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Russian raid frees American relief worker in Chechnya

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian security forces freed an American aid worker kidnapped in Chechnya last month and held for ransom, authorities said Sunday.

Kenny Gluck, regional chief of the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders, was snatched from his car by masked attackers on January 9. The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB -- the successor to the Soviet-era KGB -- retrieved him uninjured in a raid late Saturday, agency officials said.

Gluck was at a Russian military base at Khankala, outside Grozny, on Sunday. He said he was in good health after the ordeal.

"They didn't beat me or touch me or anything," Gluck told CNN. "I'll be glad to go home."

Russian officials said they were able to free Gluck without firing a shot or paying any ransom -- "not one kopeck," FSB spokesman Alexander Zdanovich said.

Gluck, a 38-year-old New York native, was kidnapped about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Chechen capital, Grozny. His kidnapping prompted the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to suspend operations in Chechnya, the rebellious Russian republic that has struggled for independence from Moscow since 1994.

A Doctors Without Borders press officer said the group talked briefly to Gluck after his release, but the organization did not expect him to return home before Monday.

Hundreds of people, including international aid workers, journalists and Russian troops, have been kidnapped and held for ransom by armed groups in the territory since the first Chechen conflict ended in 1996.

Zdanovich said agents had been waiting for several days for the right opportunity to stage the raid that freed Gluck.

"We closely followed his movements, and when the necessary conditions were met, we made full use of our capabilities, and as a result he is here in Khankala," he said. "There were no losses among our people, and no shooting at all was anticipated."

Russian troops deposed Chechnya's separatist government after a second invasion in 1999, but remnants of the Chechen forces have been waging a guerrilla campaign against the Russians from mountain bases. Russia announced last month that it would speed up its military withdrawal from the territory, relying more on local police and special forces to maintain order.



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RELATED SITES:
Russian Government
Chechen Republic Online
Human Rights Watch: Chechnya
Kavkaz: Chechen news agency
Medecins Sans Frontieres
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