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AP: Rebels still hold one village in southern Russia

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  • Norbert Strade
    Rebels still hold one village in southern Russia ASSOCIATED PRESS MAKHACHKALA, Russia, Sept. 3 — Bad weather Friday hindered efforts by Russian troops to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 1999
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      Rebels still hold one village in southern Russia

      ASSOCIATED PRESS

      MAKHACHKALA, Russia, Sept. 3 — Bad weather Friday hindered efforts by
      Russian troops to dislodge Islamic militants still clinging to a key
      village after several days of bitter fighting in the republic of
      Dagestan.

      The Russian military acknowledged that the rebels still held the village
      of Chabanmakhi. Federal troops were also coming under fire in nearby
      Karamakhi, another militant stronghold, said Yevgeny Ryabtsev, the
      Interior Ministry spokesman in Dagestan.

      Karamakhi was heavily mined, complicating the advance of Russian forces.
      A Dagestani police officer was seriously wounded in a mine explosion
      there Friday, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

      Rebel fighters were also putting up fierce resistance from
      well-fortified entrenchments in the surrounding mountains, according to
      local witnesses.

      The militants are Muslim rebels who took over a district about 25 miles
      south of Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, late last year and have been
      running it according to their strict interpretation of Islamic law.
      Russian forces began an offensive Sunday to drive them out.

      Russian troops have been using heavy artillery and helicopter attacks
      against the rebel positions, which are well-hidden in the heavily
      forested mountains. But rainy weather Friday grounded Russian warplanes,
      said Russian Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Anatoly Kornukov, according
      to the Interfax news agency.

      Federal troops were planning to resume air attacks if the weather clears
      Saturday and intended to use more powerful bombs against the rebels,
      Kornukov said.

      On Friday, the militants fired at a refugee convoy in an apparent
      attempt to block civilians from leaving, Russian Defense Ministry
      officials said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. There was no
      word on whether anybody was injured.

      The militants are trying to keep civilians from leaving because federal
      forces would be more likely to use heavy artillery and airstrikes if the
      towns were evacuated, the military said.

      Twenty-six Russian servicemen have died and more than 150 have been
      injured since the fighting began Sunday, according to the Interior
      Ministry. Rebel losses were estimated by Russian forces at more than 100
      fighters, but that number couldn't be independently confirmed.

      (snip)
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