Chechnya mines blast Russian soldiers

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Eight Russian soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded when vehicles they were riding in struck mines in Chechnya.

Eight Russian soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded when vehicles they were riding in struck mines in Chechnya.

In three separate incidents, rebels lay in wait until the military vehicles were incapacitated by mines, then opened fire on the survivors, according to a member of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration.

The attacks, in the provincial capital Grozny and two smaller towns in the south, took place over the past 24 hours. They added to the steady toll inflicted on Russian forces by rebels using mines and booby-traps.

The Russian military often reports more casualties from explosives than from skirmishes with the rebels in daily accounts of the fighting, which has bogged down since the second Russian offensive in Chechnya began last fall.

Russian sappers discovered and defused at least five other mines in various parts of Chechnya, the official said.

Mines are a constant menace to Russian forces and limit their movement and effectiveness in controlling the insurgency, despite a vast superiority in manpower and weaponry. Troops in some areas resort to haphazard artillery barrages into the forests where rebel units are suspected to be active, instead of risking an engagement.

In addition to laying mines, rebels frequently fire on Russian positions. Five Russian soldiers died and 12 were wounded in a total of 33 rebel attacks on checkpoints and federal positions over the past 24 hours, the official said.

Russian shelling was reported in four districts in Chechnya on Tuesday.

Russian forces killed three rebels in an artillery strike near the village of Tsa-Vedeno in the Vedeno Gorge area of eastern Chechnya, the official said.

Seven rebels were killed and two wounded in clashes in the Argun Gorge and near the village of Alkhan-Khutor, the Russian military said, according to the Interfax news agency. Russian forces also claimed Tuesday to have wounded a rebel commander in the province capital Grozny, but did not release the man's name.

Russian forces rolled back into Chechnya last fall after rebels based there invaded the neighboring region of Dagestan and explosions in apartment houses in Moscow and other cities, which were blamed on the rebels, killed about 300 people.