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Russians Round Up Chechen Rebels

May 29, 2002

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VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia (AP) _ At least five Russian soldiers and police were killed and 11 others injured in rebel attacks in Chechnya over the past 24 hours, an official in the Moscow-backed Chechen administration said Wednesday.

Russian troops also carried out so-called ``mopping-up″ operations in the capital Grozny and three other districts, rounding up about 80 people, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. During the sweep operations, soldiers conduct house-to-house searches and detain people for document checks. Human rights groups have criticized the sweeps, which they say terrorize communities and often result in torture, beatings, and killings.

In Chechnya’s Vedeno district, rebels opened fire on three Russian military helicopters, badly damaging one that was forced to make an emergency landing. No one on board was injured.

In a customary response to the rebel raids, Russian planes bombed rebel targets in Vedeno and another district, the official said.

Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of the Moscow-backed administration in Chechnya, called on federal troops to dismantle all checkpoints in Grozny by the end of the year, because they are hampering the movement of civilians, the Interfax news agency reported. Kadyrov said Chechnya’s fledgling police force is ready to take over security in the capital, despite frequent rebel attacks on local police facilities.

Russia has fought two wars in Chechnya in the last decade. The first, which lasted from 1994-96, ended in defeat for the Russian military and de facto independence for Chechnya.

Russian forces returned to Chechnya in fall 1999 after rebel incursions into the neighboring Dagestan region and after a series of apartment house bombings in Russia that killed some 300 people, which were blamed on rebels.

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