Two police dead in blast in Russia's North Caucasus

MOSCOW - Two Russian policemen died and two others were injured in a blast at a checkpoint in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Monday, the interior ministry said.

The blast occurred as police officers were attempting to inspect a Lada car at a checkpoint near the village of Dzhemikent on the Caspian Sea, the interior ministry's district office said in a statement.

"Two police officers died and two more were hospitalised with injuries," the statement said.

A source in Dagestan's security forces was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying the blast was a suicide bombing.

"A suicide bomber terrorist was behind the wheel of the car, he exploded himself," the source said.

Dagestan has been gripped by nearly daily violence for years due to a simmering Islamist insurgency there, though it has abated during the conflict in Syria which has seen an exodus of Russians from the North Caucasus to join the jihadist fighters in the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

In December, IS claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting in Derbent, a city in Dagestan with an ancient citadel that is popular with tourists. The victim was reportedly an employee of the Russian border service.