At least 20 people were killed in a deadly assault by Islamic militants in Russia’s republic of Chechnya Thursday. The violence underscores Russia’s vulnerability just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin used patriotic and religious imagery in his state-of-the-nation address to defend Russia’s standoff with the West. CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reported this story from Washington, D.C.
The fighting began when a group of about 10 unknown people used three cars to conduct an armed attack on a roadside patrol station, killing three officers. Afterwards the perpetrators entered the 10-story Press House in the heart of the city, which houses local media offices, where they exchanged gunfire with police.
The Press House later caught fire and the flames spread to a nearby market.
Chechen government sources said 10 militants and 10 police officers are among the dead. Dozens more were injured.
It’s not clear who exactly was behind the attack. The region has struggled with Islamist militants dating back to the 1990s, but recently there has only been sporadic fighting.
“The people who did that may have come from outside Chechnya and it seems plausible. And I would not even rule out that this is somehow connected to international terrorism,” Dmitry Trenin from Moscow Carnegie Center said. “It is clear that from the standpoint of Islamic State, Russia is as much of a foe as much of an enemy as the United States and the West.”
The attack came just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a major televised address.
“An attack happening at that time, in my view, had the aim of embarrassing Putin in front of his own people and in front of the global audience,” Trenin said.