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Death toll from Nalchik attacks now 98

At least 98 people died when Chechen rebels attacked police and military targets throughout the city of Nalchik, officials in southern Russia said Friday.

At least 98 people died when Chechen rebels attacked police and military targets throughout the city of Nalchik, officials in southern Russia said Friday.

Media and government reports from the Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkariya say 72 militants were among the dead after Thursday's co-ordinated attacks.

At one point early Friday, several rebels were still holding two hostages in a gift shop in the heart of the city of 235,000 people located near the republic of Chechnya, where a rebel movement has been seeking independence from Russia for a decade.

There are reports that police and soldiers used gas and an armoured personnel carrier employed as a battering ram to end the gift shop siege.

A number of police officers were also held hostage for several hours at a precinct station before colleagues rescued them.

More than 100 people, many of them civilians, were injured over the course of the attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a blockade to be placed around Nalchik to prevent any militants from escaping in the confusion.

Chechen rebels have increasingly been conducting campaigns of violence in other Russian republics to press toward their goal of independence.