Mine Kills 2 Russian Troops in Chechnya
NAZRAN, Russia (AP) _ A Russian armored personnel carrier hit a land mine in the Chechen capital and exploded on Tuesday, killing two soldiers and injuring several others in the second explosion in the neighborhood in as many days, a Chechen official said.
The soldiers responded by strafing nearby homes in Grozny’s Leninsky district with gunfire, according to a duty officer in the Chechen Interior Ministry. No one was injured, the official said.
On Monday, five policemen and three civilians were killed when a car hit a land mine in the same district.
Land mines are a major component of the arsenal used by Chechen rebels, who despite being outnumbered and outgunned by federal troops continue to inflict daily casualties. Russian sappers are sent out every morning to sweep main roads for mines planted overnight.
The continued violence came as a group of European officials toured the neighborhood on a fact-finding trip. The troika of European Union officials led by Greek Ambassador to Russia Dimitrios Paraskevopoulos visited the Leninsky district on Tuesday under tight security, the Interfax news agency reported.
They also met with Grozny Mayor Oleg Zhidkov and Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov to discuss efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged capital. Zhidkov told the European delegation that 18,400 houses and 16,900 apartments were completely destroyed during military operations, Interfax reported.
Russian troops pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 following a disastrous 20-month campaign against separatists but returned in 1999 after rebel incursions into a neighboring region and after a series of apartment house explosions in Russia that were blamed on rebels.