Chechen guerrillas kill 19 in ambushes

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The Independent Online

Chechen guerrillas killed 19 Russian soldiers and wounded at least 45 others in 24 hours of attacks this week, an official in the local pro-Russian administration said yesterday.

Chechen guerrillas killed 19 Russian soldiers and wounded at least 45 others in 24 hours of attacks this week, an official in the local pro-Russian administration said yesterday.

Russian casualties in Chechnya have been rising through hit-and-run strikes in lowland villages and towns their army captured a year ago. The government in Moscow has been playing down the war in Chechnya, which it officially declared it had won six months after the 1999 invasion. The war still has widespread if ebbing support among most Russians.

The Chechen tactics have been to break up into small units that snipe at Russian convoys or use mines to inflict casualties. The guerrillas have also launched an assassination campaign against fellow Chechens seen as co-operating with the Russian forces.

The biggest single attack this week was on a Russian convoy outside the town of Argun, which led to a 40-minute exchange of fire. Three Russian soldiers were killed and an unknown number wounded. The rest died in 24 other attacks.

Russia has been unable to consolidate its control in districts it has captured because it has failed to restore the civilian infrastructure or pay teachers, hospital workers and pensioners.

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