting that Shamil Basayev may have been killed in the raid.
Russias most-wanted Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev was killed by Russian forces in Thursdays firefight in the Kabardino-Balkarian capital Nalchik, a source in the local branch of the FSB (the Federal Security Service) told the Chechen Society newspaper. Officials are remaining silent until a full identification procedure has been completed.[…]But the seizure of the airport failed and the group of rebels led by Basayev was surrounded. To divert the attention of the Russian military, another group of rebels launched attacks on government buildings and Russian army units, but Basayev and his comrades were nevertheless killed, the source said.
The General Staff says, however, it does not have information about involvement of Basayev in the raid.
If true, this is a spectacular victory for the Russian government – although achieved at huge cost – and a disaster for Chechen militants. However, I wouldn’t want to read too much into it just yet. Hyperbole tends to be the order of the day from the Russian government in situations such as this, with rumours flying around left right and centre. Still, if they have the body, I’d imagine it will be paraded on national and international television within hours.
Update – Midnight: Just a quick look in before I go to bed and it appears that, unfortunately, Mosnews were wrong, and Shamil Basayev was not killed during the raid. It was unlikely that the rumour would turn out to be true, it has to be said, but we can dream…
Not really very much else to report at this stage. I think I’ll leave it until tomorrow now to piece things together, and put up some analysis.