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Eleven officers killed in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Eleven Russian and Chechen police officers sent to investigate the deaths of two other officers have been killed in Chechnya.

The government says the officers were investigating the deaths of two members of Chechnya's Russian-backed police force who were allegedly killed by insurgents.

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Insurgents also shot and killed the 11 others officers, The Associated Press quoted an official as saying.

The 11 officers were part of a team that had been sent to the Shchelkovskaya district in Chechnya's northern plains to investigate the two killings, which occurred Thursday night.

The area was overrun by Russian troops in the current war and is far from the main rebel hideouts in the southern mountains.

The team was attacked by rebels, according to the AP, quoting an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen government.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russian forces were searching the district for the rebels.

On Friday, three other policemen were killed near the city of Gudermes when a car bomb exploded, the official said. The officers had been inspecting the car.

Also over the past 24 hours, five Russian servicemen were killed and several were wounded in land-mine explosions and rebel attacks on Russian positions and checkpoints, the official said.

What Russia calls an anti-terrorist operation in largely Muslim Chechnya has claimed the lives of thousands of its soldiers since 1999. Thousands of civilians and Chechen separatists have also have been killed.

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