In The Line Of Fire

MAXIM MARMUR / AFP-GETTY IMAGES

STREET FIGHTING: Russian special forces storm a shop where militant Islamist gun- men hold out

Nothing much usually happens in Nalchik, capital of the obscure Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. Mostly, tourists come to ski or climb in mountains that include Europe's highest, Elbrus. They buy honey and fruit from roadside markets or enjoy an easygoing approach to nightlife that particularly appeals to travelers from more conservative regions. The sleepy little republic, which is home to a mix of ethnic Russians and Muslims, was also largely free of the insurgency that has set much of the North Caucasus — Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia — aflame. Even when the security services cracked down on alleged radical Islamists, closing mosques...

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