Chechen allies open fire on Russian embassy in Beirut

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The Independent Online

The Russian attack on Chechnya stretched all the way to Lebanon yesterday, when at least two gunmen attacked Moscow's embassy in Beirut with rocket-propelled grenades, claiming to be "sacrificing" themselves for the besieged Muslims of Grozny.

The Russian attack on Chechnya stretched all the way to Lebanon yesterday, when at least two gunmen attacked Moscow's embassy in Beirut with rocket-propelled grenades, claiming to be "sacrificing" themselves for the besieged Muslims of Grozny.

After a gun battle lasting almost three hours, in which a gunman and a Lebanese policemen were killed, it emerged that one of the attackers was a Palestinian from the refugee camp at Ein el-Helwe outside Sidon - the location of one of the largest Palestinian Islamic groups in Lebanon.

But the Chechen war lay at the heart of the far more serious battles going on in northern Lebanon between Muslim guerrillas and Lebanese troops in which four more Lebanese soldiers were killed yesterday. The conflict east of Tripoli has been going on since New Year's Eve after Lebanese soldiers, seeking bombers who had attacked two Orthodox churches in Tripoli, demanded that two men linked to the attacks hand themselves over. Last night, dozens of guerrillas were holding out in caves above the village of Sir ed-Dniyeh where they were under attack from Lebanese helicopter gunships.

The assault on the heavily-guarded Russian embassy began in a blast of grenade fire just after 11.30am. Shoppers ran in panic into buildings while motorists careered off the boulevard in terror. Troops from police barracks, 60 metres from the embassy visa department, poured into the boulevard as the gunmen continued firing at the compound.

Before he died, the Palestinian, identified as Ahmad Raja Abu-Kharroub, ran with his grenade launcher into abuilding which houses a shoe store and a branch of the British Bank of the Middle East, apparently seeking a position on the roof to continue firing at the embassy.

When he reached the fourth floor, he pleaded with a young woman to use her telephone. Telling her that he was "sacrificing himself for Chechnya" the Palestinian dialled his home in Sidon to say goodbye to his children before he died. He was shot a few minutes later.

But Lebanese security forces bore the brunt of the casualties. One policemen was killed at the embassy and four soldiers were shot dead in the north of Lebanon. An army officer taken hostage three days ago was found murdered near Sir ed-Dniyeh, bringing to nine the number of Lebanese troops killed in the past week.

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