Gunmen shot and killed two police officers on Tuesday in Dagestan, a troubled province in southern Russia bordering Chechnya, officials said. Police and government officials in Dagestan have been targeted in a series of bomb blasts and shootings that have killed more than 40 law enforcement officers this year alone.
The latest shooting occurred early Tuesday morning when police stopped a car with several passengers at the entrance of the Gimri tunnel linking the provincial capital, Makhachkala, to mountainous regions.
The men in the car fired at police, killing two officers and wounding one, the regional branch of a statement from Russia's Interior Ministry said. The authorities launched a massive manhunt for the gunmen, who escaped into a nearby forest.
Dagestan, a Caspian Sea province, suffers spillover violence from Chechnya and is riven by disputes among local ethnic groups and homegrown criminal clans.
Police in Dagestan said Tuesday they had found caches of weapons and explosives in Makhachkala and the town of Kaspiysk just south of the provincial capital.
Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb on the main highway in Ingushetia exploded, wounding one Russian soldier, a spokesman for the southern federal district Interior Ministry said.
Russian news agencies reported that security forces battled suspected militants in a wooded area in the region just west of Chechnya, killing two. The fighting broke out when security forces were searching the area to check on information provided by an arrested suspect.
Authorities in Chechnya, meanwhile, have found the bodies of a police officer and a worker of the local administration who were abducted last month by unidentified gunmen in the regional capital, Grozny, the Interior Ministry's local branch said Tuesday.
Russian troops re-entered Chechnya in 1999, three years after withdrawing at the end of a 20-month war with separatist forces that left the province de facto independent. Despite a massive Russian military presence, rebels based in mountain hideouts stage regular attacks against federal forces and their local collaborators.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated