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Three Italian Aid Workers Kidnapped in Chechnya

September 29, 1996

GROZNY, Russia (AP) _ Three Italian aid workers transporting medical supplies were kidnapped in Chechnya, where Russians and separatist rebels are shoring up a peace agreement.

The three workers from the Intersos aid agency were abducted while traveling Thursday from the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia to a hospital in Grozny, the Chechen capital, an Intersos spokesman said Sunday in Rome.

The workers were accompanying a truckload of drugs and other medical supplies.

It was unclear who kidnapped the men. A member of the Moscow-backed Chechen government blamed the Chechen rebels, but a Russian military commander said that was unlikely.

The rebels regularly carried out kidnappings during the war, which began in December 1994 when President Boris Yeltsin sent in troops in an attempt to end a Chechen bid for independence. An estimated 80,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians.

Five weeks ago, the separatists signed a cease-fire agreement with Moscow to put an end to the fighting. The cease-fire has largely held, and Russia continued to withdraw troops from Chechnya over the weekend.

Despite the relative calm, rebels opened fire on Russian troops seven times over the weekend, but there were no casualties, government forces said.

Separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev is expected to visit Moscow this week for talks on securing the peace.

Update hourly