An attack on an Orthodox church Saturday in the mainly Muslim southern Russian republic of Chechnya killed two policemen and a civilian and left four rebels dead, officials said.
"According to early information, two policemen in charge of security at the church ... and a civilian were killed," the officials said. They added that "four rebels have been eliminated" while two other policemen were hurt.
They also indicated a knife and a gun were found on the attackers behind the assault targeting the Archangel Michael church in central Grozny, and said police had prevented "more serious consequences and a larger number of victims."
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had earlier told Russian news agencies that rebels acting "on the orders of a Western country" were seeking "to take believers hostage" in a troubled republic where Russia has fought two fierce wars with separatists over the past 20 years.
After the first 1994-1996 conflict the region became increasingly Islamicised and the unrest spread thereafter through the North Caucasus.
In June 2015, the rebels swore allegiance to Islamic State and the region has provided a steady stream of jihadist combatants to both Syria and Iraq.