Islamic militants attacked police and government buildings in one of the main cities of Russia's turbulent Caucasus region Thursday, sparking battles in which dozens of people died, officials said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by ordering a total blockade of the city of Nalchik to prevent militants from slipping out and ordered security forces to shoot any armed resisters.
Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, a republic near Chechnya. Death tolls ranged from 49 to 63.
Twenty-five rebels were killed, along with 12 police officers and 12 civilians, said Fyodor Shcherbakov, a spokesman for presidential envoy Dmitry Kozak. He said the number was rising as bodies were being discovered.
Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin told Putin that 50 militants had been killed and that ten police officers had also died. Local officials said another three civilians were among the dead, and that 84 were wounded.
The Interfax news agency quoted Russia's deputy prosecutor as saying 12 rebels had been detained.
Estimates of the number of militants involved were from 60 to 300.
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