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Toll rises from Russia attack


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Chechnya (Russia)
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(CNN) -- The death toll from an attack by militants inside the Russian republic of Ingushetia and a counterattack by Russian Interior Ministry troops has risen to 92, officials say.

There had been conflicting reports of the number of dead after the fighting early Tuesday. The Russians had said at least 47 police officials were killed in addition to civilians and militants.

The Russian troops repelled rebel attempts to seize government buildings in at least three towns in the southern region of Ingushetia, according to Russian and Ingush officials.

Col. Ilya Shabalkin, head of the press service for Anti-Terrorist Operations in the Caucasus, told CNN the attacks were carried out by 50 to 100 fighters that included Chechen, Ingush and "possibly" foreign fighters. An Interior Ministry source told Interfax that about 200 rebels took part.

Shabalkin said the acting head of the Ingush Interior Ministry was among the dead. He said the fighters wanted to call attention to themselves to attract money from international terrorist organizations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday those responsible for the deadly attacks should be "found and destroyed."

"Those whom it is possible to take alive must be handed over to the courts," the Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying.

The attacks are believed to be part of a new offensive by Chechen rebels.

Separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov last week warned that his fighters were preparing to shift from acts of sabotage to military action, including action outside of Chechnya.

An official in the Ingush president's office told CNN the attacks appeared to target the former Ingush capital of Nazran, plus Karabulak and Sleptsovsk.

The official said heavy fighting took place throughout the central part of Nazran, the region's largest city, where rebels laid siege to several government buildings, including those of the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service and the Border Guards.

Ingushetia comprises roughly the western fifth of the former Chechen-Ingush Republic.

After Chechnya declared independence in 1991, Ingushetia gained de facto separate status as a republic. The fighting in Chechnya has occasionally spilled over into Ingushetia.

CNN Correspondent Ryan Chilcote contributed to this report.


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