The Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has been killed, a spokesman for Russian forces said today.
Colonel Ilya Shabalkin said Maskhadov was killed during the course of a "special operation".
The Interfax news agency later quoted him as saying that Maskhadov had been killed in Tolstoy-Yurt, a village in the northern sector of Chechnya that has been under tight control of Russian forces. Earlier Tuesday, Russian officials reported that three rebels who were planning a large terrorist attack on the administration building in Tolstoy-Yurt had been detained.
Maskhadov led the Chechen separatists who fought Russian forces to a standstill in a 1994-96 war and he became the republic's president after the Russian military withdrew.
But he appeared to lose substantial influence to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and by the time Russian forces returned to Chechnya in 1999, he was believed to command loyalty among only a relatively small faction of fighters.
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