"Ten soldiers died and seven were injured," Dagestan's deputy prosecutor, Zaur Issayev, said. "All the dead were from the Russian Interior Ministry force."

 

Aljazeera's correspondent in Moscow, however, reported the explosion killed 11 police officers besides wounding 21, mostly civilians.

 

The blast hit a truck filled with security forces near the Dagestani capital Makhachkala, he added

 

The explosion occurred on Friday outside public baths used by troops in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, which is next to Chechnya in the turbulent North Caucasus region.

 

Investigators told ITAR-TASS news agency that an estimated 10kg of explosive were used in the bomb. They said the device was probably set off by radio control - a common tactic of fighters.

 

The blast blew the windows from three light military trucks parked outside the baths and shredded their canvas coverings, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. The bath building was damaged and windows were broken in neighbouring buildings.

 

Police cordoned off the area.

 

Increasing attacks

 

Attacks on troops and police in Dagestan, which has a population of about 2.5 million people, nearly all of them Muslim, have grown steadily in number this year.

 

According to official figures, 30 officers have been killed this year and at least 40 injured in bombings and shootings around Dagestan, most of them in Makhachkala.

 

Officials blame the unrest on the spillover from the ongoing war in Chechnya, as well as a campaign in Dagestan by foreign-funded Islamists. However, many believe the violence is also the result of a home grown rebellion, amid poverty and massive corruption.

 

Just in the last two months, at least three policemen have been killed, including a high-ranking investigator, a local minister has been assassinated, 10 police have been wounded, and a train has been derailed.