Russian troops clash with rebels

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The Independent Online

Russian servicemen clashed with Chechen rebels in the breakaway republic's southern mountains, suffering three dead and killing 12 separatists.

Russian servicemen clashed with Chechen rebels in the breakaway republic's southern mountains, suffering three dead and killing 12 separatists.

The clash in the area of Vedeno, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the capital Grozny, involved elite Russian Interior Ministry troops who called for helicopter help after engaging the rebels for two hours, said an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration.

Russian aircraft and artillery pounded rebel positions in the mountains of southern Chechnya, a traditional separatist stronghold, including the Vedeno area.

Officials said three Russian servicemen were killed and eight have been wounded elsewhere in Chechnya since Monday, most of them in land mine explosions.

The clashes came a day after up to 100 rebel fighters believed to include Arab mercenaries raided the district center of Achkhoi-Martan west of Grozny, killing at least two pro-Moscow policemen.

The rebels show little intention of starting talks on disarmament and surrender as was recently suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Instead, they continue to harass Russian troops and their allies in Chechnya.

On Monday, masked attackers shot to death Ruslan Dzhumayev, deputy head of administration in the Starye Atagi settlement 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Grozny. Dzhumayev's brother also was killed and a relative was wounded.

Russian troops pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 after an unsuccessful and humiliating campaign against the rebels, leaving the area de-facto independent.

The Russians returned three years later following rebel incursions into a neighboring region and a series of apartment house bombings that killed about 300 people in several Russian cities and were blamed on the rebels.

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