|There have been several attempts to assassinate Kadyrov since he became a Russian allied leader|
At least 19 people have been killed after anti-government fighters launched an attack on the house of Chechnya’s president, local media sources say.
The exchange of fire between Ramzan Kadyroz’s personal security guards and suspected separatists occured in the president’s home village of Tsentoroi on Sunday morning.
The clashes left 12 fighters and two officers dead, Alvi Karimov, a government spokesman, told the AP news agency.
Five civilians were also killed in the crossfire, according to local TV reports.
But Kadyrov, who was in the village at the time of the ambush and directed the counter-offensive operation, has denied the reported civilian deaths. He told local reporters that some civilians were injured but that none were killed.
An AP reporter at the scene claimed to have seen numerous fire-ravaged and bullet-ridden homes that suffered collateral damage, with body parts amid the rubble.
Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region sees daily attacks by separatist fighters seeking independence from Russia.
Kadyrov had previously fought on the side of the rebels in a war with Russia in the early 1990s, but switched sides in 1999 to become an ally of the country. He was then installed by Moscow as the leader of Chechnya in 2007.
Since then, there have been several foiled attempts to assassinate Kadyrov, who has been criticised by rights groups for his harsh crackdown on dissenters.