Blast kills six at army base in Chechnya, gas blamed

An explosion ripped through a base of a special Defense Ministry security force in Russia's troubled province of Chechnya on Tuesday, killing at least six people and injuring another 13, the Chechen Emergency Situations Ministry said.

A duty officer at the ministry said the cause of the blast in Kurchaloi, some 30 kilometers (16 miles) southeast of the Chechen capital Grozny was not yet known. But the Interfax news agency quoted a Chechen Interior Ministry official as saying that it appeared to be a gas explosion.

The blast, which happened at around 8.30 p.m local time (1730 GMT), caused a building to collapse, burying several dozen servicemen under the rubble, according to provisional reports, the official told Interfax. A fire broke out but has been extinguished, he said.

Rescuers rushed to the scene to try to get survivors out, the official said.

The base houses Chechen troops serving in a special Defense Ministry security force, called Vostok.

Interfax cited the Vostok battalion headquarters as saying that one person was killed and another 14 wounded in the explosion. But ITAR-Tass reported citing Chechen law enforcement sources that the toll stood at six dead and 13 wounded.

Chechnya, a mainly Muslim southern Russian republic, has suffered almost continuous conflict between separatist rebels and Russian forces since 1994. Large-scale fighting has died down but skirmishing and almost daily guerrilla land mine attacks continue, reports AP.

O.Ch.