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Militants attacked the parliament building in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya on Tuesday, setting off a gun battle that left six people dead and 17 injured.

The three assailants, armed with guns and explosives, killed two police officers standing guard. One blew himself up near the entrance, and the other two stormed inside and were killed, along with a civilian, in a 20-minute battle.

Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim territory in the North Caucasus mountains bordering Georgia, has been caught up in violence since 1994, when Russian tanks rolled in to put down a separatist movement that later developed into an Islamic insurgency. The region has been relatively peaceful in the past year under the Moscow-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Human rights advocates accuse the government of sanctioning murder, torture and kidnapping, and Natalya Estimerova, a rights activist who was investigating such violations, was abducted and killed last year.

Tuesday’s attack in the war-ravaged capital, Grozny, was seen as a challenge to Kadyrov, the 34-year-old son of a previous president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004. During the rule of the younger Kadyrov, Grozny has been rebuilt and the president lives in a lavish palace, where he keeps a private zoo. But he has many enemies among rival clans and those who dislike his allegiance to Moscow. WP

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