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Possible Chechen Attack DownPlayed

July 13, 2000

MAIRTUP, Russia (AP) _ A top Russian general on Thursday discounted the possibility of Chechen counterattacks in major towns, saying rebel independence fighters were too weak.

Col. Gen. Valery Manilov, deputy chief of Russia’s general staff, said that ``the situation is under control, and no one will allow the rebels to impose their terms on us,″ the Interfax news agency reported.

Manilov said rebels could muster no more than the bombings and small-scale ambushes against Russian troops that have been their main tactics recently.

There has been speculation in news media and among refugees that rebels might try to stage large-scale uprisings in major towns such as Urus-Martan, Gudermes and the capital Grozny.

That’s what they did in August 1996, when they defeated Russian troops in street fighting in the capital and eventually drove them from the region.

Some refugees have said they’re leaving the region because they fear more fighting, citing recent rebel statements that attacks are to be intensified.

Rebels have not mounted large-scale operations recently, instead switching to hit-and-run attacks, remote-control mines along roadsides, and car and truck bombings.

Two Russian police officers were wounded Wednesday when they were fired on while patrolling a stretch of railroad track across the Argun River near Grozny, military officials said Thursday.

Two large mines were defused near the town of Kurchaloi, one 200 yards from a Russian checkpoint and another along a roadside near the town, officials said.

Russian planes bombed rebel targets over the previous 24 hours in the Argun and Vedeno gorges, two rebel refuges in the southern mountains, officials said Thursday. Attack jets flew 16 missions and helicopters flew more than 40 times, they said.

Russian troops were driven out of Chechnya in a 1994-96 war. They returned in September after Islamic militants based there raided villages in the neighboring region of Dagestan, and after about 300 people died in apartment bombings the government says were the work of Chechens.

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