Islamic Terrorists Attack Chechen Capital; 20 Dead

GROZNY, Russia (AP) -

Police waged gunbattles with Islamic terrorists who attacked Chechnya’s capital Thursday, leaving at least 20 dead and underscoring Russia’s vulnerability just as President Putin used patriotic and religious imagery in his state-of-the-nation address to defend his standoff with the West.

The clashes in Grozny dented a carefully nurtured image of stability created by Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed strongman after two separatist conflicts. The violence raised fears of more attacks in Chechnya and widening unrest in the rest of Russia’s volatile North Caucasus.

The insurgents in Chechnya and other Caucasus regions want to create an independent state governed by their strict interpretation of Islamic law.