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Heavy casualties in Russia raids


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MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says those responsible for the deadly attacks in the southern republic of Ingushetia should be "found and destroyed."

Putin was responding to overnight attacks on government buildings in three separate towns in Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya, that left scores of dead and dozens wounded.

"They must be found and destroyed. Those whom it is possible to take alive must be handed over to the courts," the Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying.

A spokesman for Russia's Department of Emergency Situations said 48 people died -- including 31 civilians -- while Umarbek Galayev, Ingushetia's deputy prosecutor, said 57 people were killed.

Galayev did not say how many were civilians and how many were police officials. Earlier, Russian officials said the fighting killed at least 47 police officials and an unknown number of rebels and civilians.

Officials said Russian Interior Ministry troops beat back the rebels in heavy fighting that raged early Tuesday.

In the republic's main city of Nazran, several buildings were attacked, including the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service and the headquarters of the Border Guards. Fighters also attacked the towns of Karabulak and Sleptsovsk.

Col. Ilya Shabalkin, head of the press service for Anti-Terrorist Operations in the Caucasus, told CNN the attacks were carried out by 50 to 100 fighters which included Chechen, Ingush and "possibly" foreign fighters.

An Interior Ministry source earlier told Interfax that about 200 rebels took part in the attacks.

Shabalkin said the acting head of the Ingush Interior Ministry was among the dead.

He claims the purpose of the attacks was "propaganda," with the fighters wanting to bring attention to themselves to attract money from international terrorist organizations.

The attacks began shortly before midnight Monday when rebels launched the raids and laid siege to several key government buildings.

An Ingush official said Russian troops were able to break the siege and push back rebel attempts to seize government buildings.

Officials told CNN later Tuesday that five hours of heavy fighting had ceased and the rebels were moving back from Nazran.

"The question is now: Where have those militants gone? There's no clear answer to that," said CNN Correspondent Ryan Chilcote.

The attacks are believed to be part of a fresh offensive by Chechen rebels who have promised major new attacks.

Separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov warned last week his fighters were preparing to shift from acts of sabotage to military action, including outside of Chechnya's borders.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, traveling in Russia's far east, told reporters that he did not have detailed information about events in Ingushetia but said "there are sufficient forces in the region to stop such attacks."

Ingushetia comprises roughly the western fifth of the former Chechen-Ingush Republic. After Chechnya declared independence in 1991, Ingushetia gained de facto separate status as a republic.

The fighting in Chechnya has occasionally spilled over into Ingushetia.

CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty and CNN Correspondent Ryan Chilcote contributed to this report.


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