Police and security forces battles gunmen in capital of southern Russian region

Police and security forces on Thursday battled gunmen in the capital of the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkariya, including in a school. A teacher from the school, who gave only his first name, Spartak, said the children had been evacuated. Black smoke billowed from the school in Nalchik as panic-stricken parents searched for their children in the school yard.

The school is located in front of the North Caucasus department on fighting terrorism and a city police unit.

The battles began early Thursday in the Belaya Rechka suburb and spread to several districts of the city by midmorning.

The regional office of the Emergency Situations Ministry said that fighting was also underway at the city's airport. The Interfax news agency reported that security forces had repelled an attack there. The militants also attacked the regional headquarters of the Russian prison system, the Emergency Situation Ministry's press office said.

At least three alleged militants were killed, a duty officer at the southern Russian district office of the Interior Ministry said on customary condition of anonymity. An Associated Press reporter saw three bodies in one street in the city center, near government buildings: one in police uniform, one man with a gun and one in civilian clothes.

The Interior Ministry officer said the fighting began after police in Nalchik received an anonymous telephoned tip that a group of about 10 armed militants had entered the city, and police and security forces launched a special operation to capture them.

An official in the Kabardino-Balkariya police department said on condition of anonymity that three police units in the city had been attacked by unknown assailants Thursday morning.

A policeman was wounded in the fighting, said Marina Kyasova, a spokesman for the Kabardino-Balkariya regional office of the ministry, reports the AP. I.L.