With memories of the Beslan massacre still fresh in the minds of Russians, this latest attack in the Caucasus can’t help but evoke disturbing parallels. Although it appears the attackers did not target the school itself, the building’s involvement is disturbing nonetheless. While the identity and motivation of the terrorists is currently unclear, given the region, the coordination, and the armament fielded, it seems apparent that they are Islamic rebels from Chechnya. From the AP:
NALCHIK, Russia — Police and security forces on Thursday battled gunmen in the capital of the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkariya, including in a school near a police station.
A teacher from the school, who gave only his first name, Spartak, said the students had been evacuated. Black smoke billowed from the school as panic-stricken parents searched for their children in the schoolyard.
At least three alleged militants were killed, a duty officer at the southern Russian district office of the Interior Ministry said. He said that 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.
A policeman was wounded in the fighting, said Marina Kyasova, a spokesman for the Kabardino-Balkariya regional office of the ministry.
Intense shooting from automatic rifles and grenade-launchers could be heard in the center of the city. The North Caucasus department on fighting terrorism and city police unit No. 2 are located behind School No. 5.
The Interfax news agency reported that gunmen had launched simultaneous attacks on the regional headquarters of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service, as well as a number of other buildings.
Citing an unidentified source in law enforcement, Interfax said that the battle was sparked by the detention of a group of adherents to the radical Wahhabi strain of Islam, and that their fellow believers were trying to free them.