Russia's top police official sought Friday to calm tensions in this southern city after hundreds of protesters stormed the main government building and held it for hours.

The protesters peacefully left the building Thursday night after the seizure, in which two policemen died. Makhachkala, the capital of the republic of Dagestan, was calm today as Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin met with local authorities. Stepashin is in charge of Russia's police force.Dagestan's police chief, blamed for the failure to prevent violence, was ousted by the local government Friday.

The protesters were opposed to the regional government in Dagestan and were supporters of Nadirshakh Khachilayev, a member of the Russian parliament and head of Russia's Muslim Union, a leading Islamic group.

Thursday's unrest was ignited by a conflict between Khachilayev's supporters and local police, which resulted in several gun battles.

Up to 300 Khachilayev supporters, some of them heavily armed, took part in building seizure. A number of officials and police were taken hostage.

The protesters shouted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is Great," and hoisted a green Islamic flag atop the building.

After hours of negotiations, they agreed to leave in exchange for the promise of a shake-up in the local government.

While occupying the government headquarters, the assailants smashed furniture, shattered windows and used explosives to open safes, according to news reports.