Chechnya blast kills 2, wounds 6

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Two Chechen militants blew themselves up Friday to escape capture, wounding three policemen and three civilians in the process, police said.

It was the third suicide bombing in the past week in Chechnya and part of a rising wave of violence in Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus that appears to have alarmed the Kremlin.

President Dmitry Medvedev called Friday for more comprehensive youth programs to discourage young men from joining the rebels.

"Unfortunately, rebel groups are still able to bring young people under their wing, into their criminal activities. This is a fact," Medvedev said during a televised meeting with regional political and religious leaders. He encouraged the leaders to offer educational programs and activities.

The two militants who killed themselves early Friday were on a federal wanted list and had been trapped inside a house by police in the town of Shali, Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Magomed Deniyev said. When police demanded they give themselves up, the militants opened fire and then set off explosives attached to their bodies, he said.

Three policemen and three civilians were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, the spokesman said.

A suicide bombing Tuesday at a gas station-carwash complex in the Shali region killed four Chechen police officers, and another four were killed last week by suicide bombers on bicycles.

The worst suicide bombing to hit the region in years occurred Aug. 17 in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, when a van packed with explosives blew up a police station, killing at least 25 people.

In another North Caucasus republic, Dagestan, police said they killed three militants early Friday who had opened fire on a police post. The post in Makhachkala, the capital, was unmanned at the time, but police patrolling nearby tracked the militants to a house and surrounded them there, Interior Ministry spokesman Mark Tolchinsky said.

Police, who were backed up by special forces and armored vehicles, exchanged fire with the militants for several hours before killing them, he said.

Also Friday, a policeman was shot dead in a separate attack in Dagestan's capital, police chief Shamil Guseinov said.

Separatist rebels and Russian troops fought two full-scale wars in Chechnya over the past 15 years. After a period of relative calm, Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim republics in southern Russia have seen a steady increase in attacks on police and soldiers.

From 200 to 250 police and soldiers have been killed in the North Caucasus republics so far this year, according to regional authorities.