Riots in southern Russian province: dozen people injured

More than a dozen people were injured Monday during riots in a village in the southern Russian province of Dagestan which had been triggered by a land dispute, officials said. The riots erupted when some of 1,000 protesters in the village of Kumtorkala attempted to seize a local administration building. They hurled stones at riot police, who fired warning shots in the air.

Local police spokesman Salimkhan Kachikayev said at least five people were wounded by ricocheting bullets. But Anzhela Martirosova, a spokeswoman for the regional branch of Russia's Interior Ministry, said later that only one man received a gunshot wound and 16 others were hospitalized with injuries.

RIA Novosti news agency quoted local doctor Abdulmajid Temirkhanov as saying that one protester received a gunshot wound, but 19 others were treated with injuries. The dispute focused on local authorities' decision to sell off lands that once belonged to a state farm. The move angered local residents who defended their rights for the land.

Some local residents on Monday also engaged in a fist fight with new land owners until police pulled them apart. Dagestan, a Caspian Sea region that neighbors Chechnya to the east, has remained restive, plagued by violence spilling over from Chechnya and also blamed on local criminal gangs.

A local businessman was shot dead by unidentified assailants Sunday in his apartment in the provincial capital, Makhachkala. His two nieces, aged 2 and 13, were also killed, and his wife and a 7-year-old son were wounded in the attack, city police spokeswoman Marina Rasulova said. Other southern regions in the Caucasus also have been volatile. In the province of Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, an officer of the regional task police force was detained Sunday on suspicion of being linked to Chechnya-based rebels, the Russian Interior Ministry's branch in southern Russia said in a statement, reports the AP.


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